Cocaine withdrawal can cause intense physical and mental symptoms — some of which can be life threatening. However, there are support and resources to help get you through this time.
Quitting cocaine is a positive step that can decrease your risk of death and improve your overall health. Withdrawal can cause people to backslide and use again when they try to quit. Cravings can be strong, and symptoms can be difficult to manage.
Medical and mental health professionals can help you manage your withdrawal and can give you the support you need to quit.
What causes cocaine withdrawal?
Cocaine causes your brain to release elevated levels of certain brain chemicals. This is why cocaine produces a feeling of euphoria. It’s also why people crash as soon as cocaine leaves the body.
Prolonged cocaine use causes your body to adjust to these elevated levels of brain chemicals. When cocaine use is stopped, your body has to readjust. Since the change is so sudden, the reaction can be very intense.
Cocaine use causes effects throughout the body. When a person cuts back on their cocaine use or stops cocaine use completely, symptoms of withdrawal occur. A person will feel a strong craving for more cocaine, and physical and mental symptoms can be difficult to manage. Symptoms can begin even when there’s still cocaine left in your bloodstream.
The withdrawal symptoms of cocaine use can vary depending on the person and on the length and severity of their cocaine use.
Physical symptoms of cocaine withdrawal
The physical symptoms of cocaine withdrawal can be unpleasant and painful. Common physical symptoms include:
- slowed movements
- increased appetite
- formication (
skin crawling or itching)
Mental symptoms of a cocaine withdrawal
The mental symptoms of cocaine withdrawal are often severe. In some people, these symptoms can be very dangerous and can require medical attention. Mental symptoms of cocaine withdrawal include:
- strong cravings for cocaine
- reckless behavior
- difficulty making decisions
- depressed mood
- suicidal thoughts
- vivid nightmares
Is cocaine withdrawal life threatening?
Cocaine withdrawal can cause intensive depressive symptoms, along with negative thoughts and suicidal ideation. People in this state are at risk of harming themselves.
This can be life threatening, and people can benefit from medical supervision. Medical professionals can supervise, help manage symptoms, and monitor for any complications.
If you are going through cocaine withdrawal symptoms, or know someone who is, never hesitate to reach out for support.
Newborns can experience what’s known as neonatal abstinence syndrome. This happens when babies are exposed to cocaine and other addictive substances while they’re in the womb. Drugs, alcohol, and some medications that are taken during pregnancy can pass through the bloodstream and to the fetus, affecting them during use and for a long time after.
The baby can become used to the drug by birth. This can lead to withdrawal symptoms once the baby is born. Symptoms of cocaine withdrawal in babies include:
- excessive crying
- high-pitched crying
- difficulty sleeping
- tight muscles
- overactive reflexes
- difficulty feeding
- a stuffy nose and sneezing
- excessive yawning
Withdrawal can start as soon as a few hours after a person’s last dose. It typically lasts between 1 and 2 weeks, but times can vary depending on the person.
The immediate time after stopping cocaine use is called acute withdrawal. Sometimes, people experience symptoms for longer than the initial 1- to 2-week period. This is called chronic withdrawal, long-term withdrawal, postacute withdrawal, or subacute withdrawal, and it can last for up to 2 months.
Common persistent symptoms include fatigue, anxiety, cravings, difficulty concentrating, and trouble sleeping.
Treatment depends on the severity of the symptoms. In some cases, a live-in treatment program can help monitor safety and provide the tools needed to overcome addiction. There’s no one standard medication prescribed to help detox from cocaine, but medications can help treat symptoms such as depression or fatigue.
Counseling can also be an option depending on symptoms and individual needs. Often, cognitive behavioral therapy is an effective treatment for addictive behaviors and cravings. Click here to learn more about finding the right therapist for you.
Treatment options for newborns
The treatment for babies also depends on the severity of the symptoms. They might need intravenous (IV) fluids to help address dehydration from vomiting or diarrhea.
Babies who are experiencing seizures or pain might be given medication to help relieve those symptoms. The medication will be slowly decreased as symptoms subside.
You don’t have to manage quitting all on your own. There are resources you can turn to for support. When you’re ready, you can look into:
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Helpline: You can call SAMHSA at 1-800-662-4357, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, for free and confidential help and get connected to supportive services in your area. Help is available in both English and Spanish. They’re also online.
- SMART Recovery: SMART Recovery focuses on self-empowerment during recovery. They offer both online and in-person support, along with a variety of resources to help you succeed.
- Life Ring: Life Ring offers support groups around the country and online. You can meet with peers who understand addiction and who can be there on your road to sobriety.
- Cocaine Anonymous: Cocaine Anonymous has support groups online and around the world and focuses on the traditional 12-step recovery model.
Cocaine withdrawal can be difficult to manage. As cocaine leaves your body, symptoms such as strong cravings, depression, anxiety, and severe fatigue can begin. Symptoms after are often more intense for people who’ve used cocaine for an extended period.
In-patient treatment programs can help people go through cocaine withdrawal in a safe and medically monitored setting. Medical and mental health professionals can provide guidance and can treat any symptoms as needed. This can make withdrawal easier and might make success more likely.
The acute phase of withdrawal normally lasts 1 to 2 weeks. Some people have lingering symptoms for up to 2 months.