Cocaine Withdrawal and Detox

Content Overview

A cocaine addiction recovery begins with detox and withdrawal. Although rarely life-threatening, cocaine withdrawal can be unpleasant and uncomfortable and as such is best completed under medical supervision. Upon successful withdrawal from cocaine, you can begin the process of rehabilitation, which will help to cement a full recovery from addiction.

When an addiction to cocaine has developed, it can be extremely hard to break the cycle of abuse. Intense cravings for the drug are synonymous with cocaine addiction, and those who try to quit often find the compulsion to use again too strong to resist.

However, to overcome an addiction to cocaine it is necessary to quit the drug completely before even considering moving on to rehabilitation. To ensure your comfort and safety during cocaine withdrawal, it is highly recommended that you complete detoxification in a supervised detox facility.

How to Detox from Cocaine

While detox may not be as severe with cocaine as it is with other substances, it can still be challenging due to the intense cravings that occur when trying to quit the drug. For the most part, the symptoms associated with cocaine detox will be psychological rather than physical.

The strong desire to use the drug as you attempt to get clean could cause a return to cocaine use if you are detoxing at home, which is generally why it is advisable to complete the process in a supervised facility. In such a centre you will have no access to the drug, and you will be offered unwavering support to help you make it through the detox unscathed.

Detoxing from cocaine means quitting the drug and waiting for your body to get back to normal. During the process, you are likely to experience a range of withdrawal symptoms, but in a supervised facility the staff will be able to provide medications and other interventions to make you more comfortable during the process.

How Long Does It Take to Detox from Cocaine?

For most it takes around a week to detox from cocaine, but symptoms can continue for many weeks, sometimes even months. During the first three or four days, you are likely to experience severe cravings for the drug. These cravings will then subside but be warned that they can return at a later date. It is these intense cravings that make cocaine recovery so difficult for many affected individuals.

As cocaine is regularly abused with other substances (such as alcohol or other legally available and/or illicit drugs), recovery can be longer if you have a cross-addiction (addiction to more than one substance). It is important to quit all mood-altering chemicals to achieve a full recovery. Detox may also be more complicated in those with an underlying mental or physical health problem(s).

What is Cocaine Withdrawal?

When you quit cocaine, your brain and body must learn to function without the drug in the system. During the process of withdrawal, you are likely to experience a range of symptoms as all traces of the drug are eliminated and your body responds to the fact that you are no longer taking this stimulant substance. For the most part, the symptoms of cocaine withdrawal are psychological but there will be some physical symptoms too.

The symptoms include:

What to Expect from Cocaine Withdrawal

Withdrawal from cocaine tends to be split into three phases.

The first phase is the ‘crash’, which is known as dysphoria and is commonly referred to as the ‘cocaine blues’. During this part of withdrawal, you are likely to suffer deep depression and may have a general dissatisfaction with life. You might feel agitated and deeply unhappy and could at this stage be experiencing strong cravings for cocaine. This process tends to occur around twenty-four hours after your last binge on the substance.

The second phase (withdrawal) begins, and while you are likely to be feeling physically better at this stage, you may notice that cravings for the drug, which had subsided, return with a vengeance. Right about now, you could be finding it difficult to feel pleasure and may notice that you are unable to become sexually aroused.

The third phase of withdrawal is known as extinction and can continue for up to six months. You will notice that most of your symptoms are subsiding but some, such as cravings for cocaine and low mood, can linger on.

Remedies for Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms

The withdrawal symptoms associated with cocaine withdrawal are rarely severe or life-threatening, but they can be quite unpleasant and make you feel uncomfortable at times. Perhaps the worst symptom is the cravings, which is that which commonly drive people straight back to cocaine use. Fortunately, there are several ways of dealing with cravings.

Many people find that meditation or mindfulness can help to curb the strong desire for cocaine. By learning how to become aware of your thoughts and feelings without being controlled by them, you can accept your cravings for what they are and move on.

The use of these relaxation techniques helps to improve your overall mental and spiritual wellbeing and it allows you to channel your energy into positive behaviours instead. You could also be suffering with fatigue and insomnia as you withdraw from cocaine; again, there are effective remedies available to help relieve these symptoms.

