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Cocaine is an addictive stimulant drug. Someone who develops a physical dependence on the drug will experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop using it. Cocaine withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe. In some cases, it will take a person’s body days, weeks, or longer to recover from cocaine addiction.
Symptoms of withdrawal from cocaine are similar to those associated with any drug, especially other stimulant drugs. Cocaine withdrawal produces both psychological and physical symptoms. If you are physically dependent on cocaine and you stop taking it, you are likely to experience:
Once you stop using cocaine, you will feel a desire to take more and crave the drug. This desire is fueled by the desire to ward off the unpleasant feelings of not having the drug in your system and not experiencing the pleasurable high.
The body needs time to adjust to functioning without cocaine. This period of adjustment is difficult, and many people relapse because of cravings.
Most cocaine users experience feelings of depression, anxiety, and irritability during the withdrawal process. In more extreme cases, suicidal thoughts and ideations may occur as well.
Fatigue is caused by a combination of “crashing” after a cocaine high and from a long-term lack of sleep. Cocaine is a stimulant that causes you to feel alert and awake, so most people sleep less when taking it.
During withdrawal, your body will need to adjust and return to a regular sleeping pattern. Unfortunately, despite being tired, many people withdrawing from cocaine struggle to sleep. They experience:
Most people taking cocaine do not have a steady eating schedule. Cocaine suppresses a person’s appetite. Once they stop using the drug, their appetite starts to return to normal. It is crucial to avoid overeating during withdrawal and instead eat small, healthy meals.
Cocaine withdrawal might cause you to feel sluggish or slow. Some people also experience agitation.
Symptoms of cocaine withdrawal vary from person to person. For most, cocaine withdrawal occurs in three phases, and each phase produces different side effects. These phases are as follows:
This phase begins within a few hours of the last dose of cocaine. Symptoms include irritability, anxiety, exhaustion, and extreme hunger.
The proper withdrawal phase can last up to 10 weeks. Most people experience anxiety, irritability, lethargy, and depression during this phase. They lack concentration and tend to have an erratic sleep schedule. Cravings are intense during this phase.
This is the final phase of cocaine withdrawal, and it can last up to 28 weeks. Cravings still arise, and dysphoria (a state of unease) is also an issue.
Detoxing from cocaine on your own is risky. Withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous, and medically-supervised detox ensures you receive the care and support you need during this difficult transition.
Inpatient treatment (rehab) is common for those with severe cocaine addiction. It provides round-the-clock medical support and removes someone from their usual triggers and alleviates the real-world temptations to use cocaine.
There is no FDA-approved medication for cocaine withdrawal. Some medications ease specific symptoms, as well as things you can do to reduce the unpleasantness of withdrawal. Overall, the best strategy is to establish a healthy lifestyle that includes nutritious food, exercise, and a healthy sleeping schedule. You can begin to build healthy habits during detox and continue as you recover.
Some of the medications used during cocaine withdrawal include:
Medical studies are ongoing to examine the effects and safety of these drugs to help in treating cocaine withdrawal.
Cocaine changes your brain chemistry, making it one of the most difficult drug addictions to overcome. Relapse is common but preventable.
Participating in long-term care, including individual and group counseling is one of the most effective ways to stay sober after cocaine detox. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), when combined with other treatments, is very effective for long-term abstinence.
Other addiction treatment options include:
It is important to have a plan in place to avoid relapse after cocaine withdrawal. Despite the withdrawal, a person is still at risk due to the addiction. It is also essential to keep in mind that no relapse strategy is entirely effective. Living a sober life requires vigilance, and an effort to keep the risk of relapse as low as possible.
Some strategies that can help you or your loved one prevent relapse include:
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