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Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms, Timeline, and Treatment

Cocaine use affects people of all ages, including tweens, high schoolers, and adults. According to a 2018 survey of cocaine usage trends, cocaine is most prevalent among these age groups:

  • 14.7% of kids as young as 12 years old;
  • 11.4% of people aged 18-25 years;
  • 16.8% of people aged 26 years or older.

Additionally, in 2019, an estimated 5.5 million people were cocaine users, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The prevalence of this drug shows its addictiveness. In fact, cocaine is generally considered one of the most addictive drugs in wide circulation and usage. When someone uses cocaine for an extended period of time and then stops, they could experience withdrawal symptoms, sometimes immediately. 

Cocaine withdrawal can be physical or psychological, as the drug floods the brain with unnatural amounts of serotonin, dopamine, and adrenaline. If you think someone you know is developing a cocaine addiction, it can be helpful to know what the withdrawal process is like as you seek help for them.

Physical Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms

As a person withdraws from cocaine, they experience physical symptoms such as:

  • Fatigue;
  • Lack of pleasure;
  • Restlessness;
  • Sleepiness;
  • Increased appetite;
  • Chills and tremors;
  • Muscle aches;
  • Nerve pain.

Physical cocaine withdrawal symptoms may be less noticeable than withdrawals from other substances, like alcohol. Additionally, the symptoms and their severity depend upon the length of the cocaine addiction. For example, someone who used cocaine one time will experience significantly less-pronounced withdrawal symptoms than a person who uses cocaine regularly. 

Although cocaine does not typically produce life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, there are some serious withdrawal symptoms that people should be aware of, including:

  • Heart attacks;
  • Grand mal seizures;
  • Strokes;
  • Delirium;
  • Heart palpitations.

Psychological Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms

People can also experience psychological withdrawals from cocaine use. The symptoms include:

  • Anxiety;
  • Depression;
  • Nightmares;
  • Suspicion or paranoia;
  • Suicidal thoughts;
  • Irritability;
  • Increased cravings;
  • Difficulty concentrating;
  • Agitation. 

Psychological withdrawal symptoms can be more severe than physical symptoms because they are less noticeable. Additionally, many people who use drugs also have an underlying mental health issue and use cocaine or other substances to self-medicate. Withdrawal symptoms can exacerbate mental health issues, thus creating a larger problem. 

What is Cocaine Withdrawal Like?

Cocaine increases the amount of dopamine in the brain. Naturally, dopamine is recycled back into the brain; however, cocaine stops this process. Instead, the brain starts to depend on cocaine to increase dopamine levels, and when a person stops using it, they can start to feel the uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal. The process is as follows:

  • The crash: People typically experience this first phase quickly after stopping cocaine use. In this phase, people can feel irritable, anxious, exhausted, and may experience dysphoric feelings. Cravings may have decreased.
  • The withdrawal: In this phase, people may experience increased cravings, poor concentration, and lethargy. This phase may last longer than other phases and is associated with a high chance of relapse. 
  • The extinction: This phase consists of sporadic cravings. People are more aware of their external triggers and can use coping skills to control them.

It’s important to note that the withdrawal process will be different for everyone. Factors that affect the withdrawal process include:

  • How long you’ve been taking the drug;
  • Your metabolism;
  • Your age;
  • Other drug use;
  • How you ingested cocaine;
  • Your genetics.

Additionally, the potential for relapse can be higher during the stages of withdrawal. Inpatient treatment and outpatient rehab treatment can help people through their withdrawal symptoms, increasing the likelihood of success. 

Cocaine Withdrawal Timeline

Depending on the extent of the cocaine use, the withdrawal process can last from as little as a few days to as long as a few months. While the duration of use and other factors can affect the length of the withdrawal process, each phase typically goes as follows:

  • The “crash phase” can last one to three days and effects similar to the flu.
  • The “withdrawal phase” can last up to four weeks, and can vary from person to person.
  • The “extinction phase” also typically lasts up to four weeks, but can last longer for those who are severely addicted. 

Cocaine withdrawal can be highly unpleasant, so it’s a good idea to ask for some time off work and to avoid large crowds and high-stress situations. 

Cocaine Withdrawal Tips

Withdrawal symptoms can seem overwhelming; however, there are ways to manage them. Detoxing should never be done alone – it should always be done under the supervision of a medical professional. When going through detox, there are things that can help make withdrawal symptoms more tolerable, including:

  • Exercising regularly;
  • Eating nutritious meals;
  • Staying hydrated;
  • Getting enough sleep;
  • Joining a support group.

How to Quit Cocaine

Quitting cocaine is hard and should not be done alone. There are many treatments that can help people quit cocaine and put them on the right track to recovery:

These types of treatments can help people more effectively than quitting cold turkey. Doctors can help patients taper off their addictions, and can assist them through the more tough symptoms of withdrawal. Nonetheless, it’s important to remember that withdrawal is not easy; but with the right support, it is more manageable. 

Cocaine withdrawal symptoms can feel overwhelming and may lead to relapse. The best way to overcome an addiction is with the right support network, understanding withdrawal symptoms, and receiving the right treatment can help facilitate a successful recovery. You’ll get all this and more with Recovery Centers of America.

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