Cocaine is a powerful stimulant drug. It produces a powerful high, but that means it can produce an equally powerful hangover. There are many terms used to describe the experience you might have after you take cocaine. Comedown. Rebound. Crash. Withdrawal. What do these terms mean, and what should you know about the consequences of taking cocaine? For many people, taking cocaine reveals that they don’t gain anything from the drug. They simply borrow something from themselves.
Learn more about cocaine hangovers and the uncomfortable side effects you might experience when cocaine’s effects wear off.
To understand the effects of a cocaine hangover, it’s important to know what the drug does to your brain. Cocaine is a central nervous system stimulant, which means it increases activity in your nervous system. Cocaine works by influencing certain brain chemicals called monoamines, which include dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin.
It influences these chemicals by blocking a process called reuptake, which removes them from your nervous system after they’ve been released. With cocaine blocking the removal of these chemicals, they are free to bind to more receptors and have a greater effect than normal.
Monoamines are associated with feelings of reward, pleasure, positive mood, and excitement. Under normal circumstances, they help you maintain balanced brain chemistry, avoiding feelings of lethargy and depression or jitteriness and anxiety. However, excess chemicals caused by cocaine can create feelings of empowerment, powerful euphoric excitement, and high energy levels.
But what goes up must come down. Chemicals like dopamine come in limited supplies. Even a cocaine binge may cause you to feel diminished effects with each new dose, and your body will need time to recharge. When you stop taking the drug, your body will work to return your brain chemistry to normal, which can come with some unpleasant side effects.
As the potent, exciting effects of cocaine start to wear down, you will experience what is often called a comedown. A cocaine comedown is the feeling of the powerfully positive effects coming down. Your experience can vary depending on the amount of the drug you took, how often you take cocaine, and the method by which you took it. Snorting cocaine causes effects that take longer to show up and last longer. Smoking crack cocaine offers an immediate but short-lived high.
It also depends on your experience with the cocaine high. Some people feel excited and empowered, but others feel agitated, uncomfortable, and anxious. If you have a negative experience with cocaine, the comedown may be a relief and relatively pleasant. If you have a positive experience with cocaine, the comedown may be more unpleasant and depressing.
For many, the comedown feels like something very exciting is slowly slipping away. High energy and a lifted mood give way to fatigue and sadness. The comedown may even encourage people to binge cocaine, especially crack. The powerful euphoric effects can be short-lived, and you almost compulsively want to keep positive feelings going. This can cause you to take multiple doses in a row to stave off the comedown. However, this may worsen your experience later.
A cocaine binge can also cause insomnia and sleeplessness, with some people binging for days. The stimulating effects of cocaine mixed with a lack of sleep can cause temporary psychotic symptoms, which is called a stimulant psychosis. This can involve paranoia, hallucinations, and a delusional break from reality.
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Rebounding is a term used in reference to both illicit and prescription drugs. It refers to withdrawal or comedown effects that are the opposite of the drug’s effects. For instance, if a stimulant makes you feel alert and energized, a stimulant comedown will cause you to feel tired and lethargic. You can experience this to a small degree when you drink coffee in the morning and feel tired in the afternoon. But cocaine rebounding is more intense.
Cocaine can make you feel alert, wakeful, euphoric, energetic, talkative, and sensitive to stimulation like lights and sound. The rebound effects of a comedown may make you feel fatigued, drowsy, uncomfortable, unmotivated, apathetic, depressed, and like your head is in a fog. If you have underlying mental health issues that you take cocaine to escape from, those negative feelings may come flooding back. People with depressive disorders may be particularly vulnerable to a cocaine comedown. As depressing feelings return, they may be severe, causing feelings of despair, worthlessness, and suicidal thoughts.
A cocaine crash is related to a comedown and rebound. When you take cocaine, especially in multiple doses, you may experience an intense and abrupt end to your euphoric feelings. This can occur with both physical and psychological side effects. The most notable effect is the extreme fatigue that may follow a period of high energy and wakefulness.
Your body’s normal homeostasis and circadian rhythm are interrupted but not without a price. Instead of gaining energy, you are really just borrowing it from yourself when you eventually crash.
Cocaine use can also come with physical side effects. Stimulants excite some of the automatic functions of your nervous system, like your breathing, body temperature, and heart rate. When you go through a cocaine high, your body temperature and heart rate increase, causing you to sweat. Cocaine can also cause muscle twitching and contractions. When you crash, you may feel dehydrated and sore, as if you just did an intense workout.
Again, the psychological effects of a crash may leave you feeling depressed and in despair. It’s important to recognize that intense, depressing effects are usually temporary. If you feel hopeless or if you have thoughts of suicide, it’s important to reach out for help and to realize those feelings will pass.
A cocaine comedown and crash happen as the drug wears off. But cocaine withdrawal may be a longer period of negative symptoms. Withdrawal refers to the symptoms you experience when you quit using a drug that you’ve developed a chemical dependence on. You may experience a comedown and crash with your first time using cocaine. But withdrawal happens after a period of consistent cocaine misuse.
If you’ve become chemically dependent on cocaine, your brain will take time to undo the adaptations it went through as it came to rely on cocaine. Your brain may have produced less of its own excitatory effects in order to counteract the steady supply of cocaine and to achieve balanced brain chemistry. When you stop using, your brain will have to relearn to balance brain chemistry on its own. The process can take between five and 10 days, and it may need the help of a medical detox team or a doctor’s guidance.
You may experience many of the same symptoms you felt during your comedown and crash, especially fatigue and depression. Severe cocaine use disorders may be more likely to cause suicidal thoughts or actions during withdrawal, which makes it even more important to seek medical and clinical help when you decide to quit. You may also experience powerful compulsions to use again. These addiction symptoms may require treatment to effectively address
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National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020, June 11). What are the short-term effects of cocaine use? Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine/what-are-short-term-effects-cocaine-use