Are you addicted to cocaine? Do you know someone who is? Making the decision to quit is powerful, life-changing and potentially life-saving. Before you can start a treatment program, you must get clean. This requires going through the withdrawal process. It’s important to be informed on the cocaine withdrawal timeline so that you can prepare yourself for the changes that lie ahead. While it’s impossible to know for certain what your detox experience will be, aligning yourself with the right treatment center gives you the greatest chances for success.
How Long Until Cocaine Withdrawal Starts?
Cocaine is an effective stimulant. It also has a very short half-life. It takes just hours from the last dose to begin feeling withdrawal symptoms. The first symptoms you will feel include agitation, fatigue, increased appetite, and vivid dreams. In fact, if you’ve ever gone too long in between cocaine uses, you’ve probably felt some of these symptoms. When you used again, the symptoms went away.
By not continuing the use of cocaine, withdrawal symptoms will last for about a week or two. Other symptoms can linger indefinitely. Some recovering addicts report that they deal with cravings for cocaine all their lives. This is why it’s important to realize that addiction is not a disease that you are automatically healed. You must work actively at your recovery to limit temptation and avoid relapse.
What the Cocaine Withdrawal Timeline Looks Like
Let’s break down the various cocaine withdrawal stages so that you know what to expect. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed when learning those withdrawal symptoms can last for months or years. Knowing what to expect and how to manage these symptoms will offer reassurance to continue your recovery.
First 24-72 Hours. Within the first 24-72 hours, it’s normal to have that “crash and burn” feeling. The brain becomes severely sleep deprived. Your body will feel fatigued, but it’s difficult to get rest. It’s also common to feel depressed and remorseful. If you do get rest, don’t be surprised if you wake up feeling like you didn’t sleep at all.
Week 1. In the first week, you can expect to feel some improvement. Once the cocaine is out of your body, the cravings may feel more manageable. Symptoms still persist, however, and include agitation, unpleasant dreams and increased appetite.
Week 2. The second week can feel like you’re going backwards. The cravings for cocaine may start to return, and they are often coupled with agitation and depression. Some recovering addicts have vivid dreams and think about using again.
Week 3-4. In weeks three and four, symptoms are still present. This is the time that you may experience mood swings. Sleep problems and depression are also common. The best way to manage these withdrawal symptoms is to exercise and eat a healthy diet.
Weeks 5+. Intense cravings can continue during this time. In fact, some recovering cocaine users say that cravings can pop up suddenly – not just in times of stress. The brain will continue to heal, and you may need counseling and medication to treat depression.
How Long Does Cocaine Withdrawal Last?
Cocaine withdrawal is not as intense as withdrawal from other substances, but it has its own set of challenges. Substances like alcohol and benzos cause severe physical withdrawal symptoms, whereas cocaine has lesser physical effects. That said, cocaine detox has the strongest psychological withdrawal symptoms that can last for years.
The brain has to recover after using cocaine, even if it was just abused for a few months. Consider that the neurotransmitters in the brain – norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin – are significantly depleted. This is why you’re left feeling depressed, tired, irritable and empty. While it may seem impossible to feel joy from normal, everyday pleasures, you will be able to one day. Don’t let these feelings deter you from your decision to stop cocaine.
What Impacts the Length of Cocaine Withdrawal Stages?
The amount of time that symptoms persist is different for everyone. It’s based on how long the cocaine was abused and how much you were taking with each dose. If you were a heavy cocaine user, it’s possible for withdrawal symptoms to last for two years or more. If you were not a heavy user, the symptoms may only last for six months.
Let’s look closer at the factors that may influence the stages of cocaine withdrawal.
Length of use. If you abused cocaine for a short time, withdrawal symptoms may be shorter. If you abused cocaine for a longer period of time, more cocaine is built up in the body. Therefore, withdrawal symptoms are expected to last longer.
Size of dose. How much cocaine was typically used is also a consideration. Using more of the drug means that your brain is used to intense highs and will take longer to recover.
