Cocaine Withdrawal

Withdrawing from cocaine isn’t like withdrawing from alcohol, heroin or marijuana. Cocaine withdrawal produces its own set of side effects, many of which affect the mind as much as the body. Getting through withdrawal is one of the biggest obstacles to rehabilitation for many heavy cocaine users. With the right kind of care and support, you can survive this tough period and come out ready to enter the next stage of the recovery process.

What Happens?

Cocaine produces its characteristic rush of energy by stimulating the central nervous system, accelerating your heart rate and metabolism. Cocaine also blocks the brain’s natural system for recycling dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with motor coordination, learning and emotional well-being. Dopamine is integral to the brain’s reward circuitry, producing sensations of contentment and happiness in response to certain actions. Snorting, injecting or smoking cocaine leads to a flood of dopamine in the brain cells, resulting in a sense of euphoria, self-confidence and mental energy.

The more you use cocaine, however, the more of the drug you need to reach that euphoric state. If you stop using the drug altogether or even cut down on the amount you use, your brain and body may react by producing withdrawal symptoms.

According to the National Institutes of Health, cocaine withdrawal may begin very soon after you stop using cocaine, especially if you’ve been on a binge, or an extended episode of heavy cocaine use. Stopping cocaine abruptly can result in a period of physical and mental depression known as the “cocaine crash.” The effects of this crash often include:

  • Intense cravings for more cocaine
  • Physical and mental exhaustion
  • Deep depression
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Paranoia
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Increase in appetite

During the cocaine crash, you may feel sluggish and disoriented. You may experience a condition called “anhedonia,” or an absence of pleasure in activities you used to enjoy. For many addicts, the overpowering cravings combined with the physical and psychological side effects of withdrawal drive them to seek and use more cocaine, in spite of their best intentions.

Getting Through the Cocaine Crash

Resolving to quit cocaine isn’t always enough to break the drug’s hold on your life. You should seek a professionally supervised detoxification program to give you the kind of support that you need to make it through cocaine withdrawals. A cocaine crash may last from several hours to several days, depending on how much of the drug you’ve used and how long you’ve been using it. The long-term side effects of withdrawal — depression, anhedonia and cravings –may last for months after you’ve stopped using. Unless you have reliable set of recovery tools to sustain your new life, the chances of a relapse are high.

Addiction specialists can monitor you through the stages of withdrawal, providing support and counseling to help you manage the psychological symptoms of a cocaine crash. Prescription medications can also be a valuable component of your cocaine rehabilitation program. Currently there are no specific medications that have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for cocaine withdrawal. But according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, drugs like bromocriptine and amantadine have been used to reduce withdrawal symptoms. Both of these drugs are used in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, a condition that affects dopamine production and motor coordination.

Unlike alcohol withdrawal, which can produce life-threatening side effects, cocaine withdrawal isn’t usually fatal. But when you consider how your recovery will affect your health, it’s clear that finding a comprehensive treatment program is vital to your well-being. Call our intake team at Alta Mira Recovery for information on how you can start the journey of recovery today.