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Overcoming Cocaine Withdrawal [Strategies for Recovery]
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Overcoming Cocaine Withdrawal [Strategies for Recovery]

Written by Seth Fletcher on April 1, 2024
Medically reviewed by Dr. Chintan Shah
Last update: April 1, 2024

Cocaine is a powerful stimulant narcotic that can quickly lead to dependence and addiction. When a person uses cocaine, they experience an intense euphoria and feel energized. Cocaine withdrawal occurs when the individual becomes dependent on the drug and stops using it. For many people with cocaine addiction, withdrawal is one of the most challenging aspects of recovery. 

The challenges of withdrawal occur because cocaine cravings hijack the brain’s reward system, making it think that it needs the drug to function normally. Cocaine withdrawal often leads to intense psychological symptoms. Fortunately, there are strategies for withdrawal to make recovery manageable. CCFA explores strategies for managing cocaine (coke) withdrawal symptoms and finding support for healing and recovery. 

Key Takeaways

  • Cocaine withdrawal refers to unpleasant symptoms people experience when they quit cocaine
  • These symptoms occur because the body is trying to adjust to living without cocaine
  • The intensity of cocaine withdrawal depends on the duration and frequency of cocaine use
  • Cocaine withdrawal is challenging but can be overcome with effort and commitment

What is Cocaine (Coke) Withdrawal?

Cocaine (coke) withdrawal refers to the psychological and physical symptoms one experiences when one stops using cocaine after a period of prolonged use. Withdrawal is one of the telling signs of cocaine use and addiction, and it occurs due to cocaine’s effects on the brain. 

Why is cocaine addictive, and what does cocaine do to your brain? When a person smokes, snorts, or injects cocaine, it stimulates the reward centres in the brain and triggers dopamine release. Dopamine is a chemical that regulates pleasure and motivation. Cocaine floods the brain with more than normal dopamine amounts, leading to the characteristic euphoric rush. 

However, the high from cocaine fades quickly, leaving the user with an unpleasant comedown. This feeling can prompt the individual to use cocaine again, starting a cycle of abuse, which can lead to cocaine addiction. Cocaine withdrawal occurs when a person dependent or addicted to cocaine stops using or reduces the amount they ingest. 

The intensity of withdrawal varies among users, depending on factors like the severity of their addiction and how long they’ve been using cocaine. 

If you or a loved one is abusing or dealing with cocaine withdrawal, the Canadian Centre for Addictions can help. At CCFA, we offer cocaine withdrawal and addiction treatment in an environment that inspires lasting change. Our team of experts will guide you or a loved one through withdrawal and recovery so you can get your life back on track.

Causes of Cocaine Withdrawal

Chemical Changes in the Brain

Regular substance abuse can cause changes in the brain. Chronic cocaine use alters brain chemistry over time. It causes the brain to produce less of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, which are associated with pleasure and motivation. When cocaine use is stopped, the brain has to readjust to this new chemical balance, which can lead to withdrawal symptoms. 

Psychological Dependence

Psychological dependence on cocaine occurs when a person feels like they need the drug to feel normal or function in their daily life. They may also have intense cravings for cocaine and feel anxious, irritable, or depressed without the drug. Psychological dependence can be just as challenging as physical dependence. People psychologically dependent on cocaine may struggle to stop and experience severe withdrawal symptoms. 

Social and Environmental Factors

Social and environmental factors play a significant role in cocaine withdrawal. Cocaine is often used in parties, raves, and other social gatherings. When people use cocaine in these settings, they may feel that the drug is necessary to have a good time or fit in with friends. This pressure can be challenging to resist, making it difficult to stop using cocaine, even when one wants to. 

What Factors Can Affect Cocaine Withdrawal

The Amount and Frequency of Cocaine Use

People who use large amounts of cocaine or use it frequently are more likely to have withdrawal symptoms. Heavy and frequent cocaine use means that the brain has a more challenging time adjusting to the loss of the drug. How they use the drug may also affect withdrawal. Users who smoke or inject cocaine may have more severe withdrawal than those who snort it. 

