What goes up must come down, as the popular saying goes, and that is the case with the cocaine comedown, the period when cocaine’s potent effects wear off. It is seen as the equivalent to the hangovers many alcohol users experience, but the symptoms differ because the substances affect the body differently. Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant that is made from coca leaves found in South America.
People there chew and ingest the leaves for their powerful effects. In the early 1900s, cocaine was isolated from the plant and purified so that it could be used in medicinal tonics and elixirs, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Today, the crystalline powdery substance still has a strong, enduring pull on its users. It is one of the most widely used illegal drugs among recreational drug users. But despite illicit use, the drug is still used for legitimate purposes, mostly for anesthesia for surgeries involving the eyes, ears, and throat. For this reason, it’s classified as a Schedule II drug.
Once ingested, cocaine speeds up the body’s central nervous system and gives people a sense of short-lived euphoria. It also causes:
Cocaine can be snorted, smoked, injected, rubbed into the gums or mixed with other drugs. How quickly it travels to the brain also makes a difference in how fast users feel its effects. And, of course, how one uses cocaine affects how fast it reaches the brain.
If smoked or injected, it can reach the brain in seconds, and users will feel a “rush.” The buildup to the rush happens at a slower rate when the drug is snorted. Once it’s in the body, heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure all increase.
Ready to get Help?
We’re here 24/7. Pick up the phone.
Cocaine metabolizes quickly, which means its highs don’t last past an hour or so. Cocaine users often binge on the substance to avoid the cocaine comedown period.
Binges involve large amounts of cocaine, which are dangerous to one’s health and life. Regular cocaine use also leads to a higher tolerance for the drug, so users take more of it to get the highs they experienced when the drug was new to them.
If users don’t binge, they may start to feel fatigued and experience depression as the drug’s effects fade.
The changes in mood and physical state can be attributed to the fact that cocaine triggers the brain, causing it to be flooded with an abundance of dopamine.
With less dopamine around, the change in one’s state starts. Users may feel like they can’t get to sleep and have aches and pains in addition to other problems.
The body needs time to recover from being sped up. Many cocaine users are not prepared for the cocaine comedown or what’s also known as cocaine withdrawal. Many don’t know what to expect, so the best thing to do is to learn beforehand what happens after the good times—and the highs—have ended.
If you have recently tried cocaine and have since felt symptoms akin to the flu since your last use, you’re likely experiencing what’s known as a cocaine comedown. These symptoms can include a runny nose, headaches, body aches, chills, nausea, and restlessness. Users also may have clammy or sweaty skin, feel tremors or nerve pain, or feel disoriented, irritable, and depressed.
Other symptoms include:
Rapid beating of the heart occurs during this period, which can be uncomfortable.
Users going through the cocaine comedown may not have much of an appetite, or they may not want to eat at all for a couple of days.
While use has stopped, cravings can continue. Some users will go back to using to satisfy these cravings, but they’re only putting themselves back on the road to cocaine addiction and increasing their chances of an overdose. Abstaining from the drug for a period and then going back to it only increases the likelihood that the body will not be able to handle excessive amounts of cocaine.
While the physical parts of cocaine withdrawal are uncomfortable, it is the psychological symptoms that endure and are the most difficult to deal with. Anxiety, paranoia, vivid dreams, and other symptoms make it difficult not to want to pick up the drug again just to find relief. Relapse is common during this period.
Here are some suggestions for getting through cocaine withdrawal at home. While the symptoms are seen as similar to a bad case of the flu that is overall miserable, keep in mind that symptoms can develop into a more serious situation that should receive immediate medical treatment. It all depends on the level of cocaine use involved. For mild cases, recovering cocaine users may want to:
Getting rest is important during this period as the body has been wound up for some time during cocaine use. Insomnia is common during a cocaine comedown, so you can practice deep breathing techniques or other practices that encourage rest and a focus on healing. Make them a part of your daily routine.
Appetite is important during recovery. Eating the right foods gives the body energy and helps it replace cells that are worn or damaged so that they can function properly. An eating plan that contains a mix of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products is good. It also should include lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts, and limit saturated and trans fats, sodium, and added sugars.
Physical activity gets the body moving. It’s also a healthy, beneficial distraction as it gets recovering users’ minds off cocaine use. Exercise does not have to be strenuous for it to be effective. Yoga, which focuses on the breath and making the body stronger and more flexible, is exercise as well as taking a walk or going hiking. Be sure to drink water so that you’re adequately hydrated for your workout.
Stress is a trigger that can send one back to using harmful and addictive substances. It is important to know what these triggers are as they vary by the person. Keeping tensions at bay can support a focus on getting better.
Not all distractions are bad. Learning a new skill or trade and engaging in activities that take the focus off using drugs can help to manage cocaine cravings and focus on the future.
For heavy users or people who have severe cocaine dependence, these tips may not be enough. The addictive nature of cocaine makes it very difficult for people to stop using it on their own.
If you find that you can’t combat the cocaine comedown without wanting to use again, you may need treatment at a professional drug rehabilitation center. This option points the way to a better future that can help heavy cocaine users avoid relapse, cocaine overdose, and death.
Cocaine dependence can cause uncomfortable symptoms that persist after the comedown stage. Dependence is when your brain has started to rely on cocaine to facilitate normal balanced brain chemistry.
The longer you are dependent on the drug, and the higher the dose you are used to, the more intense your withdrawal symptoms may be.
Cocaine withdrawal can cause extreme fatigue, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and deep depression.
Depression can sometimes lead to suicidal thoughts or actions. If you start to experience extreme depression, it’s important to recognize that it could be caused by a temporary imbalance of brain chemistry. It’s important to speak with a professional as soon as possible if you have thoughts of suicide.
Cocaine addiction can persist after the detox phase. Psychological symptoms and drug cravings can continue, even if you’ve gone through detox. In that case, it’s important to learn how to deal with triggers, cravings, and any other underlying issues without using cocaine. Addiction treatment can help you to identify problems that may have been caused by or contributed to your addiction.
Then you can address those issues and create relapse prevention strategies. Untreated cocaine dependence and addiction can be difficult to overcome and can lead to serious consequences like health problems, strained relationships, financial issues, and legal problems.
DEA. (n.d.). Drug Scheduling. Retrieved from https://www.dea.gov/drug-scheduling
Cone, E. J., Tsadik, A., Oyler, J., & Darwin, W. D. (1998, October). Cocaine metabolism and urinary excretion after different routes of administration. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9780135
Hartney, E. (2018, September 10). A Comedown as a Post-Effect of Addictive Drug Behaviors. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-a-comedown-22268
NIDA. (February 2018). “What Is Cocaine?” National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved July 2018 at from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine/what-cocaine
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016, February). 8: Medical detoxification. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/teaching-packets/understanding-drug-abuse-addiction/section-iii/7-medical-detoxification
WebMD. (n.d.). Deep Breathing Exercises & Techniques for Stress Management and Relief. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/stress-relief-breathing-techniques#1