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Cocaine Withdrawal Signs and Symptoms

a woman in a pink shirt covers her face to escape from cocaine withdrawal symptoms

Cocaine withdrawal happens when someone who has chronically used cocaine cuts down on or stops using the drug suddenly. It is possible for withdrawal symptoms to occur even if someone has not completely stopped using cocaine and still has some of the drug left in their system. Often, cocaine withdrawal has no visible physical symptoms, like vomiting and shaking that accompany opioid or alcohol withdrawal. It is more common for cocaine withdrawal symptoms to be psychological and the opposite of the psychological effects of the drug.

At Vertava Health, our cocaine withdrawal treatment programs are designed to help our patients through cocaine detox and withdrawal with as little discomfort as possible. Our cocaine detox center is staffed with medical professionals who will help to make sure our patients are as comfortable as possible while they go through cocaine withdrawal symptoms. To learn more about our services, please contact Vertava Health today at 844.470.0410.

Symptoms of Cocaine Withdrawal

Possible cocaine withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Agitation and restless behavior
  • Depressed mood
  • Fatigue
  • General feelings of discomfort
  • Increased appetite
  • Vivid and unpleasant dreams
  • Slowing of activity

Cravings for the drug and certain psychological symptoms can last for months after stopping long-term, heavy use. Cocaine withdrawal may also result in suicidal thoughts in some individuals.

During the withdrawal process, individuals can experience powerful and intense cravings for cocaine. Even during their long-term use, when some individuals become sensitized to cocaine, there can still be intense cravings for the drug. Someone who uses cocaine intravenously (IV) is more likely to experience psychiatric withdrawal symptoms compared to those who use it by snorting or smoking.

Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms Timeline

Cocaine withdrawal can last for several days to a few weeks and, in some cases, for months after the last use. However, the general timeline for cocaine withdrawal lasts about a month. The initial month of cocaine withdrawal can consist of unpredictable and alternating states from low to high drug cravings, anxiety, paranoia, and long periods of sleep.

The following are general symptoms that may or may not be experienced by someone going through the process of withdrawing from cocaine.

Withdrawal Symptoms that Occur Within the First Three Days After Cocaine Use

Symptoms felt 24-72 hours after the last dose may include:

  • Confusion, depression, and disorientation
  • Intense cocaine cravings
  • Fatigue
  • Hunger
  • Irritability, restlessness, and remorse
  • Insomnia

Withdrawal Symptoms that Occur Four to Seven Days After Cocaine Use

Possible symptoms four to seven days after the last dose include:

  • Anxiety
  • Apathy
  • Depression
  • Decreased cocaine cravings
  • Dysphoria (general dissatisfaction with life
  • Irritability
  • Paranoia

Withdrawal Symptoms that Occur a Week After Cocaine Use

Symptoms that may occur a week after the last dose include:

  • Agitation
  • Further decreased cocaine cravings
  • Increase in appetite
  • Vivid and unpleasant dreams.

Withdrawal Symptoms that Occur Two Weeks After Cocaine Use

Two weeks after the last dose, possible withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Anger
  • The return of cocaine cravings
  • Further depression
  • Vivid dreams

Withdrawal Symptoms that Occur Three to Four Weeks After Cocaine Use

Three to four weeks after the last dose, people may experience symptoms such as:

  • Increased depression
  • Mood swings
  • Trouble falling and staying asleep
  • Increased stress and anxiety

Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms

It is also possible for those who have used cocaine for a long-time to experience post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS). These symptoms may occur three to six months after quitting cocaine and can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Cravings
  • Depression
  • Mood swings

Prolonged cocaine withdrawal can last between six months to two years. The length of the withdrawal process will depend on the amount of time someone used cocaine, the severity of their addiction, and the purity of the cocaine used.

It is recommended to seek professional medical supervision during the withdrawal process in order to receive the proper emotional and psychological support and prevent addiction relapse.

Developing Tolerance to Cocaine

Each person who uses cocaine will develop tolerance at a different rate. Some people may build up a classic tolerance to the drug, where they will require larger and more frequent doses in order to achieve the same high a smaller dose once produced.