Age, Health, and Overall Well-Being

Younger people generally experience more severe withdrawal than the elderly. This is probably because their brain is still developing, and the effects of cocaine use can be more profound. People in good health may also have less severe symptoms as they are better able to cope with the challenges of withdrawal from cocaine. 

Presence of Mental Health Conditions

People with mental health conditions like depression and anxiety may have more severe withdrawal symptoms from cocaine. Mental health conditions can make it harder to cope with the challenges of withdrawal. They may also be more likely to self-medicate with drugs like cocaine. When they stop using cocaine, they may experience severe withdrawal and a worsening of their symptoms. 

Access to Treatment and Support

People with access to treatment for substance abuse are more likely to get the help they need to manage cocaine withdrawal symptoms better. Also, having a reliable support system can make withdrawal more manageable. 

How Long Does Cocaine Withdrawal Last?

The length of cocaine withdrawal varies among people. Some may experience symptoms for a few days, while others may have symptoms for a few weeks or months. Symptoms generally begin within 24 hours of last use, and the average length of withdrawal is around two to four weeks. 

Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms

The withdrawal symptoms of cocaine are mostly psychological but may also be physical. They include: 

Irritability and Restlessness

Cocaine is a powerful stimulant that keeps the brain alert. When the cocaine supply is cut off, the brain may experience a crash, leading to feelings of irritability, restlessness, and agitation.

Appetite Changes

Cocaine withdrawal can lead to appetite changes as the body adjusts to not having the drug. Increased appetite from cocaine withdrawal could be due to the brain craving the rewarding feeling of cocaine use. It could also be because the body is trying to compensate for lost nutrients and energy. Increased appetite can also lead to weight gain during withdrawal for some people. 

Depression

Depression is one of the most common symptoms of withdrawal from drugs like cocaine. The crash in mood that comes with quitting cocaine use can lead to feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and despair. 

Paranoia and Hallucinations

A person undergoing cocaine withdrawal may start to feel more anxious and suspicious. They may also begin to see and hear things that aren’t there. It’s important to remember that the symptoms are part of withdrawal and will pass when the body gets used to not having cocaine. 

Suicidal Tendencies

Suicidal thoughts and behaviour can occur in severe cases of cocaine withdrawal. Even individuals who have not had any history of depression or suicidal ideation can develop suicidal tendencies when undergoing cocaine withdrawal. It’s vital to seek urgent medical help if you or someone you know is exhibiting suicidal tendencies. 

Other symptoms of cocaine withdrawal may include:

  • Excessive sleep
  • Insomnia 
  • Dysphoria 
  • Slowed mental and physical activities
  • Loss of motivation 
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches
  • Cravings

Cocaine Withdrawal Timeline

The timeline of cocaine withdrawal varies from person to person, depending on how much of the drug they use. However, the cocaine withdrawal timeline generally follows this progression after the last use.

  • First 24 hours

Cocaine has a short half-life, so symptoms kick in quickly. Cravings are at their most intense during this period, and the individual will experience symptoms like restlessness, anxiety, pain, fatigue, and lack of motivation. 

  • 24 hours to seven days

The individual may experience fluctuating levels of cravings with symptoms like depression, irritability, excessive sleeping, mood changes, and dysphoria.

  • One week and above

Withdrawal symptoms start to subside at this point, but cravings may sometimes show up. Depending on the severity of cocaine use, this stage may last weeks to months before symptoms entirely dissipate.

Cocaine Withdrawal Treatment

Medical detox is the most common way of treating cocaine withdrawal. It involves giving the body time to readjust to functioning without cocaine. During cocaine detox, the individual is monitored by medical professionals as they go through withdrawal. 

While there are no medications for cocaine withdrawal, a medical professional may prescribe drugs to relieve symptoms like muscle aches, insomnia, agitation, or severe distress. 

Some people may also benefit from some form of therapy during cocaine withdrawal treatment. After detox, people typically go on to receive treatment for substance use disorder. This treatment is usually a combination of therapy, support, and medications.  

