Cocaine is hard to quit. Millions of Americans have consumed it, and thousands of those millions have never been able to stop for various reasons.
One of the most common reasons is the fear of withdrawal symptoms that come with quitting. While there are certainly symptoms that may be felt when quitting cocaine, it’s important to know the facts about cocaine withdrawal.
Cocaine withdrawal symptoms vary in length of time felt and difficulty depending on multiple factors. Regardless, with cocaine withdrawal, it is important to know there is very little risk of physical harm from cocaine withdrawal — as opposed to withdrawal from many other substances.
Cocaine withdrawal has little chance of causing physical harm because of the nature of the drug. More on that a little later.
We have put together a list of the questions you may be already asking yourself, and maybe a few you should be asking yourself ahead of beginning cocaine detox.
What Happens When You Consume Cocaine?
Cocaine is a Schedule II drug in the United States. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, that means it has a high potential for misuse and can potentially lead to severe psychological or physical dependence. It is entirely illegal for recreational use.
It comes from coca plants in South America and has been consumed for thousands of years as a way to increase alertness and energy. In America today, cocaine is mainly seen in the same light. It improves alertness, focus, energy, provides a feeling of euphoria (great happiness), and is consumed mostly in party scenes and work situations.
Cocaine provides these positive effects by attaching to the dopamine transporters inside the brain. Dopamine is the hormone that helps us feel pleasure and joy.
Our brain produces dopamine naturally and then recycles it. When cocaine is present, the normal recycling process does not occur, which causes a buildup of dopamine and overwhelming feelings of pleasure and joy.
Do I Consume Enough Cocaine to Have an Addiction?
Cocaine addiction isn’t something that can be measured by quantity. It is more measured in quality (of life).
Addiction is when, despite the negative effects, a person does not stop consuming the thing making the effects happen. If you notice any of these behaviors occurring, you may have a cocaine addiction:
- Lying about cocaine consumption
- Hiding cocaine from friends and family
- Strained relationships
- Legal problems
- Depression when without cocaine
- Inability to maintain work, school, and home life
- Financial problems
What Is Cocaine Withdrawal Like?
Cocaine withdrawal occurs when a person stops regularly consuming cocaine. Withdrawal happens because cocaine is no longer present after the body had become used to having cocaine in the life cycle of dopamine.
When cocaine is consumed for any length of time, the mind and body begin to become dependent upon it to continue normal functioning. When you take away something your body believes it needs to function, it is going to fight back.
The period during which your body and mind go to war in a state of panic is known as withdrawal syndrome. It can begin as early as 90 minutes after the final dose and last for seven to 10 days.
While withdrawal from other substances, like alcohol or opioids, can cause intense physical discomfort to the point of being lethal, cocaine withdrawal typically causes mental and psychological symptoms. While these are still serious symptoms, they can be managed with counseling and therapy. Also, in a professional detox setting, medications may be given to relieve symptoms.
Symptoms of Cocaine Withdrawal
Cocaine withdrawal typically occurs in three stages.
- The crash
The crash happens in the near-immediate aftermath of when someone with a high level of cocaine consumption stops taking the drug. Within a 24-hour period, a crash may be felt with the following symptoms:
- Extreme depression
Following a crash period, withdrawal begins. While lingering symptoms of withdrawal can last for many weeks, most of the difficulty lies in the first seven to 10 days. During this time, a person may experience:
- Low energy
- Paranoia (general fear of harm)
- Mood swings
- Difficulty concentrating
- Intense cravings for cocaine
Extinction is something you will live with but can manage for the rest of your life. After seeing the positive effects of quitting cocaine, you will begin to rebuild relationships and solidify your life with positive building blocks.
There may be occasions when you have cravings on bad days, or days when you just can’t do anything because you have low energy, but that is all right. In the end, you’ve made a decision to reach recovery and live a happier and healthier life.
Is Cocaine Withdrawal Worse for Some?
Cocaine withdrawal symptoms vary from person to person in both length of time felt and the harshness of the symptoms. A number of factors play a role in these things:
- Length of misuse
- Someone that has misused cocaine for 10 years will almost certainly have worse withdrawal symptoms than someone that has misused it for six months. Cocaine will continue building up in a person’s body and increase the body’s need for it to function. The longer a person has misused, the more likely withdrawal symptoms are to linger. Still, it’s never impossible to quit cocaine.
- Average dose amount
- As is the case with any substance, consuming more of a substance makes it harder to quit. For example, we all know someone who has tried to quit smoking cigarettes. For someone that smoked three per day, it’ll be easier to quit than for someone that smoked upwards of three packs per day.
- If cocaine was consumed as a coping mechanism to handle stressful or environmental factors, returning to those things or being surrounded by those things during detox can trigger stronger cravings.
- Co-Occurring Disorder
- Underlying mental health or physical health conditions may make the process of detox more difficult.
- Polysubstance misuse
- A person that has developed an addiction or dependence upon two or more substances (e.g., cocaine and alcohol) will likely have a more difficult journey to ridding their body of the harmful toxins of the substances.
What If I’m Quitting Cocaine and Another Substance?
Quitting the misuse of multiple substances at once, or polysubstance misuse, makes withdrawal from cocaine worse in most instances. However, it is important to remember that it is still possible.
While you face the mental challenges of cocaine withdrawal, most other non-stimulant substances will leave you feeling physical symptoms of withdrawal alongside it. These physical symptoms may include:
- Muscle pain
- Numbness in hands and feet
- Insomnia (inability to sleep)
- Slurred speech
- Nerve pain
- Chest pain
- Heart attack
How Can I Avoid Cocaine Withdrawal?
There is no true shortcut to cocaine withdrawal, but there are definite ways to improve the chances of success with it and to reduce the discomfort associated with it.
Going through detox in the presence of medical professionals is always the safest and most effective way to begin the process of recovery. Outpatient detox may work for some, but going into a facility and staying for around a week is typically the most assured way of having a positive outcome. With 24-hour supervision, all needs can be met and a more seamless transition to treatment following detox can happen.
Because cocaine withdrawal is more a mental challenge than a physical one, the most concerning possibility during detox is that a person may become suicidal. As your dopamine receptors have been damaged, they may be unable to produce a sufficient amount to keep you feeling the pleasurable things in life. Without enjoying the small things, you may easily fall into a crippling depression. However, with the help of medical supervision in detox, the mood swings and depression that come as a withdrawal symptom can be better managed.
Where Can I Find Detox and Treatment?
It is never recommended you quit cocaine cold turkey without the presence of medical professionals. Finding treatment can be a scary thing itself and can deter people just as much as the fear of withdrawal.
It’s important to find a place that makes you feel comfortable and safe, but also one that offers everything you need. Having your research already done for when the worst of the symptoms hit is important. Here is what to look for in treatment for cocaine addiction:
- Evidence-based treatments
- Group therapy
- Alternative therapies
- Educational classes
- Personalized treatment
- Having treatment that is tailored to your exact needs
Call Shadow Mountain Recovery Today
Shadow Mountain Recovery SantA Fe offers personalized treatment for anyone seeking to make a positive change in life and reach recovery. Located in the serene American Southwest, we treat each person with a mix of evidence-based and alternative therapies using a completely personalized plan of attack because no two people come in with the same background.
Call us today at 505-657-2117 to learn more about cocaine addiction treatment and detox options, or to simply learn more about cocaine withdrawal.