Drug purity. Pure cocaine may be an addict’s dream, but it’s harsher on the recovery process. Cocaine that is cut with fillers isn’t as potent. Of course, this doesn’t make it safer, as drugs can be cut with toxic ingredients like rat poison. If you were used to getting very pure cocaine, however, the cocaine withdrawal time may last longer.
Environment. How you used cocaine can also play a role in your recovery. If you used drugs to escape from stressful situations, stress may trigger the urge to use again. Because cocaine has significant psychological withdrawal symptoms, it’s imperative that you learn to manage stressful environments. Otherwise, relationship troubles, family issues, etc. will continue to lead to cravings.
Co-occurring conditions. Another component that can affect your recovery is having a co-occurring disorder, such as depression, anxiety or an eating disorder. The same is true if you have a polydrug addiction. Expect the withdrawal process to be lengthened as a result.
Managing Symptoms of PAWS
PAWS (post acute withdrawal syndrome) is common for people who have abused cocaine for an extended period of time. Symptoms of PAWS usually surface around three to six months after stopping cocaine. Don’t be discouraged if these symptoms do arise. Addiction counselors and doctors are aware of PAWS and can help you work through your hard days.
Symptoms of PAWS vary among individuals, and they can present themselves as cognitive, physical or emotional problems. Some of the most common symptoms of PAWS include depression, anger, memory problems, sleep disorders, impaired concentration and emotional sensitivity or numbness. Remember, your brain is healing and needs time.
To reduce PAWS symptoms, here are some of the things you can do:
Avoid unnecessary stress and demands
Continue therapy and 12-step groups
Adopt healthy habits, such as exercise and meeting new friends
Practice compassion and gratitude
Plan ahead when going out
Ask for help when you need it
When is Medical Detox Necessary?
If you are addicted to cocaine, The River Source recommends seeking medical detox and a treatment program. While it’s possible to detox from cocaine on an outpatient basis, most cases of cocaine addiction are not cut and dry. Usually addicts have other co-occurring conditions that must be addressed as well as addictions to other substances. Addressing only the cocaine withdrawal stages in an outpatient program is not enough.
Detoxing from cocaine in a safe, supportive environment will also make the withdrawal process more manageable. Medications are available to treat insomnia, depression and anxiety. However, there are no FDA-approved medications to treat cocaine withdrawal. Some research in animals shows favorable results with buprenorphine and naltrexone, but they have yet to be accepted as appropriate treatments for cocaine addiction.
Another benefit to committing to a detox and treatment program is that you are taught how to cope with stressful environments. If you used cocaine as a means to escape from stress or anxiety, you must learn new ways to handle these emotions. A residential treatment program offers the safe, sober and supportive environment you need to heal and learn essential life skills.
If you have struggled with drug addiction in the past, or you have a history of depression or suicidal thoughts and behavior, DO NOT detox from cocaine on your own. Get help from a medically supervised detox center such as The River Source. We have beds available, so call us today.
How to Get Through Cocaine Withdrawal Cravings
Cravings are arguably the most difficult part of the cocaine withdrawal process. But cravings do not last forever. They come in waves, generally building up, reaching a peak and then calming down. Rather than giving into the craving, find healthy outlets for dealing with the waves. Keep your head up and know that they will pass. The way to do this is by keeping yourself busy and distracting your mind from the desire to use.
When in treatment, it’s easier to distract yourself because you are in a new environment with less temptation. When you return to your home, the desire to use cocaine becomes stronger because you are triggered by things of your past: places, people, music, smells, etc. Use the tools you learned in recovery to help you deal with the cravings. This may be meditation, yoga, journaling or exercise.
After completing treatment, also build a strong support network that you can rely on. If you feel like using, connect with your 12-step sponsor or another trusted friend. Also make sure that you continue treatment for co-occurring conditions, if you have them. Letting depression or anxiety go untreated will only make your cravings that much harder to control.
Need Help? Call The River Source Today
The River Source is a trusted treatment center for substance abuse. We have worked with many patients who have struggled with cocaine and have seen long-term success with their recoveries. Our holistic approach that gives attention to the mind, body and spirit provides the groundwork for our success. Call us today to learn more about seeking personalized treatment at The River Source.