Cocaine Detox & Withdrawal Process
Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant drug with potentially desired or pleasurable effects including alertness and increased energy, as well as adverse effects like restlessness, paranoia, and elevated blood pressure.1 People who use cocaine in large amounts for extended periods of time may experience withdrawal when they attempt to stop or reduce their use.1,2
Read on to learn more about the withdrawal syndrome associated with cocaine and how to get help if you or a loved one has lost control of their drug use.
What Is Cocaine Withdrawal?
Cocaine withdrawal is a set of physical and emotional symptoms a person may experience when abruptly quitting or cutting back on cocaine use. Withdrawal symptoms develop because of the way cocaine affects the brain, over time.
Repeated cocaine use stimulates and disrupts our brain reward circuitry.3 Eventually, as people adapt to the artificially elevated levels of stimulation provided by cocaine, they build dependence to the drug, and come to need increasing amounts of it to simply feel and function normally. Areas of the brain involved with stress responses are thought to simultaneously become more sensitive with repeated cocaine use.2
Together, these neurological changes can lead to increased displeasure and negative moods as part of the cocaine withdrawal syndrome.2 For many people who develop this physiological dependence as part of an addiction to cocaine, this can become a vicious cycle, as they start using increased amounts and more frequent doses of the drug to avoid withdrawal.1,2
What Are the Symptoms of Cocaine Withdrawal?
Cocaine withdrawal is one of several potential signs of cocaine addiction (also known as a “stimulant use disorder”), though the character and severity of cocaine withdrawal symptoms may differ from person to person.7
Through withdrawal experiences may vary, most people with a stimulant use disorder will at some point experience stimulant withdrawal syndrome when they stop or reduce their use.7
How Long Does Cocaine Withdrawal Last?
The length of cocaine withdrawal varies from person to person. For most people, withdrawal can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks.3
Cocaine Withdrawal Timeline
Depending on the person, cocaine withdrawal symptoms may begin within a few hours to days after a person’s last use of cocaine. Acute cocaine withdrawal may include symptoms of dysphoria or depression, strong drug cravings, anxiety, and agitation.4
People may become increasingly fatigued as withdrawal progresses, and experience decreased mental and physical energy and a worsening acute depression. Despite feeling very tired, people experiencing cocaine withdrawal may have a hard time sleeping.4
Though stimulant withdrawal is seldom associated with immediate medical dangers, some people may be at risk of significant withdrawal-related depression that can include suicidal thoughts in the first few weeks of abstinence, and should be closely monitored accordingly.3,4
Is Cocaine Withdrawal Dangerous?
Cocaine withdrawal very rarely leads to medical complications.3 For most people, withdrawal is uncomfortable, but not dangerous.
Depression is a common symptom of cocaine withdrawal.3 In some cases, depression can be severe enough to cause suicidal thoughts or actions. This is a serious risk of cocaine withdrawal that should be monitored and treated immediately.
In addition, some recent cocaine users may be at risk of certain complications, including cardiovascular issues (heart block, arrhythmia, bleeding risks) and seizures during the acute withdrawal period.3
Another potential concern is the polysubstance use commonly seen in people with an addiction to cocaine.3 The presence of alcohol and certain drugs like benzodiazepines and opioids can make the withdrawal process more severe and increase the risk of medical complications.3
Such severe instances of cocaine withdrawal could be predictive of relatively poor treatment outcomes, and may warrant additional clinical attention when stopping cocaine use.3 In such situations, a medically supervised detox can help minimize the risks posed by such medical complications to ensure that patients are as safe and comfortable as possible throughout the withdrawal process.
Can You Die From Cocaine Withdrawal?
It is possible to experience medical complications during cocaine withdrawal that could lead to death, but this is very rare.3 The risks of continued cocaine use are much greater than the risks of cocaine withdrawal.
Medical Detox for Cocaine
Medical detox is a type of addiction treatment that helps individuals safely and comfortably come off of drugs like cocaine and paves the way for more comprehensive rehabilitation. Medical detox provides 24/7 supervision by medical and addiction professionals who evaluate, monitor, and manage withdrawal symptoms.
As needed, these professionals may prescribe various medications to treat anxiety, depression, insomnia, and other symptoms associated with cocaine withdrawal. They can also watch for and manage symptoms that may arise from any other drugs or alcohol present in a person’s system.
While it can be a helpful first step, detox alone is typically not enough to support a person’s long-term recovery from drug addiction. To sustain recovery over time, individuals need to address the underlying thoughts, behaviors, and emotions that led to substance use.8
This is another key role of a medical detox program—to prepare patients for the type of continued recovery work that better allows them to address these underlying issues, such as a more comprehensive rehab program that utilizes evidenced-based behavioral interventions.3
The length of a medical detox program may vary according to patient progress, withdrawal management needs, and the clinical judgment of their treatment team. Once detox is complete, patients often continue treatment by transitioning to another level of care, like inpatient or residential rehab or outpatient care.
What Medications Are Used for Cocaine Detox?
There are currently no FDA-approved medications with proven efficacy in managing cocaine withdrawal. Though seldom required, as part of a medical detox protocol, certain medications—such as analgesics for headaches or antihistamines for insomnia—may be administered for additional symptomatic management and patient comfort.3,5
How to Get Into Cocaine Addiction Treatment
If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to cocaine, there are various ways to get help and find treatment.
At Sunrise House Treatment Center, we offer quality, evidence-based inpatient drug and alcohol rehab in the New Jersey metro area.
To start the admissions process, call . Our admissions navigators can provide information about your treatment options and address any questions you might have, including ways to pay for rehab and using insurance to pay for rehab.
Or you can quickly verify your insurance benefits using this secure .
Remember, addiction is a chronic and sometimes relapsing medical condition and not a sign of weakness or moral failure.6 It is hard for a person with addiction to just stop using, even when they are hurting themselves and those around them.
Whether it’s you or a loved one battling addiction, we can help you begin the journey toward healing and recovery today.