Some individuals find that a melatonin supplement helps with sleep. If you have been abusing cocaine for some time, your body may not be producing the natural chemicals it needs to promote healthy sleeping patterns. A melatonin supplement might help to encourage a return to a proper pattern of sleep.

However, before taking any supplements, it is important to seek advice from your doctor.

Treatment for Cocaine Withdrawal

When it comes to cocaine withdrawal, treatments are typically focused around behaviour modification. There are medications that can help relieve the symptoms of withdrawal, such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication, but there are no medications approved for cocaine withdrawal as such.

Treatment to ease discomfort includes painkillers, but these will only be prescribed if deemed appropriate by a medical professional. It is far more likely that you will receive counselling and therapy as you withdraw from cocaine as these treatments will help you learn how to move on to a substance-free life.

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Behavioural interventions are used to help reinforce healthy habits and typically include therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), continency management, and the matrix model. CBT is designed to help you learn how to identify negative thoughts and then replace them with positive alternatives.

Contingency management uses incentives to reinforce positive behaviour. With the matrix model, your therapist will incorporate elements of various other therapies to provide an integrative approach to recovery. It incorporates parts of CBT and contingency management by encouraging change and praising positive behaviours.

Duration of Withdrawal

Cocaine withdrawal can continue for several months, but the worst of the symptoms usually occur within the first week, during the crash phase. It should be mentioned here that withdrawal duration depends on individual circumstances.

For example, if you have underlying mental health problems then your withdrawal from cocaine might be more complicated and may result in a longer process. The same could be true if you have more than one type of addiction, which is often the case in those with an addiction to cocaine.

Causes of Cocaine Withdrawal

Cocaine stimulates the brain’s pleasure centre and encourages the production of the natural feel-good chemical dopamine. Nevertheless, it also prevents the brain from reabsorbing the released dopamine, which is what it would normally do. It is this that causes the surge in pleasure that is experienced by users of the drug.

After a while, the brain learns to depend on cocaine for normal functioning, ultimately not being able to naturally produce dopamine. This prevents users from feeling any pleasure unless under the influence of the drug. When cocaine use is stopped, the brain must learn how to produce dopamine naturally once more. In the meantime, various symptoms occur as the brain needs time to get back to normal and to learn how to function without cocaine.

Medications for Cocaine Withdrawal

There are no medications approved for cocaine withdrawal as of yet, but there are many being tested for their efficacy. There are also many medications currently used to help treat the symptoms associated with cocaine withdrawal. These include:


Propranolol is a beta-blocker that helps treat restlessness and the feelings of anxiety that are common during a cocaine detox. It can also reduce the euphoria and feelings of pleasure caused by cocaine. As such, it discourages the use of the drug.

Anticonvulsant drugs

Research into the use of anticonvulsant drugs to reduce cravings and prevent feelings of euphoria in cocaine withdrawal are being conducted. There have been some promising results but until larger clinical trials are conducted, it is unlikely that these drugs will be approved.


Baclofen may help to reduce cravings by reducing the amount of dopamine that the brain releases. It is a GABA B agonist skeletal muscle relaxant and helps to restore the balance of chemicals in the brain.


Disulfiram is already approved for the treatment of alcohol withdrawal and is being tested for its efficacy in the treatment of cocaine withdrawal. Studies suggest that it may help to reduce the pleasurable feelings associated with cocaine use and therefore could help to prevent relapse.

What if Withdrawal Isn’t Enough?

When it comes to recovery from cocaine addiction, it is important to be aware that withdrawal is rarely enough. Quitting cocaine is just the first part of the process and it is important to learn how to live without it going forward too. You will need to withdraw from cocaine, but you will also have to learn how to avoid a return to the addictive behaviour in the future. This is something that can be done with rehab.

Cocaine Detoxification Programme

Withdrawing from cocaine is also known as detoxification and as mentioned above, although not as serious as withdrawal from other substances such as alcohol or benzodiazepines, can be unpleasant. The aim of the cocaine detoxification programme is to help you stop taking the drug carefully and safely.

You know by now that when you stop taking cocaine, you are likely to experience strong cravings for the drug. In a detox clinic, staff can assist you with dealing with these cravings as well as the other symptoms that might arise.

