What Is Cocaine Withdrawal?

Cocaine withdrawal is a syndrome of symptoms that occur if you regularly use cocaine and suddenly decrease the amount or stop taking the drug completely. Withdrawal symptoms can happen if you still have some of the drug in your blood, even if you have not completely stopped its use.

What Causes Cocaine Withdrawal?

Using cocaine increases the amount of the “feel-good” chemical in the brain, called dopamine. The brain’s dopamine system, or “feel-good” reward pathway, is stimulated by reinforcing stimuli such as food and drugs, including cocaine.

Drugs like cocaine interfere with the normal communication process in the brain, where dopamine may act as a messenger to carry signals to and from neurons, and a protein transporter removes “extra” dopamine from the bridge between neurons to be reused later. Cocaine attaches to the protein transporter, blocking it from removing the “extra” dopamine. This causes dopamine to accumulate, thereby giving amplified signals to receiving neurons, which causes a euphoric effect.

When you use cocaine for an extended period, you will develop a tolerance and physical dependence on the drug’s euphoric effects to the point where you heavily rely on the drug to function normally. When your brain is dependent on the drug, if the use is significantly reduced or completely stopped, you will feel a crash or withdrawal. Many people with a cocaine addiction will continue to misuse the drug to avoid these withdrawal effects.

Symptoms Of Cocaine Withdrawal

The euphoria of cocaine fades quickly, which leads to a quick onset of withdrawal symptoms shortly after the last dose. This may lead people who use cocaine to binge use cocaine over a short amount of time to delay withdrawal symptoms.

Common symptoms of cocaine withdrawal include:

  • Restlessness and agitation
  • Feeling depressed
  • Increased appetite
  • Changes in sleep patterns and/or vivid dreams
  • Fatigue
  • Poor concentration
  • Slowed thoughts and movements
  • Intensified cravings for cocaine

Although withdrawal from stimulants such as cocaine is not associated with major physical symptoms, some people who go through cocaine withdrawal may be at risk for more profound psychological withdrawal symptoms, such as dysphoria. Dysphoria, a feeling of intense distress or unhappiness, may lead you to relapse and misuse cocaine again to avoid this uncomfortable withdrawal symptom.

How Long Does Cocaine Withdrawal Last?

Depending on the type of cocaine used, the timeline of cocaine withdrawal will vary. However, typically, withdrawal symptom onset may be within hours of the last use of the drug and may last up to a few weeks.

The acute, or more immediate, withdrawal symptoms from cocaine typically last between 3 and 4 days. But for certain people, especially those who use cocaine more regularly, withdrawal symptoms can persist for even up to 4 weeks.

Featured Centers Offering Detox from Cocaine

Cocaine Withdrawal Timeline

Whether you regularly use cocaine or binge every few days and suddenly stop, the withdrawal timeline will typically look the same.

First 24 hrs

Within the first 24 hours after the last use of cocaine, you may begin to experience the following symptoms:

  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Exhaustion
  • Increased appetite

1-7 Days

Within 1-7 days after your last use of cocaine, you may continue to experience the same symptoms, in addition to:

  • Intense cravings
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Vivid, unpleasant dreams
  • Depressive mood swings

2-4 Weeks

Within 2-4 weeks after last using cocaine, you may start to feel better physically, but psychological symptoms may worsen, including:

  • Depression
  • Strong drug cravings
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Agitation

5-12 Weeks

Usually, after 5 to 12 weeks, most people will no longer have withdrawal symptoms. However, some may have persistent psychological withdrawal symptoms for up to, or even beyond, 12 weeks. These persistent symptoms may include:

  • Depressio
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Cravings for cocaine and other stimulants

Factors That Influence The Withdrawal Timeline

The onset and length of withdrawal symptoms may vary, depending on a few factors, including the type of cocaine used and frequency of use.

Crack cocaine, also known as “crack” or “rock,” is a form of processed solid cocaine that can be smoked. Since the effects of crack cocaine don’t typically last as long as regular cocaine, withdrawal symptoms may start sooner, sometimes within just a few hours after it was last used.

People who use cocaine more regularly and in high amounts may experience a longer withdrawal period when compared to those who don’t use it regularly. This means that someone who regularly uses cocaine may have withdrawal symptoms lasting over four weeks, as they have become more dependent on it.

Detoxing From Cocaine

Supervised, inpatient detox treatment provides a safe environment for people who misuse cocaine to detox and get sober. The inpatient setting, in which you would be more closely monitored while detoxing from cocaine, would be appropriate for the start of your detox. It would be especially appropriate for you if you have pre-existing conditions, such as heart conditions, as stimulants like cocaine may increase the risk of stroke or heart attack.

However, detoxing from and quitting cocaine does not necessarily require full-time medical attention. Outpatient detox is a less time-consuming and effective rehab option for many recovering cocaine users. In this setting, you would visit a hospital or treatment center 8-12 hours a week, in which doctors and counselors would perform physical and mental check-ups during your recovery.

Both types of intensive treatment centers can assist you in stopping the use of cocaine long enough for withdrawal symptoms to subside, reducing the risk of relapse.

Continuing Treatment

The most persistent and difficult cocaine withdrawal symptoms to overcome are anxiety, depression, and cravings.

Treatment for these lingering symptoms may include:

These treatment methods aim to help lessen the chance of relapse and ultimately help you overcome a cocaine addiction.

Reach Out Today

Cocaine addiction may be difficult to overcome, but help is available. Contact a treatment provider to learn more about your options regarding detox or other forms of treatment.