Cocaine Withdrawals

cocaine withdrawals

Does the thought of going through cocaine withdrawals stop you from seeking recovery? Would you be more open to starting recovery if you were told that your symptoms could be managed?

While the withdrawal process is a necessary component of the recovery journey, it doesn’t have to be a horrible, unbearable experience. With the right support, you can break the cycle of cocaine use.

Among people aged 12 and older in Arizona, over 400,000 reported having a substance use disorder in 2017-2019. However, many people do not receive the support they need because they are afraid to go through the withdrawal process.

At Wolf Creek Recovery, we can relate to this as we are also in recovery. However, we know from experience that withdrawal can be a more tolerable journey when you have access to professional support. Let’s learn more about cocaine withdrawal, the most common signs and symptoms that people experience, and the timeline to expect.

Understanding Cocaine Withdrawal

Cocaine withdrawal can be an uncomfortable process, as it causes many physical and psychological effects. Fortunately, there are ways to make this process more comfortable so that you can prepare for recovery. Unlike opioids and alcohol, cocaine withdrawal involves more mental and emotional effects than physical effects. This is important to know, as relapse prevention, and aftercare will be an important part of your recovery. Most physical symptoms end within 7-10 days, but psychological symptoms, including cravings, can last longer.

Causes of Cocaine Withdrawal

Withdrawal symptoms typically happen to people who have a long history of cocaine use. When this happens, people often begin to rely on it to function normally. There is no tried-and-true formula for how quickly cocaine use turns into a cocaine use disorder. In some people, it happens quickly. In others, it takes more time.

Cocaine impacts dopamine transmission within the brain, which partly explains why dependence and withdrawal occur. Since cocaine causes a surge of dopamine within brain circuits related to motivation and reward, it strongly reinforces continued use. This, coupled with the drug’s short-term effects, contributes to the onset of cocaine use disorder.

Over time, the brain adapts to having excess dopamine in its system and becomes gradually less sensitive to the effects of cocaine. As a result, it seeks out higher amounts of the substance to avoid withdrawal symptoms. This is why many people return to use. During the initial stages of recovery, the body must adapt to a sudden absence of cocaine and a low supply of dopamine. It’s normal to feel generally unwell during this period.

Dangers of Cocaine Withdrawal

The symptoms of cocaine withdrawal can be intense, but they are generally not life-threatening. Seeking cocaine treatment at an inpatient or outpatient recovery center is ideal, as you’ll be kept comfortable and given plenty of support. Eating well, staying hydrated, getting plenty of rest, and exercising can also make the process more tolerable.

The biggest concern with cocaine withdrawal is the psychological effects. Anywhere from a few hours to a few days from the last dose, people can experience crippling exhaustion, depression, fatigue, and even suicidal thoughts. Seizures can also occur, but with professional help, they usually aren’t life-threatening.

symptoms of cocaine withdrawal

Symptoms of Cocaine Withdrawal

While cocaine withdrawal symptoms vary depending on the individual, there are common side effects that many people experience. Remember, there are therapies to treat these symptoms and make the process a bit easier. Now let’s take a look at the ways cocaine withdrawal can impact you mentally and physically.

Psychological Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms

The most common psychological cocaine withdrawal symptoms include depression, anxiety, reduced motivation, and apathy. Until dopamine levels in the brain are restored, it’s normal to feel a loss of pleasure in everyday things. Sometimes, more serious psychological symptoms can occur, such as hallucinations and delusions.

It’s believed that psychological symptoms occur because of decreased levels of neurotransmitters in the brain. However, it’s possible that operant conditioning, a method of learning via reinforcement, may also be to blame.

When you use cocaine, you are rewarded with positive reinforcement, such as a rush of euphoria. However, if you stop using cocaine, you are no longer rewarded. Instead, you can develop emotionally-based symptoms like depression and anxiety. To avoid these symptoms, people return to use. It’s a cycle that’s hard to break for obvious reasons, but it can be done with the right support.

