Taking cocaine frequently on a regular basis can lead to a condition known as drug dependence.
Cocaine dependence can cause the body to undergo a process of withdrawal, should you attempt to reduce or stop taking cocaine.
Cocaine withdrawal is not generally life-threatening, but it can cause physical discomfort and negatively affect mental health. Medical detox programs are highly recommended for people with severe or chronic cocaine addiction, as well as those who use multiple drugs.
How Long Does Cocaine Withdrawal Last?
Cocaine withdrawal is a physical and psychological syndrome that can occur in phases. The most uncomfortable phase of cocaine withdrawal is the early, or acute withdrawal phase. This can begin within a few hours after your last use.
Early cocaine withdrawal lasts between three to five days on average. The duration of the withdrawal process can depend on a range of genetic, environmental, and personal factors.
Factors that can affect the length of withdrawal include:
- Genetics: Family history of drug abuse and having certain genes may affect the severity and length of the withdrawal process.
- Personal factors: Factors such as age, weight, medical history, and other factors can affect the withdrawal timeline.
- Nature of cocaine use: The timeline for withdrawal can be influenced by the amount taken, how long you’ve taken cocaine, and how often.
- Polydrug use: Taking other drugs in addition to cocaine can affect the timeline of withdrawal and symptoms experienced.
- Mental Health History: Co-occurring mental health conditions may influence how long withdrawal lasts and the severity of cocaine withdrawal symptoms.
- Environment: Having medical support during the withdrawal process can reduce the severity and duration of some withdrawal symptoms.
There is no single timeline that can apply to every person who uses cocaine. A healthcare provider can offer a more accurate estimate based on your drug use history and personal factors.
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Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms: Timeline
Cocaine withdrawal can be broken down into three general phases:
- Phase 1: Crash phase
- Phase 2: Acute withdrawal
- Phase 3: Protracted withdrawal
Each phase contains a different set of symptoms that can arise. The types of symptoms someone experiences, and for how long, can vary. Intense cravings for cocaine are common during withdrawal.
Phase 1: Crash Phase
How long it lasts: One to three hours
What it’s like: Many people who use cocaine report experiencing an initial “crash” afterward. This can cause a range of uncomfortable physical, emotional, and psychological symptoms.
Side effects of a cocaine crash can include:
- dysphoria (general unease)
- increased appetite
- reduced cravings for cocaine
The initial crash phase of cocaine withdrawal can occur in anyone, regardless of how long you have used cocaine or in what amount. Cocaine is a powerful psychostimulant that can affect chemicals in the brain such as dopamine after a single use or pattern of cocaine use.
Phase 2: Acute Withdrawal
How long it lasts: Up to one week
What it’s like: People who have been taking cocaine regularly for some time can experience a range of symptoms beyond the initial crash. This is a sign of cocaine dependence. This is also when strong cravings to use more cocaine can kick in.
Symptoms of cocaine withdrawal can include:
- strong cocaine cravings
- vivid and unpleasant dreams
- general discomfort
- mood swings
The duration of these symptoms can vary. Some people will experience withdrawal symptoms for up to a week. For others, symptoms may be more intense and last longer.
Phase 3: Protracted Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)
How long it lasts: Between ten weeks and six months
After going a week without cocaine, it’s not uncommon to continue feeling depressed, anxious, and feel strong urges to use cocaine.
Cravings for cocaine can be one of the most difficult parts of the withdrawal process. This can be a high-risk factor for relapse without behavioral treatment and a strong support system.
Mood swings, anhedonia, and difficulty concentrating can persist for months after quitting cocaine. Drug counseling, behavioral therapy, and some prescription medications can help ease some persisting withdrawal symptoms.
Causes Of Cocaine Withdrawal
Withdrawal is a syndrome that develops as a result of frequent, chronic drug use. The risk of cocaine withdrawal can develop in people relatively quickly.
Cocaine withdrawal is caused by the effects of cocaine on the brain. Cocaine affects certain chemicals in the brain that regulate mood, feelings of pleasure, and bodily movements.
It can also disrupt the brain’s reward circuit, which can lead to abnormalities in mood and emotional regulation.
Addiction to cocaine can develop quickly. Taking cocaine can lead to a crash, followed by withdrawal symptoms in those who have used cocaine regularly.
People who have used cocaine for an extended amount of time, or have developed a high tolerance, may experience more severe withdrawal.
Is Cocaine Withdrawal Dangerous?
Cocaine withdrawal is not dangerous under general circumstances. It does not cause severe physical symptoms such as vomiting or seizures that are associated with alcohol and opioid withdrawal.
Risk factors for more severe withdrawal include:
- unsupportive detox environment
- poor physical health
- history of mental illness
- prior history of detoxing
- severe or long-term addiction
One of the more dangerous aspects of cocaine withdrawal for most people is cravings to use cocaine again. Cocaine cravings can last for up to 10 weeks, and for some, may last longer.
Cocaine withdrawal can also cause severe psychological symptoms in some people, such as suicidal thoughts and severe depression. This may be a greater risk for people with mental illness or people who misuse multiple drugs.
Cocaine Detox And Substance Abuse Treatment
Experiencing cocaine withdrawal is a sign of cocaine dependence and addiction. Once addicted to cocaine, it can be difficult to overcome that addiction alone.
Entering a cocaine detox center or rehab center that offers medically supervised detox is recommended for people who are struggling with cocaine use and want to stop taking cocaine.
Medical detox programs can offer:
- 24-hour medical supervision and support
- medication to ease symptoms
- quiet and safe environment
- strong support system
- coordination for continued care
After detox, addiction treatment may be recommended. Cocaine addiction is primarily treated through behavioral therapy, group therapy, and medication prescribed by medical professionals. These treatment services are offered by inpatient and outpatient treatment facilities.
Thousands of people seek treatment for cocaine abuse and addiction in the United States each year. If you suspect you or a loved one is abusing cocaine, Addiction Resource can help.
Call us today to learn more about cocaine withdrawal and how to find cocaine addiction treatment options near you.
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These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus—Cocaine withdrawal
- U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)—Cocaine DrugFacts
- U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)—How is cocaine addiction treated?