Although cocaine detox may not be as severe as withdrawal related to other drugs or alcohol, it does come with its own unique set of challenges. Detoxing from some substances, including alcohol, can cause severe or even life-threatening physical effects. Cocaine withdrawal, however, leads to primarily psycho-emotional and cognitive symptoms.
Symptoms of cocaine detox can include the following:
- Impaired concentration
- Impaired cognition
- Lethargy and fatigue
- Muscle aches and pains
- Diminished sex drive
- Depression or anxiety
- Suicidal ideations or behaviors
- Vivid dreams or nightmares
- Increased appetite
- Drug cravings
The Necessity of Clinical Detox
A cocaine detox may be administered on an outpatient basis, but an inpatient clinical detox may be the most sensible choice in some instances. If relapse was an issue during a previous attempt to detox, 24/7 medical supervision offered by a medical detox might be more helpful. Moreover, suppose an individual has a history of depression or suicidal ideations—in this instance, medical detox is usually suggested to ensure that the person is safe and supported emotionally during withdrawal.
If the cocaine-dependent person also suffers from any co-existing mental health conditions, medical detox should be directly followed by long-term intensive treatment. Health providers involved in addiction treatment programs should concurrently address withdrawal symptoms and mental health conditions.
Among the more problematic symptoms associated with stimulant withdrawal are extreme depression and an increased likelihood of suicide. An individual who suddenly discontinues cocaine use after addiction has developed can encounter depression and severe mood swings, including suicidal ideations and behaviors.
These effects can manifest because the brain will have grown accustomed to increased dopamine activity caused by repeated cocaine abuse. Over time, the reward and pleasure centers in the brain are hijacked, and tolerance and dependence will develop as a consequence.
By this point, the user will often need ever-increasing amounts of the substance to experience the sought-after effect. Moreover, they may be prone to feeling depressed and unsatisfied with life without an escalating pattern of use.
Short-term cocaine withdrawal effects tend to subside by around 7-10 days. However, as with many substances, cravings may persist for a prolonged period and manifest suddenly, even after months or years after an individual has entered recovery.
Cocaine has an incredibly short half-life, and for those dependent, withdrawal symptoms can occur as rapidly as 90 minutes after the last use. However, the timeline and duration of withdrawal symptoms can vary depending on numerous individual factors.
Key factors that can influence the cocaine detox timeline and number of effects include the following:
Duration of Use and Usual Amount Administered
Those who use cocaine occasionally for a brief period may experience withdrawal symptoms relatively short in duration. Conversely, those who have chronically abused cocaine for years may encounter withdrawal symptoms that persist for weeks, in part due to the accumulation of the substance in their system.
Also, individuals who have used cocaine excessively may experience more severe withdrawal symptoms than those who have typically taken lower doses.
Polysubstance Abuse and Dependence
An individual who has developed a dependence on more than one substance may experience withdrawal symptoms related to both. This occurrence may alter the withdrawal timeline and make the overall process more uncomfortable and risky for the person detoxing, especially if they do not receive medical help. For instance, it’s not uncommon for those who abuse cocaine to do combined with alcohol, and alcohol withdrawal itself can prove life-threatening.
If a person experiments with cocaine as a misguided method of escaping from a stressful or traumatic event or environment added stress might drive an individual to use it again. Moreover, environmental factors that provoke feelings of distress or anxiety, such as relationship issues or work or academic challenges, may lead to intense cravings for more cocaine. This added stress can undermine the withdrawal’s emotional process.
Co-Occurring Medical or Mental Health Concerns
If an individual experiences a co-occurring medical or mental health disorder, the cocaine withdrawal process may be more complicated and severe. Mental illnesses, such as depression or anxiety, may be likely to intensify and ultimately require additional treatment by health professionals who can offer help and several forms of support.
Treatment for Cocaine Withdrawal
Currently, there are no prescription drugs approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) to specifically aid in cocaine detox. However, a few medications may help people by relieving both the acute and long-term withdrawal symptoms. For example, medicine indicated to treat depression and anxiety disorders may help those undergoing cocaine withdrawal, as they may stabilize an individual’s mood and improve outcomes.
After detox, individuals are urged to enroll in intensive addiction treatment, such as a Just Believe Recovery program. In doing so, persons can take advantage of multifaceted, evidence-based methodologies, such as behavioral therapy, counseling, peer group support, relapse prevention, and aftercare planning.