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Cocaine Withdrawal

Cocaine is often attributed to the disco days of the 1970s or 80s, or Pablo Escobar when he took control over an entire country. But this dangerous stimulant really never left the scene. Law enforcement views its recent rise in popularity as a significant problem, and the United States is working to stop it from entering the country.

Cocaine is notorious for its intense withdrawal symptoms. As a reuptake inhibitor, it works to block signals and continues to produce dopamine when the body should stop. When dopamine builds up in the brain, you become reliant on the substance to feel normal. At this stage, you become chemically dependent. Should you choose or attempt to stop, you likely will experience severe symptoms of drug withdrawal. 

What Are Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms?

Individuals who become dependent on cocaine are likely to experience withdrawal symptoms when they cut down their use or stop abruptly. Various factors determine the severity of the symptoms experienced. We all process cocaine in our bodies differently because of our unique body chemistry, which makes it impossible to conclude what each person will go through during withdrawal. 

You may have mood swings that are severe enough to cause suicidal thoughts. Your body will be working in overdrive to compensate for dopamine that was lost during a cocaine binge. You will feel restless and exhausted, but other symptoms you might deal with include:

  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Increased appetite
  • Restlessness
  • Chills
  • Tremors
  • Nightmares
  • Foggy thoughts
  • Sluggishness
  • Inability to concentrate

Cocaine withdrawal is not deadly compared to withdrawal from alcohol or benzodiazepines; it is considered minor because it’s not life-threatening. However, suicidal thoughts and psychological issues means it must be monitored. Physical symptoms are considered mild, but intense cravings will be challenging to overcome by yourself. 

Stages of the Cocaine Withdrawal Timeline

The most prominent factors that will dictate your cocaine withdrawal timeline include how long you’ve used cocaine, how much you used, your age, genetics, and medical history, and if you consumed other drugs with cocaine. Cocaine withdrawal may come on rapidly due to its short half-life. Other factors include:

  • How fast you stop using
  • Mental health
  • Stress
  • Purity of the cocaine

When you stop using the drug, you may feel withdrawal start within 90 minutes of your last dose. If you quit cold turkey, you likely will experience overwhelming cravings. Withdrawal symptoms can last anywhere from seven to 10 days before they let up, but it could take longer if you have a high tolerance. At this stage, you will experience difficulty focusing on tasks, sleeping, and being mentally present at work or school. 

Why Should I Detox?

Medical detoxification is necessary as you over a cocaine addiction. In addition to the helping hand medical professionals will provide, you will be held accountable for your actions — this will help prevent you from relapsing in the future. If you are seeking permanent abstinence from your cocaine abuse, you need to take the first step and check yourself into detox. 

What Is the Next Drug Treatment Step?

Detox is a critical step in the continuum of care, but it is not enough to help you stop using the drug long-term. Cocaine abuse alters your reward pathway and programs the brain to seek the drug. The only way to fix this is through intensive psychotherapy. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) recommends that someone commits to treatment long-term for the most successful outcomes. Detox alone cannot help someone overcome addiction, but prolonged treatment will make that path a reality.

Sources

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). 7: Duration of treatment. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/teaching-packets/understanding-drug-abuse-addiction/section-iii/6-duration-treatment

Treatment, C. for S. A. (1970, January 1). Chapter 3. Intensive Outpatient Treatment and the Continuum of Care. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64088/

Cocaine withdrawal: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000947.htm

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). Cocaine. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/cocaine

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). Medical Detoxification. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/teaching-packets/understanding-drug-abuse-addiction/section-iii/7-medical-detoxification

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