Cocaine Detox Timeline & When to Seek Help
Last Updated Dec 2, 2021
Cocaine withdrawal symptoms typically appear within hours of your last hit. Most people describe cocaine withdrawal as mild, but problems can stick with you for months.
Of all people who use cocaine, about 5 percent will develop an abuse problem within the first year. Cocaine use disorders include physical dependence. If your body needs cocaine to function properly, you will feel sick when trying to quit.
If you want to quit using cocaine but can’t make sobriety stick, treatment programs can help. And if you’re trying to detox from cocaine at home and feel tempted to relapse, you can also benefit from a treatment program.
Typical Cocaine Detox Timeline
While most people start cocaine withdrawal hours after using the drug, your total time spent in withdrawal can vary. How much cocaine you used, how long you’ve been using, your overall health, and more can all play a role in your recovery timeline.
Cocaine withdrawal typically progresses in three stages:
- Crash: Your cocaine-induced high wears off, and you begin to feel intense depression, lethargy, and cravings for drugs.
- Withdrawal: Your body feels the lack of cocaine, and your cells call out for drugs. Flu-like symptoms appear as your cells begin to recover.
- Post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS): Mental health issues set in as your body’s cells continue to heal.
A typical withdrawal timeline looks like this:
- Week 1: Flu-like symptoms appear.
- Weeks 2 to 4: Withdrawal symptoms peak and fade.
- Week 4 onward: PAWS symptoms persist.
Signs of Cocaine Withdrawal
Most people move through two distinct sets of symptoms when trying to stop using cocaine.
Short-Term Withdrawal Symptoms
When you stop using cocaine, and your body begins to adjust, your withdrawal symptoms can include the following:
- Muscle pain
- Vivid dreams
Some people also develop nausea and vomiting during withdrawal. Dehydration can quickly follow.
Long-Term Withdrawal Symptoms
PAWS symptoms are rarely life-threatening, but they can make you feel terrible.
You may feel the following:
- Emotionally numb
- Unable to think clearly
When to Seek Help
Less than 10 percent of all admissions to drug treatment programs involve cocaine. Most people who enter these programs use cocaine in conjunction with other drugs.
If you have a poly-drug habit, your detox process can be complex. You should always ask for help from a treatment team before you get started. This ensures you stay safe during detox.
You might also consider treatment if any of the following are true for you:
- You’ve tried to quit before and failed. Quitting cocaine use isn’t easy. If you’ve relapsed at least once, you might need help to make the next attempt successful.
- You feel very ill. Dehydration, insomnia, and other symptoms can leave you yearning for drugs. Get help before you relapse.
- You’re scared to try to quit. Reading about withdrawal makes you so nervous that you don’t know where to start. Let professionals guide you through the process.
3 Cocaine Withdrawal Medications
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved a medication for cocaine withdrawal. But your treatment team can address your symptoms with medications.
Cocaine withdrawal changes your brain chemistry, and depression often sets in. Longstanding depression can lead to suicidal thoughts or drug relapse. Targeted medications can ease chemical imbalances inside your brain and help you feel more comfortable.
A short-term course of prescription drugs could help you break a several-night stint of insomnia. When you feel rested, you’re less likely to relapse to drugs, and you’re more likely to participate in therapy.
For people with a long-standing cocaine habit, tapering could help. Your brain adjusts slowly to life without cocaine. Your doctor could use another prescription stimulant drug as a form of replacement therapy during early withdrawal.
What You Should Know About Cocaine Recovery
People who stay sober after cocaine withdrawal tend to participate in self-help programs, and they demonstrate a can-do attitude. This could be you. But you don’t have to do it alone.
Cocaine withdrawal is just the first step in a journey that leads to sobriety. You’ll need to spend time in therapy to address underlying mental health conditions, and you’ll need to learn what to do when the next cocaine craving hits.
Quitting the use of any addictive substance is hard. In a professional treatment program, you’ll start with cocaine detox and you’ll continue into ongoing therapy and eventually aftercare. You’ll leave treatment with a firm foundation in recovery, so you’ll know what to do when you’re tempted to relapse back to cocaine use.
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