Despite what you might imagine, cocaine withdrawal is not as intense as withdrawal from alcohol or any other drugs. Cocaine addiction is a plague that affects millions of American households each day, however, it is treatable. You and your loved ones don’t need to suffer with competent health care and rehab treatment programs. With this addiction comes an onslaught of physical and mental health issues.
Today, we’ll be exploring cocaine use disorder and shining a light on what to expect during cocaine detox and withdrawal.
To kick-off, some basics about this powerful and addictive substance.
Cocaine is a CNS (central nervous system) stimulant derived from the leaves of the south American coca plant.
Street-level cocaine comes in white or off-white powdered form. Users snort this through a straw or rolled bill. Less frequently, users inject cocaine.
Crack cocaine is a form of freebase cocaine that users smoke in glass pipes. This is even more addictive than powdered cocaine.
For the purposes of today’s examination of cocaine withdrawal, we’ll be focusing firmly on powdered cocaine. The withdrawal symptoms for crack cocaine are broadly similar, though.
Crack combined with heroin is known as a speedball, an especially lethal combination, and one that claimed the life of Hollywood star James Belushi in the early days of the crack epidemic that ravaged the United States.
Cocaine hits the brain rapidly and it immediately disrupts the brain’s ability to process the chemicals involved with energy levels and mood. This chemical imbalance stimulates the pleasure center in the brain, creating a feeling of euphoria with a corresponding surge of energy.
The drug also influences the way the response of dopamine receptors.
Tolerance to cocaine easily builds, and cocaine addiction can swiftly follow. At this point, cocaine withdrawal symptoms are almost guaranteed when you discontinue use.
Snorting cocaine doesn’t deliver the same immediacy of effects as injecting the drug or freebasing crack, but the onset of euphoria is nevertheless brisk. You’ll be flooded with energy and feel an exhilarating rush within minutes. Crack, by contrast, delivers a near-instantaneous high.
A sense of calm and invulnerability will wash over you. You may also feel fidgety and excitable, brimming with energy. The surge of self-confidence associated with cocaine use often leads to dangerous, reckless behaviors from driving under the influence of drink or drugs through to engaging in criminal activity.
The cocaine high is strong but fleeting. Powdered cocaine’s effects are gone within the hour. The effects of crack last no more than 15 to 20 minutes. As the high dissipates, users experience a strong urge to experience more of the same. This is what leads to a pattern of abuse forming.
Cocaine comedowns can be jagged as the brain recoils in the absence of the cocaine that had been flooding it with dopamine.
Before we outline what you can expect to undergo with cocaine withdrawal, we’ll dive deeper into the short-term and long-term effects of this damaging drug.
Short-Term Effects of Cocaine
Cocaine is a stimulant. As such, it accelerates speech and movement, as well as thinking. This heightened sense of arousal is often noticeable to others, even if they can’t put their finger on what’s triggering the change.
Other typical short-term effects of cocaine use include:
- Disturbed sleep patterns
- Dilated pupils
- Excessive confidence
- Decreased appetite
- Mood swings
- Runny nose
- Lowered inhibitions
Cocaine is a subtle yet insidious drug. Tolerance builds quickly, and dependence builds to the extent that unpleasant long-term effects can manifest. We’ll glimpse at those now before doubling down on cocaine withdrawal and cocaine addiction treatment.
Long-Term Effects of Cocaine
Abusing cocaine long-term affects almost every part of your body. You increase your risk of a broad spread of serious health issues. Substance use disorder becomes a very real possibility with long-term cocaine use.
Some of the long-term effects of cocaine abuse include:
- Persistent headaches
- Sexual dysfunction
- Chronic weight loss and malnourishment
- Movement disorders with effects like those of Parkinson’s disease
- Reproductive problems
While these effects are easy to spot, much of the more serious damage caused by cocaine abuse remains hidden from view.
Sustained, heavy coke use can bring about irregular heartbeats – arrhythmia – while also thickening the heart muscle. Using cocaine long-term increases your risk of a heart attack.
Cocaine use can cause spikes in blood pressure, too. This can be so severe that the brain’s blood vessels are ruptured in what’s referred to as a hemorrhagic stroke. It can also trigger aortic dissection. Here, the aorta is torn. Both conditions can be fatal.
Continuous cocaine use can cause the lining of your nose to become inflamed and damaged. In the worst scenario, the septum is perforated, meaning you’ll need reconstructive surgery.
Chronic cocaine abuse also wreaks havoc on the gastrointestinal tract. Constricting the blood vessels, blood supply to the intestines can be affected, causing bowel damage.
How is it possible to tell, then, when casual cocaine use has spiraled into abuse and addiction?