Other people abusing cocaine may instead become more sensitive to the drug. This is a type of ‘reverse tolerance,’ also known as sensitization. When this happens, individuals may have more intense reactions to cocaine. Cocaine sensitization may also lead to negative and possibly life-threatening side effects, including:

  • Cardiac arrest
  • Cocaine overdose from very small doses of cocaine
  • Respiratory failure

The main symptom of cocaine tolerance is intense cravings for the drug. Once this occurs, many people will go on cocaine binges where they continually take the drug.

Eventually, some people may experience a ceiling effect. In other words, no matter how much cocaine they take, they are not capable of getting high because their system has been drained of dopamine.

How Cocaine Withdrawal Affects the Brain

Cocaine increases the levels of a naturally occurring chemical messenger, dopamine. Dopamine is involved in controlling pleasure and movement. Typically, the average brain releases dopamine within the brain circuits in response to potential rewards, like the smell of good food.

It then recycles back into the cell that released it, which turns off the signal between the nerve cells. When cocaine is introduced, it prevents dopamine from recycling which causes an excessive amount of dopamine to build up between the nerve cells. This disruption in the normal brain communication is what causes the high that cocaine produces.

Risks of Cocaine Use

Health risks associated with cocaine use may include increased stress on the heart and cardiovascular system. When someone uses cocaine over a long-time period of three or more weeks, they may also become malnourished. They may also develop a movement disorder such as Parkinson’s disease later on in life.

Cocaine also holds a very high potential for addiction. This is due to the positive reinforcement caused by the flood of dopamine to the brain during use. This effect makes the brain believe that the body is doing something good and will trick the individual into wanting to repeat the process.

Polydrug use, or using more than one drug at a time, while using cocaine also increases the risk of overdosing. Some people report becoming highly irritable and restless when they go on a cocaine binge. Other individuals may experience severe paranoia, where they become detached from reality and have auditory hallucinations (hear things that are not real).

Physical Effects of Cocaine Addiction

Some short-term physical effects of cocaine use may include:

  • Extreme boosts in energy and positive feelings
  • Increased mental alertness
  • Hypersensitivity to sights, sounds, and touch
  • Extreme mood swings, including increased irritability
  • Paranoia or extreme distrust of others

Although some people find that cocaine helps them perform simple physical and mental tasks more quickly than normal, others may experience the opposite effect. Effects of cocaine are felt almost immediately and may last for a few minutes to an hour.

Injecting or smoking cocaine produces a quicker and stronger but shorter-lasting high than snorting the drug. The high from smoking cocaine may last five to 10 minutes.

Studies have shown that abusing cocaine can speed up HIV infection. Cocaine impairs immune cell function and promotes the reproduction of the HIV virus. Research also indicates that individuals with HIV may have an increased risk for co-occurring infections by contracting hepatitis C, even if they don’t inject the drug.

Effects of Cocaine Use in Pregnant Women

Most women who suffer from cocaine addiction are of childbearing age. About five percent of pregnant women use one or more addictive substances, including cocaine. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there are around 750,000 cocaine-exposed pregnancies every year.

Abusing cocaine during pregnancy can cause maternal migraines and seizures, premature membrane rupture, and separation of the placental lining from the uterus before delivery. Pregnancy is associated with normal cardiovascular changes. Cocaine can exacerbate these changes, causing serious problems with high blood pressure, spontaneous miscarriage, preterm labor, and difficult delivery.

Are There Medication-Assisted Treatment Options for Withdrawal and Addiction?

Treatment for cocaine addiction is typically addressed with behavioral therapies, which can help people deal with the psychological symptoms of withdrawal. Currently, there are no Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved medications for treating the negative side effects of cocaine withdrawal.

In order to ensure the best care and comfort during the withdrawal process, it is best to enroll in an inpatient detox and/or treatment program. Doing so can provide the necessary support individuals need during the difficult withdrawal process and help to prevent relapse.

Seek Treatment at Vertava Health

Cocaine withdrawal symptoms can be difficult to manage on your own, which is why professional treatment is often necessary to find lasting recovery. At Vertava Health, our cocaine addiction treatment programs are designed to help you detox from cocaine in a safe and comfortable environment. We offer a variety of treatment options, including inpatient and outpatient care, to meet your unique needs. If you need more information on cocaine withdrawal and treatment, contact one of our specialists at 844.470.0410 today.