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Cocaine Withdrawal

While opioids claim more lives than any other illicit drug, cocaine is consistently reported as the second highest killer in overdoses among drug users. There have been some conflicting reports stating that cocaine use has been down recently, but The New York Times outlines how cocaine prices have fallen, making it easier to obtain in the United States.

Of course, the opioid epidemic is a serious one that requires attention and funding. However, treatment for cocaine use becomes harder to access.

Unlike opioid addiction, there are no medications approved for use in curbing cravings or reducing withdrawal symptoms of cocaine use. Treatment for someone who has become addicted to cocaine will depend on the access to resources in his or her community, the quality of the clinical and medical staff at the facility where they seek treatment and their ability to pay or have insurance cover the costs. As you will see, withdrawal from cocaine is not fatal, but continued use can be.

What is Cocaine?

Cocaine is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant derived from the coca plant native to South America. It is typically used in powder form by either snorting it nasally or adding a liquid substance, heating and injecting it. “Crack” is cocaine that has been mixed with a solution of baking soda. The water evaporates leaving crystal-like rocks behind, which are then heated and the vapors smoked.

The central nervous system (CNS) consists of the brain and the spinal cord. It is constantly communicating with cells and organs to ensure the body is functioning properly. The brain and the body are constantly seeking harmony in order to function well.

The medical term is homeostasis, and it means that when anything disrupts the CNS, efforts must be made to return to a certain level of stability. For example, when the body becomes hot from exercise or being outside in the sun, we sweat in an effort to cool off or reach the previous level of homeostasis.

Cocaine use interferes with the CNS’ ability to return to a balanced state.

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How Cocaine Affects the Brain

Everything we do affects our central nervous system. The foods we eat, how much sleep we get, the quality of the air and water we ingest, and even things like stress and unseen toxins in cleaning products will have some kind of an effect.

The effects of cocaine, crack, and other amphetamines are relatively similar, with variations in duration of effects and length of time to recover from withdrawal symptoms. Cocaine acts mainly by blocking the reuptake of dopamine. This leaves more of the feel-good dopamine in the synapses and leads to the feelings of elation or euphoria.

Cocaine can also act as an anesthetic, and in fact, this was one of the first uses by modern medicine toward the turn of the 20th century. Sigmund Freud was famous for using cocaine for a variety of ailments, as well as prescribing it to patients and colleagues. Additionally famous was the fact that the Coca-Cola company included cocaine in its ingredients until around 1906.

Whether the cocaine is snorted, injected or smoked, the following are some signs or symptoms to be aware of:

  • Changes in heart rhythm
  • Elevated mood
  • Anxiety or irritation
  • Increased alertness, or confidence
  • Decreased need for food, sleep
  • Dilated pupils
  • Elevated or lowered blood pressure
  • Elevated or lowered blood pressure
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Psychomotor agitation
  • Chest pain or respiratory depression
  • Confusion, paranoia or seizures

What You Can Expect From Cocaine Withdrawal

A Timeline of Withdrawal Symptoms

Cocaine withdrawal is not considered life-threatening. Symptoms will depend upon the type, severity, and frequency of use, but will typically include: depression, the onset of which can be within hours up to several days after the last use, the need for extended sleep and food to compensate for the time spent with diminished appetite and sleep while actively using.

The following may also be present during a withdrawal period for cocaine:

  • Vivid, unpleasant dreams
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Psychomotor agitation, or retardation
  • Disruptions in cognitive performance
  • Decreased ability to focus
  • Paranoia

Cocaine is metabolized relatively quickly, with a half-life of about 40-60 minutes. That means in that time, about half of the substance has been processed and the effects will begin to diminish. Unfortunately, this is what contributes to the highly addictive properties of cocaine. Because it is processed by the brain and body quickly, the negative side effects are also felt relatively quickly and this can lead to an individual searching out more and more of the drug to avoid the withdrawal symptoms.

What Are The Steps For Treatment From Cocaine Withdrawal?

The withdrawal from cocaine is not considered lethal. However, long-term, chronic use of cocaine is associated with serious symptoms that are the opposite of the initial effects experienced by the user. These can include serious, persistent changes to brain functioning, social and occupational declines, as well as adverse effects on the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Additionally, if the drug is snorted, there can be long-term damage to the soft tissue found in the nasal passages. The potential for addiction is high, as is the necessity for quality care to interrupt the cycle of use, dependence, and addiction.

Once you have identified that you are in need of help, the next phase of cocaine addiction treatment is entering either an inpatient or outpatient addiction recovery treatment program. A skilled clinician will be able to assess whether you will benefit more from living at a residential treatment facility and having continuous access to medical and therapeutic care, or if you are stable enough to participate in treatment while still living at home. Either way, long-term treatment is essential to avoiding relapse.

In a recovery treatment program, you will be able to address the physical, psychological, medical, and social aspects of the cocaine addiction, learning through various therapeutic tools how to manage your addictive behaviors effectively and maintain long-term sobriety.

This is done through a customized treatment plan, which you will customize with your therapist, and may include some of the following common treatment modalities:

  • EMDR therapy
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Dual diagnosis treatment
  • Motivational interviewing
  • Holistic therapy
  • Addiction education classes
  • Relapse prevention planning
  • Group counseling

If You’re Suffering from Cocaine Addiction, We Can Help

If you or a loved one is struggling with cocaine abuse or addiction, it is important that you treat it with the seriousness it requires and get help before it is too late.

At California Highlands Addiction Treatment, we offer quality detox as well as residential treatment and can provide the resources, support, and specialized treatment needed to get you or your loved one back on your feet and on the path to lasting sobriety.

Call 855-808-5454 now for a free and confidential consultation with one of our specialists, who are available around the clock to help you navigate your treatment options, verify insurance, and answer any questions you might have. Call now or contact us online for more information.

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Cocaine: How 'Miracle Drug' Nearly Destroyed Sigmund Freud, William Halsted. (2011, October 17). from

Frakt, A. (2018, March 05). Overshadowed by the Opioid Crisis: A Comeback by Cocaine. from

Lynsen, A. (2014, September 30). Stimulants. from

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). What is the scope of cocaine use in the United States? from

Stimulants . (2018, August 01). from

What is Homeostasis? (n.d.). from

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