Cocaine Abuse and Cocaine Addiction: Common Signs
One of the most common markers of substance abuse is secretive behavior. Most people struggling with the burden of cocaine addiction do their best to hide this from others. Is this something you have been doing? Or, perhaps you have noticed this type of behavior in a loved one you suspect may be using cocaine.
Neglecting normal activities, responsibilities, and hobbies is commonplace when cocaine addiction starts becoming an all-consuming force in your life.
Other red flags pointing to cocaine addiction include:
- An inability to stop using the drug
- Snowballing financial problems
- Thinking obsessively about cocaine
- Problems with relationships
- Persistent nosebleeds
- Impaired physical appearance
- Health problems developing
- Risk-taking behaviors
What about cocaine withdrawal effects, then? What can you expect when you try to stop using this drug?
What are the Main Symptoms of Cocaine Withdrawal?
To kick off, this is a snapshot of just some of the symptoms associated with cocaine withdrawal:
- Generalized discomfort
- Strong cravings for cocaine
- Diminished sexual desire
- Extreme lethargy
- Lack of motivation
- Problems with focus
- Inability to feel joy or pleasure
- Increased appetite
- Suicidal thoughts
- Exhaustion, mental and physical
- Muscle aches
- Troubling dreams
- Slowed activity
With that laundry list of negative outcomes in place, how does cocaine withdrawal take place?
The Three Phases of Cocaine Withdrawal
Many variables will affect the severity of cocaine withdrawal symptoms, most notably:
- How much of the drug you’ve been using
- How long you have been using the drug for
- The severity of your addiction
With that said, cocaine withdrawal is characterized by three distinct phases:
- The crash
- Continued cocaine withdrawal
1) The Crash
From a few hours to a few days after last using cocaine, habitual users can expect the crash phase of withdrawal to begin.
A sense of crippling depression washes over users, along with exhaustion and fatigue.
Suicidal thoughts are commonplace in cases of severe cocaine addiction. Everything seems hopeless at this stage.
2) Continued cocaine withdrawal
Users’ moods and general functioning improve once the initial slump is over.
Unfortunately, anhedonia often comes about during the continued withdrawal phase. This is a condition characterized by an inability to feel pleasure or joy.
Prevailing feelings are of boredom and irritation, undercut by powerful cravings for cocaine.
During this phase of cocaine withdrawal, which can last from one to ten weeks, the chance of relapse is highest.
If you successfully navigate this thorny phase of cocaine withdrawal, the final stage is where recovery proper begins.
You can expect your moods to fluctuate over the coming months, and you can also expect cravings for cocaine for up to 6 months. The worst, though, is behind you and cocaine withdrawal complete.
What is the Timeline for Cocaine Withdrawal?
The most severe cocaine withdrawal symptoms should last no more than two weeks.
With mild or moderate cocaine addictions, withdrawal symptoms could be gone in 24 hours.
Moderate to severe addictions might see withdrawal symptoms lasting for two to four days.
Almost all acute withdrawal symptoms should disappear within ten days.
What lingers in the case of cocaine withdrawal are intense cravings for the drug.
How can you best get treatment so you can not only avoid cocaine overdose, but also move on and reclaim the life you lost to this debilitating drug?
Treatment for Cocaine Withdrawal
Although often unpleasant, cocaine withdrawal is seldom life-threatening. There is usually no requirement for medical treatment either.
In cases of severe cocaine addiction, medically-managed detox is usually advisable.
Medication-assisted treatment is also recommended if you have previously attempted cocaine withdrawal but relapsed.
Unlike alcohol use disorder or opioid use disorder, there is no FDA-approved medication for treating cocaine withdrawal, although research in this area is ongoing and promising. Buprenorphine and naltrexone could be beneficial according to the finding of some animal studies.
With the right behavioral therapy like CBT, you can learn to identify the triggers causing you to abuse cocaine, and you will also formulate coping strategies that don’t involve rolling up a $100 bill.
Outpatient therapy is usually sufficient for treating cocaine addiction, and we can help you out there.
Treatment for Cocaine Addiction at Renaissance Recovery
Whether you have cocaine dependence or full-blown cocaine addiction, you might benefit from outpatient treatment to help you become substance-free, and to give you the strongest chance of staying that way.
While there might not be any FDA-approved medications to ease withdrawal symptoms, our comprehensive treatment programs for cocaine addiction will help you get to the bottom of what’s been leading you to abuse cocaine. You’ll also learn how to counter cravings for coke with healthier coping mechanisms.
If you or a loved one needs help to get back on track, then, you can get started today by calling the friendly team at 866.330.9449.