As addictive as it is seductive, cocaine changes the way your brain cells process dopamine, a naturally produced chemical that helps control your moods. Using cocaine creates an excess of dopamine, which results in that burst of euphoria that you feel when you take the drug. Over time, your system comes to depend on the drug to produce those pleasurable feelings, and the sudden absence of cocaine can make you feel anxious, depressed, exhausted and sick.
When you give up cocaine or try to cut back, you may experience physical and psychological side effects as your body withdraws from the drug. During withdrawal, cravings for cocaine are so powerful that many addicts go back to using, even though they desperately want to quit.
Cocaine withdrawal is different from alcohol or heroin withdrawal. When you withdraw from cocaine, you may not experience symptoms like nausea, vomiting or tremors, notes the University of Maryland Medical Center. However, cocaine withdrawal can still be extremely uncomfortable, producing side effects such as:
- Sleep disturbances
Withdrawal signs may begin very shortly after using cocaine, especially after a binge. Heavy users often go through a “crash” after they stop using. During a crash, your chemically elevated mood suddenly plummets, and cravings to get more cocaine are extremely strong. If you’ve been using alcohol, a central nervous system depressant, in addition to cocaine, the crash may feel even more intense. This early stage of withdrawal may last anywhere from a few hours to several days, depending on the extent of your cocaine use and your body’s response to the drug.
For many addicts, the psychological effects of cocaine withdrawal are harder to deal with than the physical symptoms. You may go through a period of deep depression as your brain adjusts to lower dopamine levels. Many users experience a psychological phenomenon called anhedonia, or the absence of pleasure, when they give up cocaine. Sober activities that used to make you feel good, such as spending time with a loved one or eating your favorite foods, may no longer hold any appeal. According to Neuropsychopharmacology, the duration of anhedonia typically depends on the amount of cocaine you recently consumed.
Anxiety is another psychological symptom of cocaine withdrawal. You might feel extremely worried and agitated as you recover from heavy cocaine use. You may also feel suspicious and paranoid. Getting through this period safely requires moral support and professional supervision.
Relief for Cocaine Withdrawal
The side effects of cocaine withdrawal may not endanger your life, but they can definitely endanger your recovery. The depression, anxiety, restlessness and cravings may seem impossible to live with, but with the right level of care, you can get through this period and move on to the next phase of rehab. As you detox from cocaine, psychosocial support and medication therapy can help you resist the cravings. Your treatment plan may include prescription drugs to help you cope with anxiety and depression as you recover from a cocaine crash.
One of the most important lessons of recovery is to learn when to ask for support from others. Reaching out for professional assistance during this vulnerable period will help you get through the crash. Talk with our admissions team at Axis about how you can get intensive, individualized help for cocaine recovery.