Detox Treatment

How you detox from cocaine will usually depend on the severity of your addiction and the methods preferred by your detox provider. In a supervised detox facility, you may be expected to quit cocaine completely, which is also known as going ‘cold turkey’.

Although this is the most uncomfortable way of detoxing from any drug, it is also usually the quickest way to get clean and sober. This is the main reason it is the preferred option for many providers. When quitting cocaine in this way, you will need a lot of care and support to help you get through the emotional and psychological issues that will typically arise.

A sudden cessation of cocaine will be challenging for those who have been chronically using the drug for some time. It might be necessary for medications to be prescribed, and it is highly likely that you will receive in-depth counselling and therapy to help you cope with the cravings and other symptoms you are experiencing.

Cocaine detox can take place in an inpatient or outpatient clinic. Most of those with a cocaine addiction will benefit from an inpatient detox as they will receive 24-hour care while having no access to temptations. Detoxing from cocaine on an outpatient basis, on the other hand, requires a strong support network and a fervent desire to get clean.

Medically Supervised Detox is Recommended

Overcoming cocaine addiction is very tough. In fact, it is widely regarded as one of the most difficult drugs to withdraw from due to the strong cravings that arise during the process. The psychological need for cocaine is often very difficult to resist, and those who try to detox while maintaining their normal everyday life may struggle to stay clean and sober.

There are good and bad days during a cocaine detox, and on bad days, the temptation to use again can be too strong to resist. But know that returning to cocaine use again after a period of abstinence can result in fatal consequences. What most do not realise is that their tolerance to cocaine drops dramatically when they have not been using for a while.

Returning to the dose that was previously used before the detox began can lead to an accidental overdose, which could be deadly. This is probably the main reason that a medically supervised detox is generally recommended.

Detoxing from cocaine on an inpatient basis means moving into the clinic and being fully supported as you quit the drug. Medically trained individuals will be on hand to ease any discomfort you are experiencing by using appropriate medication and psychological interventions. This will increase the likelihood of a successful outcome and reduce the risk of relapse.

What Happens After Detox?

Cocaine detox is just the first part of the recovery process. Although quitting cocaine is one of the most important aspects of recovery from this addiction, it is not the only one. It is also imperative to deal with the issues that caused the illness, and this takes place during rehabilitation.

Rehab programmes are provided by organisations such as the NHS, private clinics, charity organisations, and local support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous. Where you complete your rehab will depend on n circumstances and the severity of your illness.

Rehab deals with the underlying issues associated with your illness through therapy and counselling. You will also learn how to cope with normal everyday life without returning to cocaine use. This will mean learning the triggers of your addictive behaviour and then developing methods of positively dealing with these issues.

Treatment Facilities for Cocaine Withdrawal

As mentioned in the above paragraphs, cocaine detox and rehabilitation programmes are provided by various organisations. Trying to quit cocaine alone rarely works due to the complex nature of this illness. Without support and adequate structure, detoxing from this drug can end up being a real struggle.

Most people are unprepared to deal with the symptoms associated with cocaine withdrawal, particularly the strong cravings for the drug. Inpatient programmes are often seen as the perfect place to recover from a cocaine addiction as distractions and temptations are removed from the equation. In an inpatient facility, you can withdraw from cocaine before moving on to a programme of rehabilitation allowing for continuity of care.

If you prefer to detox on an outpatient basis, there are a few options available to you. NHS-run programmes tend to be outpatient based, and you can also avail of 12-step programmes that offer a structured approach to recovery with a firm basis in strong peer support.

Further Treatment for Cocaine Addiction

Further treatment is usually required once the cycle of cocaine abuse has been broken. It is easy to assume that all you need to do to get over an addiction to cocaine is stop using the drug, but this is just step one on the road to recovery.

Without continuing with treatment, the issues that caused your illness in the first place will still exist and could cause a return to cocaine abuse at a later date. You should know that cocaine cravings can occur without warning many months after quitting, so unless you are prepared to deal with them, you could find yourself back in trouble.

Rehabilitation for Cocaine Addiction

Rehab is necessary to deal with the psychological element of a cocaine addiction. A detox is vital in terms of achieving sobriety, but you will also have to learn how to maintain that sobriety going forward. This is achieved with rehabilitation.

