Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms, Timeline, & Detox

Kimberly Langdon, M.D.

Medically Reviewed By: Kimberly Langdon, M.D.

on December 7, 2022

While cocaine isn’t known for causing severe physical withdrawal symptoms during detoxification, the drug is dependence-forming and can cause a variety of unpleasant psychological effects, including cravings and suicidal ideation, for weeks or even months after it is discontinued.

Cocaine powder and freebase or crack cocaine are strong stimulants that bind to dopamine protein transporter proteins and block them, causing dopamine to rapidly build up in the synapses of the brain. 

This triggers a brief euphoric high that is famously addictive, compelling those who use cocaine to go back and experience that rush again and again.

But cocaine use comes with mental and physical consequences, including the development of physiological dependence and eventual withdrawal symptoms.

What Is Cocaine Withdrawal?

With repeated cocaine use, the body will gradually make adjustments to reduce the effects of the drug, building up cocaine tolerance. 

And with time, this will likely cause the body to become chemically dependent on cocaine or other stimulant drugs for a person to continue feeling normal, comfortable, or functional.

Any attempt to reduce your cocaine dosage or stop taking the drug entirely after this point will likely cause a collection of temporary but uncomfortable effects known as cocaine withdrawal syndrome

These symptoms will generally last for 1-2 weeks as the body adjusts and rebalances itself without cocaine, though many changes to a person’s brain and behavior will likely be long-lasting.

Symptoms Of Cocaine Withdrawal

Many drugs of abuse like alcohol, benzodiazepines, and opioids, are known for causing severe or even life-threatening physical withdrawal symptoms like illness, sweating, racing heart rate, nausea and vomiting, and seizures.

Cocaine withdrawal, in contrast, is known for causing only minor physical symptoms, but potentially severe psychological withdrawal symptoms.

Cocaine withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • exhaustion
  • fatigue
  • increased appetite
  • intense cravings
  • irritability
  • mood swings
  • paranoia
  • poor concentration
  • sleep problems (unpleasant dreams, vivid nightmares, hypersomnia, or insomnia)
  • slowed thinking and movement
  • restlessness
  • unpleasant dreams or nightmares

Cocaine withdrawal has also been known to cause an increase in suicidal thoughts, a complication that makes cocaine withdrawal a life-threatening process in certain cases.

Cocaine Withdrawal Timeline

The length of the cocaine withdrawal process will vary for different individuals, and even after the initial, acute phase of withdrawal ends it is common for cravings and other psychological symptoms to recur weeks, months, or sometimes years into the future.

As a general guide, however, cocaine withdrawal often progresses through the following phases and schedules:

1-2 Days (Phase I)

As soon as the effects of cocaine begin to fully wear off individuals may experience the first effects of cocaine withdrawal, known as a crash.

As the brain is deprived of the drug and the high turns into a low, this first withdrawal phase will bring strong feelings of depression, anxiety, and an inability to experience pleasure known as anhedonia.

1-2+ Weeks (Phase II)

The acute withdrawal phase is marked by irritability, fatigue, an increased need for sleep, increased appetite, impaired concentration, confusion, memory problems, and strong drug cravings. If physical symptoms do develop, they will likely emerge during this phase.

While cocaine withdrawal typically eases and resolves after 1-2 weeks, it can last for up to 10 weeks in some cases.

Months-Years (Phase III)

The post-acute phase of cocaine withdrawal takes place after acute withdrawal symptoms have finished.

The effects of cocaine on a person’s brain and behavioral patterns are so strong that simply being around certain people, locations, or items can trigger powerful cocaine cravings and compulsions to once again find and use the drug.

Individuals may also experience certain lasting, long-term issues with apathy, energy, and mood during this time.

Risk Factors For Cocaine Withdrawal

Not everyone experiences the process of withdrawal equally. Rather, there are a variety of risk factors that can influence the length and severity of a person’s withdrawal symptoms.

These factors include:

  • the length of time cocaine was used, with longer patterns of cocaine abuse leading to a greater level of physical dependence and withdrawal severity
  • cocaine dosage, as using larger doses also tends to increase the severity of withdrawal
  • use of cocaine with other substances, especially alcohol or opioid drugs, which can introduce new withdrawal symptoms and or intensify typical ones
  • co-occurring physical or mental health issues including chronic pain or illness, depression, anxiety, PTSD, ADHD, or schizophrenia
  • poor overall health and physical resilience

Cocaine Detox

Even though cocaine withdrawal isn’t as physically intense as other forms of withdrawal, there is the potential for suicidal thoughts, physical withdrawal symptoms, and relapse.

Inpatient and outpatient medical detox programs are designed to help those who are going through cocaine withdrawal, providing both medical support and counseling to help you work through this difficult period and prepare you for other treatment options.

Cocaine Addiction Treatment Programs

Cocaine addiction is a form of substance use disorder, a medical condition that is extremely difficult to face alone. Fortunately, treatment programs like Ohio Recovery Center offer proven, effective care for cocaine addiction and other co-occurring disorders.

Our treatment services include:

  • cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and other types of behavioral therapy
  • counseling
  • alternative therapies
  • aftercare support

To learn more about our treatment facilities and services, please contact our team today.

  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) — Cocaine DrugFacts
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) — How is cocaine addiction treated?
  3. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus — Cocaine Withdrawal

Written by Ohio Recovery Center Editorial Team

© 2024 Ohio Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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