When you use certain substances such as cocaine you can develop dependence or even addiction. This is more likely if your drug abuse is heavy and frequent. Once dependence occurs it is very difficult to quit as you experience withdrawal symptoms. And when you use more, you have an increased risk of adverse effects.
In 2020, there were 19,477 cocaine-related overdose deaths in the US compared to 5,419 in 2014. There has also been an increase in emergency room visits. If you or a loved one has a problem with cocaine use you may wish to reach out to a treatment center for support. In this article, we will discuss the treatment process, what detox is, and how long it lasts.
What is Cocaine?
Cocaine is a stimulant drug that is extracted from the leaf of the coca plant. It acts by increasing the activity of dopamine, which is involved in the brain’s reward pathways. Cocaine blocks the reuptake of dopamine once it has been released. This means that dopamine accumulates, causing a greater effect.
Cocaine is a Schedule II substance which means it can rapidly lead to abuse and addiction. However, unlike Schedule I substances it is recognized to have some medical uses. It is sometimes used as a local anesthetic in nose, mouth, and throat surgeries.
Cocaine Addiction and Dependence
The more you abuse cocaine the more likely you are to develop a dependence. Your brain is good at adapting to change, so it adapts to cocaine use by changing the amounts of receptors and neurotransmitters available. Once this change has occurred, quitting causes withdrawal symptoms as it disrupts the new balance.
Cocaine addiction is usually close behind dependence. The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines addiction as a chronic disease that is very difficult to control. It causes you to compulsively seek out and take the substance to which you are addicted. Addiction is surrounded by stigma in society which can mean that it is not always given the same attention as other diseases. However, while treatment can be harder to access than for other diseases, there are many treatment centers across the US that can help you recover with appropriate care. Your health insurance will often cover addiction treatment.
What is Cocaine Detox?
Cocaine detox is when you stop taking cocaine and allow it and its metabolites to leave your body. These are the toxic substances that it breaks down into once it is in your body. It is at this point that you experience withdrawal. While the detox process is different depending on personal factors, there are common symptoms that we will discuss. We will also discuss the cocaine detox timeline.
Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms
The withdrawal process for cocaine mainly involves psychological symptoms, however, you will still experience some physical symptoms.
- Aches and pains
- Lack of pleasure
- Irritability and anxiety
- Depression (in severe cases, you may experience suicidal thoughts)
- Intense cravings
While these symptoms can seem daunting, with appropriate treatment they can be eased. When you detox from cocaine you will often be given drugs that help you manage symptoms. The most intense symptoms will usually only last for one week and after this time you will continue to receive support to help you manage any lingering symptoms.
Cocaine Withdrawal Timeline
Cocaine has a short half-life of about one and a half hours. This means you will start to experience withdrawal symptoms quickly, usually within a few hours. The first stage of the detox process is often known as the crash phase. This stage lasts for around seven days and is when you will experience the most intense symptoms. Symptoms typically include increased appetite, irritability, lack of motivation, fatigue, anxiety, depression, and severe cravings.
The second stage is much longer than the first as symptoms can last up to ten weeks without medical detox. At this stage, you tend to only experience psychological withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, mood changes, restlessness, and dysphoria. You may also continue to experience cravings. In this stage, you may also start to feel more normal and regain some of your life before.
The last phase is sometimes called the extinction phase. After ten weeks you may continue to experience cocaine cravings, particularly if you are in the environment in which you used to take. These cravings are less intense and frequent than in the previous phases. While your mood will likely be better in this stage, you may still experience apathy, irritability, and lethargy.
Protracted or post-acute withdrawal is where symptoms continue beyond the usual timeline. Some people will continue to experience withdrawal symptoms for up to six months and sometimes even longer. These symptoms may include depression, mood changes, and cravings.
Factors Which Can Affect Length and Intensity of Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms
The severity of cocaine withdrawal varies depending on the person. There are some factors that affect this including:
- How long you have been using
- Frequency of use
- Purity of cocaine you have been using and if you mix it either intentionally or not with other drugs
- Method of administering it e.g., snorting, injecting, or smoking
- General physical and mental health
- Other drug use
- Any co-occurring mental health conditions
When you go to an addiction treatment program, you may be offered the choice between an outpatient or inpatient treatment program. In the former, you will go to the treatment center during the days or evenings but can continue life pretty much as normal. An at-home cocaine detox may suit those who have responsibilities that they cannot pause, but an inpatient rehabilitation program will be safer and more likely to lead to long-term recovery.
In an inpatient program, you will receive twenty-four-hour monitoring and support without access to cocaine. The cocaine detox may be easier as an inpatient as doctors and psychologists can monitor symptoms as they come up. Inpatient treatment may suit those who experience severe symptoms or those who live in an environment in which it is difficult to stay sober.
With both options, you will usually be offered medical detox if needed. Medication can be given to manage withdrawal symptoms, such as to stabilize mood and reduce depression. You will also be given access to therapy which can help you to process what you are going through and work through relapse triggers to prevent relapse. Since detox is not the end of recovery, it is important to continue treatment.
It can be difficult to accept and overcome cocaine addiction. At NP Addiction we believe that healing comes through connection. Each person’s recovery is different, so our treatment program offers various options to suit your individual needs:
- Detox under medical supervision
- Individual and group therapy
- Art, music, and recreational therapy
- Family therapy sessions
- Transitional support
If you would like to find out more about our cocaine detox program, please visit our website or call us at (888) 574-3506. We would be very happy to welcome you to our community.