What is Cocaine Detox?

Since 2009, cocaine use in the USA has risen exponentially. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, there are around five million adult Americans who are addicted to cocaine. 

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What Is Cocaine Detox?

Since 2009, cocaine use in the USA has risen exponentially. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, there are around five million adult Americans who are addicted to cocaine. In 2017, cocaine was involved in one out of every five overdose deaths. However, less than 10% will receive any sort of treatment, including cocaine detox.

Cocaine detox is usually the first step for anyone who wants to get clean from the drug. The process involves removing all traces of cocaine from the body, as well as “rewiring” the body and mind to stop being dependent on the drug.

Since cocaine is such a potent and fast-acting drug, cocaine withdrawal symptoms can bring about a range of physiological, mental, and emotional side effects that can be painful for the person to experience.


Why is Cocaine so Powerful?

Cocaine stimulates the central nervous system. When a person takes cocaine, the presence of the drug causes the brain to release huge amounts of dopamine (a.k.a. the “feel-good” hormone). Under the influence of cocaine, a person experiences a rush of euphoria and a heightened sense of pleasure. Over time, a person becomes dependent on cocaine to feel these good sensations, which easily leads to a cycle of addiction.

The duration and intensity of cocaine depends on how a person ingests the drug. The free base form of the drug, known as crack cocaine, can either be injected or smoked. Crack cocaine produces a powerful high quickly, but the effects are short-lived. Snorting cocaine, on the other hand, has a slower onset of effects, but produces a longer-lasting high.

What are the Effects of Cocaine?

In the short-term, cocaine acts as an “upper”. Users feel a burst of energy and alertness, which is why many people who work long hours are prone to become addicted to cocaine.

Short Term Effects

The short-term effects of taking cocaine include:

  • Extreme bursts of energy
  • Intense feelings of happiness
  • Increased sensitivity of senses (sight, sound, and touch)
  • Heightened mental alertness

The long term effects of cocaine range from dangerous to life-threatening. They will manifest in different ways, depending on how the drug was ingested.

Long Term Effects

  • Snorting: Loss of smell, regular and sudden nosebleeds, painful nasal tract, painful swallowing
  • Smoking: Breathing becomes labored, frequent asthma attacks, respiratory distress, severe coughing, high risk of respiratory infections
  • Injection: Scarring, frequent bruising, collapsed veins, high risk of blood-transmitted diseases

Recognizing Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms

A person can quickly become dependent on cocaine due to cocaine’s highly addictive nature. When they are not using cocaine, they feel depressed, irritable, and unable to feel happiness. This is why people who are addicted to cocaine tend to use larger amounts on more a regular basis; their body becomes immune to the effects of the drug over time.

For a person addicted to cocaine, cocaine withdrawal symptoms can appear as soon as 90 minutes after their last dose. These symptoms can manifest physically, psychologically, or through their behavior.

Here are some of the common symptoms of cocaine withdrawal:

Physical Symptoms

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Muscle weakness
  • Muscle pain
  • Chills
  • Increased appetite
  • Delayed reaction times

Psychological Symptoms

  • Having suicidal thoughts
  • Night terrors/vivid nightmares
  • Anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure)
  • Difficulty concentrating (fugue)

Behavioral Symptoms

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Paranoia

People who use crack cocaine regularly may experience severe crack cocaine withdrawal symptoms. Since crack cocaine produces a powerful but short-lived high, addicts tend to use crack cocaine in greater amounts. Thus, they develop a tolerance to the drug. This tolerance makes detox more difficult, since their brain is already trained to search for a certain amount of cocaine to function normally.

What Happens During Cocaine Detox?

When a person decides to become sober, they must first undergo cocaine detox. Cocaine detox can either be inpatient detox or outpatient detox, depending on the assessment of a medical professional.

Inpatient Detox

Inpatient detox is recommended for people who need a safe, secure, and structured environment in which they can complete their detox treatment. They will be required to check into a facility where they will receive constant monitoring and medical attention. They will also be given counseling when necessary.

Outpatient Detox

For those who have mild cocaine addiction, a busy home or work schedule, or a strong support system, outpatient detox is an option. Patients will be asked to travel to a facility to receive their detox treatment, then be allowed to rest at home afterwards.

Cocaine Withdrawal Timeline

There are three stages to cocaine withdrawal, namely:

  • Crash – this stage occurs in the first few hours or days after the person has taken their last dose of cocaine. Withdrawal symptoms will start to appear, although for most people, it will only manifest mildly. However, this is also when cravings will begin.
  • Withdrawal – this is the second stage, which can last anywhere from one to ten weeks. This period is when cocaine withdrawal symptoms are at their most severe. Some people may require medication to help ease the symptoms of their withdrawal. Medication can only be prescribed and administered by a licensed drug care professional.
  • Extinction – this is the last phase of cocaine withdrawal. Most withdrawal symptoms have subsided, and many people experience a return to normalcy. Intermittent cravings are expected, but they are often triggered by negative social situations or environments.

Finding the Right Cocaine Detox Facility for You

If you or a loved one is struggling with cocaine addiction, know that you are not alone. Beating cocaine addiction can be difficult, but having the courage to go through detox is the first step in the right direction.

If you are in need of resources to learn more about cocaine detox, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration database is here to help.


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