Cocaine belongs to a family of drugs known as stimulants. Cocaine’s effects appear almost immediately after ingestion and disappear within a few minutes to an hour. When taken in small amounts, cocaine can make a person experience a euphoric sensation, become energetic, talkative, mentally alert as well as hypersensitive to sight, sound, and touch. Short-term effects of cocaine use include dilated pupils and increased blood pressure. Taking large amounts of cocaine can lead to a person experiencing erratic, bizarre, and even violent behavior.
With repeated exposure to cocaine, a person’s brain will alter making it less sensitive to its natural reinforcers. The stress circuits in a person’s brain will simultaneously become more sensitive, leading a person to experience an increase in displeasure and negative moods when not taking the drug. This is one of the earliest indicators of withdrawal. Experiencing those symptoms makes a person engage in intense drug-seeking behaviors in order to relieve the negative moods. With regular use, tolerance will develop and a person will have to increase their dose and frequency of use to get the same pleasure from the substance they once experienced.
What Is Cocaine Withdrawal?
Cocaine withdrawal happens to someone who uses a lot of cocaine and tries to cut down on the amount they use or they try to quit using altogether. Cocaine creates a sense of euphoria in a user by making the brain produce more dopamine. When a person stops using the drug, a crash follows causing the individual who uses cocaine to experience a strong craving for more.
Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms
Cocaine withdrawal has no physical symptoms a loved one could visually see like vomiting and shaking that occurs when a person withdraws from heroin and alcohol. The symptoms of cocaine withdrawal can be felt by a person who is not completely off the substance and still has a little in their system. With cocaine use, the withdrawal symptoms might include intense cravings, agitation and restless behaviors, depression, fatigue, slowing of activities, increased appetite, general feelings of discomfort, suicidal thoughts, and vivid and unpleasant dreams. Some of the withdrawal symptoms like craving and depression can last for months after a person who heavily used cocaine stops. This is because cocaine alters the chemical balance in the brain which takes a long time to restore back to normal.
Cocaine Detox Duration
According to a study published by The Australian Department of Health, there are three phases of the withdrawal process.
Phase one of the cocaine withdrawal timeline is known as “the crash.” This has a rapid occurrence following stopping heavy cocaine use and can be seen as soon as 90 minutes after the last dose was taken. A person in this phase of withdrawal will experience feelings of unhappiness or unwell, irritability and anxiety, wanting to sleep more, feelings of tiredness, increased hunger, and decreased craving to use.
Phase two is known as “withdrawal.” A person in this phase will experience increased cravings to use cocaine, poor concentration, irritability, and lethargy. The withdrawal phase can last up to 10 weeks.
Phase three is known as “extinction.” A person who is in the extinction phase will experience intermittent cravings as well as some feelings of unhappiness and unwell. This phase can last up to 28 weeks.
No one should have to go through these phases alone. Attempting to do so can put a person at an elevated risk for relapse, potentially resulting in overdose, which could be fatal. Getting the proper support and medical attention at a cocaine detox facility can greatly increase a person’s chances of recovering from this debilitating addiction.
Managing Withdrawal at a Cocaine Detox Facility
Individuals addicted to cocaine often fail to achieve abstinence on their own because of the pain associated with their symptoms. Cocaine withdrawal symptoms can make it extremely difficult to have periods of initial absence from the drug. Going to a cocaine detox facility with an intensive outpatient center can greatly increase a person’s chances of recovering from this drug. At an outpatient cocaine detox facility a person who is going through withdrawal from cocaine will be equipped with medical and mental health professions to ensure the individual’s safety. They will also be assisted in ceasing the use of cocaine long enough for withdrawal symptoms to completely leave their body. These centers are particularly important because it helps the individual recovering from their cocaine addiction to avoid cue-induced cravings. Cue-induced cravings come from seeing things or people that might trigger the urge to use again.
There are currently no medications that have been proven to effectively treat cocaine withdrawal. However, researchers have looked into some medications that are useful for cocaine detoxification. The medication known as Amantadine might help reduce cocaine use in patients with severe withdrawal symptoms.
After the patients have attained a period of abstinence, then the most crucial phase begins which is relapse prevention. Currently, there are no medications that have been approved by the FDA for the treatment of cocaine dependence. However, pharmacological strategies that have been used for cocaine relapse prevention include blocking the cocaine-induced euphoria and reducing the cocaine cravings. These drugs can help keep a recovered individual from relapsing.
Cocaine Dependency Treatment
If you or a loved one is suffering from a cocaine dependency finding a high-quality rehabilitation center can help. As cocaine withdrawal symptoms leave a person’s body, individuals are best treated with an active rehabilitation approach. An active rehabilitation approach combines entry into a substance abuse treatment center with support, education, and lifestyle changes. At a rehabilitation clinic individuals can receive behavioral therapy that has been proven effective in treating cocaine addiction. A few examples of behavioral therapy are cognitive-behavioral therapy, contingency management, therapeutic communities, and community-based recovery groups.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy challenges a person’s thoughts towards cocaine or other drugs and helps improve their ability to regulate their emotions. Journaling is one technique used in cognitive-behavioral therapy to help people identify their thought patterns and emotional tendencies related to the drug. Once the thought patterns have been identified a person can describe them and then work to change, adapt or cope with them.
Contingency management uses motivational incentives and tangible rewards to help a person abstain from drug or alcohol use. These rewards can then be used to purchase items that promote a healthy lifestyle.
Therapeutic communities are drug-free residences in which people recovering from cocaine or another substance help each other to understand and change their behaviors.
Community-based recovery programs are meetings people in the community hold to help talk about and share their addictions stories. An example of this is a 12-step program.
Currently there are no FDA approved medications to treat cocaine addiction. However, buprenorphine is currently being tested to see if it is effective in treating opioid addictions like cocaine.
- 4 Physical detoxification services for withdrawal from specific substances. SAMHSA.
- Addiction Treatment Options. Sunshine Behavioral Health.
- Cocaine. National Institute on Drug Abuse.
- Cocaine Withdrawal. Medline Plus.
- New Medications for the Treatment of Cocaine Dependence. Psychiatry (Edgmont).
- The cocaine withdrawal syndrome. The Australian Department of Health.
Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.
Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.
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