Cocaine is one of the most famously abused drugs in the US, with the 80s being widely regarded as the peak cocaine decade. It has seen a long and storied history of use and subsequent abuse since its discovery. Even though it may not currently get the press and news coverage of other drug scourges like opioids and meth, it is still incredibly popular, common, and dangerous.
Cocaine is a stimulant and acts quickly and strongly on the central nervous system. Cocaine can build up a dependency in a relatively short time, and due to the way it interacts with the nervous system the dependency can become very strong. In some cases the withdrawal symptoms can be serious enough that they are no longer simply uncomfortable or even painful, they become debilitating, or even fatal. However, in the majority of cases involving acute cocaine withdrawal, there is very little risk of serious complications.
The process of detoxing and recovery can often be made much easier through the use of professional help. Often this will include a medically supervised acute withdrawal phase, in a comfortable facility, so that the process can be completed as easily as possible.
Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms
The symptoms for cocaine withdrawal will vary from user to user, with most users experiencing at least one or two symptoms. Some heavier users or those that have used for longer periods may experience a wider variety of symptoms and they may be more intense as well, lasting longer. The severity of the symptoms will depend greatly on the individual’s usage history, medical condition, medical history, age, sex, and so on.
Within 72 hours of the last use, the user will enter the acute withdrawal state. This stage will include feelings of apathy or even depression, combined with a lack of motivation to do just about anything.
This is a surprisingly difficult stage to complete since it makes the user feel as if the rest of the detox process will be useless and not worth any amount of effort. Everything will also feel or be perceived as boring since there is no cocaine to modulate the pleasure center of their brain, which will also contribute to the challenge of detox and recovery.
The physical withdrawal symptoms will begin to set in during the acute withdrawal stage, and will often peak at the 48-72 hour point. From here they will often plateau in severity but continue for around a week. The recovering individual will also be likely to experience severe cravings, inability to effectively regulate emotions, and continuing apathy and depression. The physical effects that should be expected in this stage can include irregular heartbeat, tremors, and uncontrollable shaking, and increased potential for dehydration. Heavier users may also experience vivid and disturbing hallucinations or delusions while awake and during sleep.
After the initial week, the physical symptoms should be subsiding and fading away. There is the potential for some of the psychological symptoms to take longer to clear up, but there are also other options for helping those symptoms as well. Even though the most uncomfortable and physically painful portion of the detox is over by this point, there are often still issues with getting restful sleep, being fatigued, and a continued lack of pleasurable feelings when doing things that were previously enjoyed.
Cocaine Withdrawal Timeline
The entire cocaine withdrawal and physical detox process can be completed in approximately two weeks with expert medical supervision. However, just as with most other addictive substances or behaviors, the drive or craving to use can follow the recovering individual around for quite some time. Sometimes, the recovering individual may find themselves several years into successful recovery, when they have a sudden and unexpected craving that may or may not come with a warning.
Since cocaine is often broken down and flushed from the body in a relatively quick manner, it is often quite difficult to find unmetabolized cocaine in the person’s body. Even heavy users will find that they can test clean in only a few hours, even after having just been used recently. Even with this ultra-short time-to-live, or half-life. Here are a few more factors that are taken into consideration:
- History Of Polysubstance Abuse Disorder. Has there been any previous diagnosis as someone suffering from PAD? This is anyone that has a documented history of abusing at least two substances, legal or illegal, simultaneously.
- Dose & Frequency. Users that were using high doses of cocaine at frequent intervals are going to be at an elevated risk of experiencing the most severe withdrawals for the longest duration. Those who used only small doses infrequently may only experience symptoms that result in only mild discomfort or inconvenience.
- Triggers. If the recovering individual was experiencing substance abuse as a method of escapism, then they will likely need some psychological counseling before being ready to face potential real-life triggering events. This allows the individual to strengthen their potential recovery by avoiding or expecting certain triggering events.
- Co-Occurrence With Other Medical Issues. If the individual had or has any medical condition that exists simultaneously with their substance abuse diagnosis, it could complicate the recovery, particularly if it contributed to the initial cocaine dependence. This can affect the withdrawal and potential recovery.
How To Safely Detox From a Cocaine Withdrawal
Even though the process of detoxing from cocaine may seem straightforward, there can be incredibly serious potential complications for those who aren’t ready or properly equipped for the task. If you think that you or a loved one may need to go through a cocaine detox, make sure you reach out to experienced professionals first. Not only can this make the process so much easier to finish successfully, but it can put the individual in direct working contact with the people that can teach them more effective ways to cope with triggers, no matter what they are or when they happen.