Rehab programmes use a combined approach to help heal your mind, body, and spirit rather than just the addiction itself. With both therapy and holistic treatments, your overall wellbeing will improve, and you will learn ways of dealing with temptations and triggers when you return to independent sober living.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How to find a detox programme?

Not knowing where to look for a suitable detox programme is often that which prevents people from getting the help needed for their addictions. The good news is that there are many options available in the UK. To get help finding a detox programme, speak to your doctor who can recommend a suitable provider.
It is also possible to find information on detox programmes online via an information database. If you would like to know more about our detox programmes, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us. Our advisors can provide information on our clinics and the detox programmes we provide.

What causes addiction?

It is not possible to pinpoint an exact cause of addiction. In fact, there can be many reasons someone will develop an addiction while others will not. What it has been possible to do is identify the various risk factors that make it more likely for one person to become addicted than someone else.
It is thought that family genetics and a family history of addiction increases the risk, as does the presence of an unresolved trauma. Other risk factors include environmental influences, mental health problems, and early exposure to substance abuse.

Is cocaine withdrawal dangerous?

While the symptoms associated with cocaine withdrawal are rarely life-threatening, complications can arise, particularly in those who have been abusing more than one substance. Dangerous complications can also occur when a person withdraws from cocaine while having underlying medical issues.

There is also the risk of overdose if cocaine addicts return to the drug after a period of abstinence. Using the same amount of cocaine that was used before the detox began could cause a fatal overdose due to the individual’s tolerance for the drug dropping dramatically while not using.

How severe is cocaine withdrawal?

The severity of a cocaine withdrawal will depend on how much of the drug was being abused before the detox started. Symptoms tend to be mostly psychological, but they can make you feel unwell. It is likely that you will struggle to feel pleasure and you may experience depression and anxiety. When cocaine withdrawals are severe, they can lead to vivid nightmares and even suicidal thoughts.

How can you reduce harm when you use cocaine?

Cocaine is a dangerous drug and there is a risk of overdose in those who use it. The best way to reduce harm is to avoid using it completely, but this is easier said than done in those with an addiction.
If you are a cocaine user, you should avoid bingeing on the drug as this can increase your risk for addiction. Because the effects of cocaine wear off quite quickly, you may be tempted to continue using it to prolong the high. Nevertheless, this is dangerous and can increase the severity of the crash that you will inevitably experience.

Abuse of cocaine with other drugs or alcohol is also something that you should avoid as this can also increase the risk of overdose. It is crucial that you are aware of the signs of overdose and that you know what to do should you or someone you are with experience them after taking too much of the drug or mixing it with another substance. Seeking help immediately can prevent serious complications.

Is there a link between cocaine and depression?

Those who abuse cocaine usually experience a surge in pleasure for a short period of time. It stimulates the central nervous system and causes the brain to release a flood of dopamine, which is the body’s natural feel-good chemical. When the effects of cocaine wear off, it is followed by a crash, where users tend to feel very unhappy or depressed.

Over time, tolerance to the drug develops and more cocaine is required to achieve the same level of pleasure. But continued use of cocaine can cause the body’s natural production of dopamine to drop. This makes it harder for the user to feel pleasure without cocaine and can result in the onset of major depressive disorder. Depression is caused by an imbalance of chemicals in the brain, and this can occur with prolonged regular use of cocaine.

What recovery programme is right for me?

With so many options available in terms of cocaine recovery, it can be difficult to know which programme is going to be the right one for you. Overcoming addiction to a drug such as cocaine is about finding a programme that is right for you.

It is important that you take a number of factors into consideration before choosing a particular programme. For example, inpatient programmes are ideally suited to those with a severe addiction, but if you have commitments at home or at work, they may not be appropriate for your individual situation.

On the other hand, you may not like the idea of being away from home while you recover, but if you are likely to struggle with staying sober in the real world, outpatient treatment might not be the best fit.
To find a recovery programme that is right for you, you will need to consider how severe your illness is, what commitments you have at home or at work, your individual preferences, and your budget. Assessing all these factors will ensure that you find a programme that works effectively for you and your needs.

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