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Cocaine Withdrawal

Learn the challenges and symptoms you may experience on the pathway to recovery.

Although symptoms of cocaine withdrawal may not be as intense as what one feels when stopping the use of other drugs and alcohol, they can be severe, even leading to fatal conditions if not properly treated. Whether you have only recently begun using this stimulant, or you’ve used cocaine over many years, recovery is possible.

Common withdrawal symptoms

  • Anxiety
  • Chills
  • Depression
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Exhaustion
  • Inability to feel pleasure
  • Increased appetite
  • Increased cravings for cocaine
  • Muscle aches and nerve pain
  • Restlessness
  • Slowed activity or physical fatigue after activity
  • Slowed thinking
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions
  • Tremors
  • Trouble sleeping or nightmares

Severity of symptoms.

The severity of symptoms, including how long they last, is affected by factors such as the length of time someone has used, dosage size, living environment, and other mental health and medical conditions.

Cocaine Withdrawal Timeline

The withdrawal phase when stopping the use of cocaine tends to last seven to 10 days. Because of how quickly the substance leaves your body, you can experience cravings and other withdrawal symptoms as soon as an hour or two after your last use. After 10 days, cravings will begin to subside, although they can come and go for years after an individual stops using cocaine. Fortunately, learning how to recognize and manage triggers — situations in which your desire for the drug is heightened — can help you stick to your recovery plan.

The withdrawal experience for any drug can differ based on individual circumstances; this includes how long someone had been using cocaine in their life, the size and potency of doses, environment, and co-occurring mental health or medical conditions. It is recommended that those who have a history of depression or suicidal thoughts seek out supervised use of medications in detoxification to ensure their safety throughout the withdrawal process.

Seeking treatment

For those who are seeking treatment, outpatient therapies can provide the resources needed to successfully manage withdrawal symptoms and reduce craving. For people who have attempted to stop using cocaine without finding success or who have a history of mental health issues, such as, depression, supervised use of medication should be considered, along with inpatient treatment.  

Furthermore, a sudden stop can increase the risk of intense mood swings and severe depression, which can lead to thoughts of suicide. Because of this, supervised medical detoxification can reduce potentially fatal risks by providing a safe environment during withdrawal.

Medications:

While there isn’t an FDA-approved medication to treat cocaine withdrawal, some medications show promising results, including buprenorphine and naltrexone. Propranolol, which is approved to treat hypertension and angina, can provide relief for those experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms. Additionally, antidepressants can help those with higher risk of depression, anxiety, and thoughts of suicide, especially if symptoms last longer than 10 days. Work with a health care professional to determine the best medications for your treatment plan and to ensure all side effects are closely monitored.

Life after withdrawal

While withdrawal symptoms from cocaine tend to last only seven to 10 days, cravings can persist for years. These cravings can develop suddenly and may catch you off guard, making them difficult to manage. Relapse is common and if it occurs, it does not mean you failed. Knowing what to expect and how to manage these cravings will prepare you if a relapse does occur.

Work with a medical professional to diagnose your level of dependency to cocaine and create a safe treatment plan that works for you. Recovery is a lifelong process, but there are many resources and communities available to help you stay on that path.