Cocaine is an addictive drug that causes many long-term psychological and physical effects. As a powerful stimulant, cocaine abuse affects almost every bodily system and puts undue stress on the heart. Long-term cocaine abuse has been shown to increase the risk of heart attack and stroke in people as young as 18.
When someone becomes addicted to any drug, including cocaine, their body will become used to the effects of the drug in their system. As the body adjusts to the drug, the person will experience many different physical and mental effects. At this point, the body learns to function with the drug in their system, and a dependence on the drug is formed. If the person stops taking the drug abruptly, the body goes into shock and has trouble adjusting without the drug. The person will experience many different side effects, ranging from mild to severe, to potentially deadly. This process where the body tries to get used to functioning without the drug is called withdrawal.
Drugs like cocaine produce physical dependence, where the body becomes increasingly tolerant of the drug. But the body also becomes increasingly sensitive to the symptoms of withdrawal. For example, cocaine produces an intense, euphoric feeling and gives the user an incredible amount of energy. Once the person stops taking cocaine, they risk developing clinical depression during the withdrawal timeline.
What happens during the cocaine withdrawal timeline, and how long does it last?
When someone gets high on cocaine, they will experience a marked increase in mood and a feeling of euphoria. These feelings are produced by neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine. Cocaine causes the brain to produce these chemicals in abundance, and as addiction goes on, the body becomes used to cocaine producing these effects. When someone stops taking cocaine, they will experience a decrease in mood, energy, and well-being, called a “crash.”
The brain is not getting the cocaine it has become accustomed to in order to produce dopamine and norepinephrine. As a result, the individual will experience anhedonia, anxiety, sleepiness, irritability, and intense cravings for the drug. Sometimes, people may even become suspicious or paranoid during a crash. Depression and even suicidal thoughts can take hold over a person during this part of the withdrawal phase. Long-term cocaine abusers are at high risk of experiencing an episode of severe depression following cocaine cessation.
Although cocaine withdrawal doesn’t typically involve any intense physical symptoms, strong cravings for the drug and emotional and mental disturbances make cocaine withdrawal a painful and risky time for people who do not have any support or medical supervision.
Cocaine Withdrawal Timeline
The withdrawal timeline for cocaine abuse is divided into three distinct phases. Cocaine has a short half-life, so the first phase of the withdrawal timeline can happen as soon as 60 minutes after last use. The entire length of the withdrawal timeline can last as little as a few weeks to many months.
Phase one is the crash phase, and this part of the timeline can last anywhere from one day to several days. During this phase, individuals will feel depressed and anxious and have trouble feeling pleasure. They may appear sleepy and feel fatigued, hungry, and also feel intense cravings for the drug. Sometimes, people will experience cognitive problems, such as trouble concentrating, confusion, and short-term memory problems.
Long-term cocaine abusers are at risk of experiencing potentially dangerous physical symptoms, including tachycardia, arrhythmia, dehydration, trembling, seizures, and heart attack. Fortunately, these withdrawal side effects are incredibly rare.
This part of the withdrawal timeline can last as long as ten weeks. During phase two, people will experience continued strong cravings for cocaine, irritability, fatigue, and lethargy, and some issues with concentration and memory. Problems with mood and any physical symptoms will usually start to subside during this phase.
Phase three is also referred to as the “extinction phase.” During this time, people will still struggle with cocaine cravings, and their risk of relapse is more pronounced if they are exposed to triggers that remind them of their previous addiction to cocaine. They may experience long-term problems with apathy, irritability, and mood swings. Some unfortunate individuals may struggle with their emotions for a long time after they stop taking cocaine. It’s vital that people who have gone through cocaine withdrawals and achieved sobriety have access to ongoing support.
The time period from the crash through the end of the distinction phase will vary for each person. Although most people will not experience physical symptoms during cocaine withdrawal, medical detox can still help. The risk of depression and suicide is present during all withdrawal phases, and individuals who relapse during the crash period are at higher risk of fatally overdosing on cocaine. Medical detox centers can properly supervise people and support them during the distressing phases of the withdrawal timeline.
Who is most at-risk for long-term issues with mood, and physical withdrawal symptoms?
The withdrawal timeline will vary slightly for each person. But long-term cocaine abusers, people with other physical or mental health problems, and people who struggle with polydrug abuse will have a more difficult time with cocaine withdrawals. Also, people who have struggled with depression in the past may experience a more depressed mood or a long period of clinical depression after they stop taking cocaine. Studies also indicate that people who are depressed will experience more intense, longer lasting cravings for cocaine than non-depressed users.
The first step in the recovery from cocaine addiction is getting help during the withdrawal phase. People trying to achieve sobriety need to detox from the drug safely, and after detox, need help developing coping mechanisms, and understanding and preventing their triggers for drug use.
Inpatient and outpatient rehab facilities can assist people with developing appropriate relapse prevention techniques, and also offer long-term, aftercare support programs. If you or someone you care about is struggling with cocaine addiction, please reach out to a knowledgeable drug abuse counselor today to explore your cocaine addiction treatment options.
The facilities at Mission Harbor are staffed with trained experts to best assist patients with their mental health issues. We are capable of dealing with any and all cases with a licensed staff, equipment, and approved techniques. Our mission is to help those who want to help themselves, and we support your decision in seeking help.
Get Help Now
Alcohol addiction is extremely difficult to overcome on your own.. Seek specialized help and let professionals guide you in your recovery.