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Cocaine is a drug with many years of use and abuse in its history. Even though the symptoms may not get the publicity that the symptoms of withdrawal from many other drugs get, they still come with their own unique challenges. 

Cocaine is a central nervous system stimulant, so not only can the chemical dependence built by cocaine abuse be extremely strong, but the cocaine withdrawal symptoms can be painful, temporarily debilitating, and in some cases even deadly. Even though there can be devastating complications and potential problems, for most cocaine users the process of cocaine detox is relatively safe and comes with little overall risk of serious problems. 

The possible mental and psychological effects can be significant, however, so the individual in recovery should work with professional treatment staff to ensure the retention of long-term recovery and addiction resistance.

Symptoms of Cocaine Withdrawal

Immediately after the user stops taking cocaine, the acute state of withdrawal will begin within 72 hours. The symptoms that most users will experience in the first 3 days will usually include depression or apathy, as well as an overall lack of motivation. This can be the most challenging stage for many since it makes the process of withdrawal and detox seem like an impossible task. 

They may also experience an inability to feel pleasure, due to the damage to the pleasure pathways and reward centers in the brain. This leads to many normal activities being perceived as boring since there is no cocaine in their system. This can also lead to irritability and anxiety. 

In the second stage, after the initial crash in the hours following disuse, the physical withdrawal will begin. This will peak 2-3 days after stopping the use and can continue for a week or so. This stage will see intense cravings to use cocaine, as well as emotional instability, depression, and apathy.

The third stage is the post-acute withdrawal stage, and will often last up to a month after the acute withdrawal phase. This stage will be measurably longer in those who used larger quantities or for longer periods. This stage still presents a significant relapse risk.

cocaine withdrawal

Side-Effects of Cocaine Withdrawal

Users will experience a number of adverse side effects during cocaine withdrawal. Some will fade after a few days, while some can continue to persist for weeks and even months following. Initial symptoms of cocaine withdrawal will include strong cravings to use, irregular heart rhythm, shaking, tremors, and severe dehydration.

The second stage brings additional side effects to the recovering individual. In the second stage, the symptoms will generally include strong feelings of depression, apathy, restlessness, insomnia, and intense dreams and nightmares. These can be incredibly vivid and can border on hallucinations and delirium.

The final stage of withdrawal brings a tapering off of many of the previous symptoms. There can potentially be some significant mood swings, though not as bad as during the acute withdrawal stage. This is due to the brain chemistry becoming re-established after the disruption and damage from cocaine. Additionally, this stage can cause extreme fatigue, as well as a difficulty or inability, to get restful sleep, which can be difficult for many people.

Cocaine Withdrawal Timeline

The full cycle of acute cocaine withdrawal will often complete in less than two weeks. Just like with many other abused substances, the cravings that the recovering individual may feel can persist for long after the acute withdrawal period. These cravings can also manifest suddenly, many times without warning, many years after the individual has successfully recovered.

Cocaine is metabolized and removed from the body relatively quickly, and in some cases, a heavy and consistent user may feel withdrawal symptoms less than two hours after the last dose. There are a number of factors that can influence the cocaine withdrawal timeline, including:

  • Length of abuse: Those that use cocaine intermittently may not even experience withdrawals. Those who use for relatively short periods may only experience symptoms that are brief and somewhat mild, while those that have used heavily for years may experience withdrawals that last for two weeks or more.
  • Average dose: Users of cocaine that have been accustomed to taking larger doses more consistently are more likely to experience increased severity of withdrawal symptoms. Those that have used smaller doses will frequently experience milder symptoms that diminish relatively soon.
  • Polysubstance abuse disorder: If the recovering individual has been diagnosed as a polysubstance abuser, which is the abuse of 2 or more drugs simultaneously, it can potentially complicate the treatment plan and make the acute detox phase more difficult or traumatic.
  • Triggers: If the individual was abusing cocaine as a means to escape an environment that was stressful or even traumatic, the various environmental and emotional triggers that lead to abuse initially can jeopardize future recovery.
  • Co-occurring medical issues: This can be any physical or mental illnesses that occur coincident with the cocaine addiction or recovery. In many cases, an individual in recovery that is already suffering from physical pain, depression, anxiety, or other illness or disorder can face a more difficult and complicated cocaine withdrawal experience.

How to Safely Withdrawal From Cocaine

If you or someone you love may potentially need to deal with cocaine withdrawal, understand that there are options out there that will tailor the treatment to the individual recovering. Unlike many other addictive drugs, cocaine has no medications that can specifically help cocaine withdrawal. 

This means the recovering individual will have to detox naturally, and in some cases, this should be done with medical supervision. Working with a professional treatment in Los Angeles outpatient rehab may be the key to a complete and lasting recovery. 

Cocaine addiction treatment professionals will not only be able to ensure that the individual goes through the cocaine detox process safely, but they will also work with the individual to make sure that they have improved coping techniques to help them maintain their recovery going forward. This can increase the long-term success of the overall recovery and future substance abuse resistance.

Reach out today if you or a loved one is struggling with cocaine addiction so that you can start walking on the path to a better, more fulfilling future, free from drugs, right now.

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Written By: Linda Whiteside


Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor who has been providing mental health services for over 10 years.

Medically reviewed by: Dr. Ryan Peterson


Went to medical school at The George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C.

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