Cocaine is a powerful and addictive stimulant derived from the leaves of the coca plant, which is native to South America. Recreational cocaine use is illegal, but that has not stopped millions of Americans in all age groups from using this drug.
Recreational cocaine is usually bought as a fine, white powder. It can be snorted, taken orally, smoked, or cooked and injected. One danger of cocaine in powder form is that it can easily be “cut” with similar-looking substances, such as talcum powder, flour, or other illegal substances like fentanyl. Using cocaine is especially risky when it’s mixed with cheaper, synthetic opioids that can unknowingly overpower a user.
Cocaine abuse is one of the most common reasons people seek out treatment. While cocaine detox may be approached with outpatient treatment, often inpatient options are more effective. Cocaine withdrawals can be extremely difficult and can lead to serious health risks if not done under medical supervision. We’ll explore cocaine withdrawal and how long it takes to detox from cocaine.
Facts About Cocaine Abuse
The euphoric high produced by cocaine use is due to the increased level of dopamine in the brain associated with cocaine. Dopamine is a naturally-occurring chemical transmitter that aids our body in communication and coordination. Increased production of dopamine is associated with erratic behavior, temporarily increased energy, arousal, and thrill-seeking.
Cocaine use disrupts the normal cycle of dopamine, causing a buildup between nerve cells that stops normal communication. The flood caused by this buildup strongly reinforces risky behaviors by making the nerves need more and more dopamine to communicate properly. This is why cocaine can be so addictive and dangerous.
These addictive tendencies make cocaine a dangerous and even deadly recreational drug. Cocaine is the second most heavily trafficked illegal substance in the world. After marijuana, cocaine is the most commonly used illegal substance in the United States. Cocaine overdose can be fatal, and as many as half of drug-related medical emergencies are due to cocaine.
Health Effects of Cocaine Use
Cocaine can take effect almost immediately, and the “high” can last as little as a few minutes or as long as an hour. The method of ingestion is the main determining factor in the length of the high. Smoking or injecting “crack” cocaine can produce a more intense high while snorting cocaine powder may produce a longer-lasting high.
Regardless of how it is ingested, cocaine use is associated with serious health concerns. Smoking can lead to severe lung and nervous system damage. Injecting crack cocaine can lead to potentially fatal blood poisoning – or other diseases associated with needle contamination, such as HIV. Other short-term effects of cocaine use are:
- Increased blood pressure due to vessel constriction
- Blurred vision
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Seizure or loss of muscle control
- Trouble sleeping
Long-term cocaine use can lead to severe degradation of nearly all major bodily systems and a greatly increased likelihood of certain types of cancers, stroke, heart disease, or respiratory failure.
Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms
When an excessive amount of any addictive substance is ingested over time, the body begins to develop a tolerance. This means that more and more of a substance is required to achieve a baseline level of “high.” Once our bodies develop a tolerance, any disruptions in chemical use can produce serious withdrawal symptoms. These occur when the chemical “need” for a substance produces adverse physical and psychological effects.
The intensity and duration of withdrawal can vary depending on how long someone used cocaine and the amount ingested. However, withdrawal symptoms are not universal, and some will experience significantly more intense effects than others. Cocaine withdrawal can have severe physical effects,but for many, the result of unsupervised detox from cocaine is largely psychological.
Some of the most commonly experienced symptoms of cocaine withdrawal are:
- Extreme exhaustion and fatigue
- Inability to concentrate
- Trouble sleeping
- Chills, shaking, or tremors
- Depression and anxiety
- Suicidal ideation
- Fluctuations in appetite
- Vivid dreams or nightmares
While no two experiences are the same, many cocaine users experience at least a few of these symptoms. Depending on the presence of other substances or underlying health issues, there is also the potential for much more serious physical effects, such as seizures. It’s important to seek medical supervision before attempting to detox from cocaine or any addictive substance.
Medical Detox from Cocaine
While cocaine detox can be achieved with outpatient therapy, many users will find the necessity of an inpatient experience. This allows patients to recover under the supervision of medical professionals with accompanying treatments such as psychotherapy or medication. Inpatient cocaine detox is highly recommended, especially if a patient has attempted detox previously and experienced a relapse.
Having co-occurring disorders like bipolar disorder and alcohol addiction is also a sign that inpatient, medically supervised detox might be appropriate. Many patients in treatment for cocaine abuse experience severe depression or suicidal ideation. The 24-hour care provided in supervised detox facilities like those at Intrepid Recovery can offer the safety and supervision needed to achieve lasting change.
Inpatient care will also allow the supervised use of some prescription drugs, such as buprenorphine and naltrexone, to treat the physical and psychological symptoms of withdrawal. Antidepressants and mood stabilizers may also be used to treat the depressive or manic bouts that often accompany cocaine withdrawal.
How Long Does it Take to Detox from Cocaine? A Timeline
The effects of cocaine can last for a few hours and linger up to four days, depending on the amount used. Excessive use can also cause serious physical trauma that may increase recovery time. Once someone becomes addicted to cocaine, it can take weeks or months to achieve initial sobriety, and being “clean” long-term usually requires professional help and a good support structure. Clinically, the cocaine withdrawal process is broken down into three phases:
The Crash Phase
The initial come-down from the high can last a few hours or up to three to five days.
The Craving Phase
This phase is marked by the psychological difficulty of abstaining from cocaine use, and the physical symptoms of withdrawal. This phase can last from two to 10 weeks and can be marked by severe mood swings, suicidal thoughts, extreme chemical cravings, and constant desire to use.
The Extinction Phase
This can last up to 6 months from the beginning of detox, although the desire to use cocaine may never fully leave. The support of family and friends and a recovery plan are integral to maintaining sobriety.
Managing Detox from Cocaine
There is no doubt that seeking help for any addiction can be difficult and intimidating. However, with the help of family, friends, and caring treatment agencies like Intrepid Recovery, you or your loved ones can make lasting changes to your life. It is equally important to be conscious of triggers and avoid people/locations that could trigger a relapse.
Building up healthy habits can be an excellent support in recovery as well. Adding exercise, meditation, and counseling can all lead to long-term wellness. Mindful/healthy eating can help rid the body of toxins, increase energy and bolster the immune system. Adding healthy habits/routines such as reading, doing yoga, or attending 12-step support groups are also proven to distract from cravings and increase the likelihood of sobriety.
All of these suggestions are enhanced by the care and support of the licensed professionals at Intrepid Recovery. Our treatment programs can help you or your loved one develop the skills needed to conquer addiction and prevent relapse.
Get Help at Intrepid Recovery
At Intrepid Recovery, we have a proven track record of success in treating addiction to cocaine and other substances. Our caring staff, beautiful facilities, and cutting-edge therapies are all just a phone call away. Whether you decide to seek outpatient care or a long-term inpatient option, we are ready to support you on your recovery journey.
Our reputation in the South Florida community is unmatched! We have hundreds of recovery success stories from people just like you and our clinicians have decades of experience. If you or a loved are ready to begin the journey to conquering cocaine addiction, contact us today!