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Cocaine Detox Timeline & When to Seek Help

Cocaine detox involves a crash, withdrawal, and post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). Symptoms range from depression and fatigue to long-term emotional and cognitive changes. Professional treatment is essential for safe and effective recovery from cocaine addiction.

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Of all people who use cocaine, about 5% 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.

Cocaine withdrawal typically progresses in three stages. The first symptoms appear within hours of your last hit, and lingering mental health problems and deep drug cravings can last for months.

Relapse risks are high, especially in people struggling with overwhelming drug cravings. It’s essential to get help from a treatment team to ensure you don’t relapse to drugs. 

Medications like antidepressants and sleeping pills could help you feel more comfortable. Therapy can help to change your life for the better.

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:

  1. Crash: Your cocaine-induced high wears off, and you begin to feel intense depression, lethargy, and cravings for drugs. 
  2. 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. 
  3. 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. 

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.

Short-Term Withdrawal Symptoms

When you stop using cocaine, and your body begins to adjust, your withdrawal symptoms can include the following:

  • Agitation
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • 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:

  • Depressed 
  • Emotionally numb
  • Nervous 
  • Unable to think clearly 

When to Seek Help

Less than 10% 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. 

For example, if you’ve mixed your cocaine with an opioid like heroin, your drug detox process could involve life-threatening dehydration from severe nausea and vomiting. You need a treatment team’s help to ensure you get sober safely.

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. 

Antidepressants

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. 

Researchers say medications like bupropion may improve abstinence rates in people moving through cocaine addiction recovery. It’s possible that their ability to ease depression helps people avoid the temptation to return to drugs.

Sleeping Medications

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. 

Researchers say this method is a “promising strategy” for cocaine dependence, but it must be studied more extensively to determine how beneficial it might be.

Stimulants

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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Medically Reviewed By Dr. Alison Tarlow

Dr. Alison Tarlow is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in the States of Florida and Pennsylvania, and a Certified Addictions Professional (CAP). She has been a practicing psychologist for over 15 years. Sh... Read More

Updated February 15, 2024
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