Other common psychological cocaine withdrawal symptoms include: 

  • Irritability
  • Poor concentration
  • Slow thoughts and movements
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Cravings
  • Paranoia

Physical Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms

Cocaine affects the way the body functions. Some of the changes are minor, but others can be severe and even life-threatening. When you quit cocaine, a drug that is a robust reinforcer, it’s normal to feel sick. The body is thrown into a state of turmoil and it needs time to adjust. Fortunately, the physical effects of cocaine withdrawal usually subside within 5-7 days.

Physical cocaine withdrawal symptoms include: 

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Body aches
  • Chills
  • Sweating
  • Tremors
  • Nausea

Cocaine Withdrawal Timeline

There are three stages to the cocaine withdrawal process. Most people notice symptoms occurring within a few hours to a few days from the last use. While the most intense symptoms should be gone within a week or so, psychological symptoms can persist for weeks or months.

  • Acute withdrawal or “the crash.” This period involves the onset of withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety, agitation, fatigue, and low energy. Dysphoria can lead to depression and even suicidal thoughts. Despite feeling exhausted, people may also experience insomnia.
  • Post-acute withdrawal. This phase of the process typically involves exhaustion, excessive sleeping, increased appetite, mood changes, and drug cravings. Symptoms can last for about two weeks, but they should gradually improve.
  • Protracted withdrawal. Some people may experience prolonged symptoms, such as a lack of mental and physical energy, anhedonia, and depression. These symptoms can last for weeks or months beyond the acute withdrawal period. It’s also common for some people to experience breakthrough symptoms, such as strong cravings.

When Is Medical Detox Necessary for Cocaine Withdrawal?

Cocaine use disorder is treatable, and the journey starts with detoxification. The goal of detox is to restore the body to a state of chemical equilibrium after removing cocaine from the system. This process is generally safer, easier, and more successful in a comfortable and supervised environment.

While there are a variety of treatment options, inpatient substance use treatment is generally the recommended approach. Support staff monitor clients throughout the day and provide them with the appropriate support services. After the withdrawal period, which is usually around two weeks, clients can transition seamlessly into counseling and therapy.

navigating the cocaine detox journey

Getting Help for Cocaine Withdrawals in Prescott, AZ

During and after detox, individuals may experience psychological and physical withdrawal symptoms that can range from mild to severe. These symptoms can also persist beyond the acute withdrawal period, causing intense cravings and breakthrough symptoms weeks or months later. We say this not to deter you from taking the next step to recovery but to prepare you for the process.

Fortunately, you do not have to go through cocaine withdrawal alone. When you have the right support, the withdrawal process is safer, easier, and more comfortable. For instance, antidepressants can help stabilize mood and reduce depression. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) teaches how to identify negative and self-defeating thoughts, and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) builds confidence and coping abilities.

When you are ready to start your recovery, Wolf Creek Recovery will be here for you. We meet our clients where they are, placing them in the right program at the right time. Our staff is also in recovery and can relate to what you are going through. To learn more about our programs and how to get started, contact us today at 833-732-8202

FAQs About Cocaine Withdrawals

Why does cocaine withdrawal happen?

Cocaine withdrawal typically happens to individuals who are dependent on cocaine. They have come to rely on cocaine to feel normal, and when they stop, the body has to go through a period of adjustment.

What are the most common cocaine withdrawal symptoms?

The most common withdrawal symptoms from cocaine are anxiety, irritability, cravings, muscle aches, fatigue, paranoia, and increased appetite.

How long does cocaine withdrawal take?

On average, it takes about 5-7 days to detox from cocaine, though some people need a few weeks. Not all symptoms disappear after this time, however. Some symptoms can linger for weeks or months.

Is there any way to make cocaine withdrawal easier?

Yes! An inpatient program will help make this process safer and easier. You will be monitored and given the appropriate medications and therapies to manage your symptoms.