When to Consult a Medical Professional

Cocaine is a highly addictive substance, and even a single use can trigger a cycle of abuse and addiction. It’s crucial to consult a professional once you can no longer regulate your cocaine use. You must also talk to a professional if you struggle to cope with symptoms. Other signs that you should seek help for cocaine withdrawal include:

  • Inability to function at work or school
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Uncontrollable cravings and relapse

Our Tips on Managing Cocaine Withdrawal Effectively

Cocaine withdrawal is challenging, but you can make the process easier and more effective using the following tips:

Get Plenty of Rest

Getting plenty of rest is one of the most important things you can do during cocaine withdrawal. Sleep allows your body to heal and repair itself. It is also essential for your mental health as it puts you in a state where you’re ready to respond to negative emotions or triggers without relapsing. 

Eat Healthy Food

Getting proper nutrition can also make a difference in how you feel during withdrawal. Avoid junk and processed foods as much as possible. Eat small, frequent portions of foods rich in vitamins, protein, and minerals. Food like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fish, protein, and healthy fats help boost your mood and energy and reduce cravings. 

Get Enough Exercise

Exercise can also be highly beneficial during cocaine withdrawal. It’s a great way to reduce stress and anxiety, improve mood, and fight cravings. Working out for at least 30 minutes daily can help you feel better physically and mentally, making withdrawal much easier.

Avoid Triggers

Avoiding triggers is one of the most crucial steps to take during withdrawal. Your triggers are places, people, or situations that remind you of cocaine use. It’s crucial to identify and avoid your triggers. It might mean staying away from certain people, places, and gatherings. Also, try to find new activities to replace the time you used to spend using cocaine. 

Stay Connected to Your Support Network

A strong support network is essential for anyone going through cocaine withdrawal. Having people you can talk to and rely on can help you remain sober. Your support network might include family, friends, and professionals. Let your support group know what you’re going through. They are there to encourage and help you stay on track. 

Conclusion

Overcoming cocaine withdrawal is a process that takes effort and commitment. There will be challenges, but it’s possible to pull through if you stay the course. Be patient with yourself and celebrate each small victory. Stay connected to your support network, avoid triggers, and care for your physical and mental health. 

However, it would be best if you did not just stop at cocaine (coke) withdrawal remedies. It’s essential to get cocaine abuse and addiction treatment to help address the underlying cause of cocaine abuse. The Canadian Centre for Addictions offers quality addiction treatment programs for cocaine. At CCFA, we provide sophisticated treatment options with personalized recovery plans to help you or a loved one get their lives back on track. Call 1-855-499-9446 today, and someone will speak to you about our services.

FAQ

How common is cocaine withdrawal?

Cocaine withdrawal is common among people who use the drug. Up to 80% of people who use cocaine regularly will experience some withdrawal symptoms when they stop using the drug.

Can I prevent cocaine withdrawal?

No. It is not possible to entirely prevent the withdrawal symptoms of cocaine as your body tries to adjust to functioning without the drug. However, there are steps you can take to manage the symptoms and make the process easier.

How long does cocaine stay in your system?

Cocaine can be detected in the urine for two to four days, in the blood or saliva for 48 hours, and in the hair for up to 90 days. However, these time frames may vary among individuals, depending on factors like weight, metabolism, and frequency of use.

What are cocaine’s short and long-term effects?

Short-term effects of cocaine include:
● Increased heart rate and temperature
● Elevated blood pressure
● Anxiety
● Hallucinations
Long-term effects of cocaine use include:
● Heart disease
● Stroke
● Seizures
● Sexual dysfunction
● Nasal septum damage

What are the dangers of using cocaine during pregnancy?

Cocaine use during pregnancy is dangerous for the mother and unborn child. The drug can cross the placenta and harm the developing fetus, leading to problems like low birth weight, premature birth, or stillbirth. Babies born to mothers who use cocaine during pregnancy are at increased risk of behavioural problems and cognitive delays. For the mother, cocaine use during pregnancy can lead to high blood pressure, among other complications.

Certified Addiction Counsellor

Seth brings many years of professional experience working the front lines of addiction in both the government and privatized sectors.

Dr. Chintan is a Board Certified Family Physician with an interest in holistic and preventative care as well as healthcare systems. Credentialed Physician with both American & Canadian Board of Family Medicine. Adjunct Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. Telemedicine clinician.

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