Cocaine Addiction Withdrawal

Some cocaine abusers are afraid if they try to stop using cocaine, the cocaine addiction withdrawal symptoms will feel worse than the usual crash and craving. In reality, symptoms of withdrawal from cocaine are mostly psychological and are seldom medically serious.

The harm caused by prolonged use of cocaine is far outweighed by the benefits of stopping cocaine usage and working through the withdrawal stage, and with a strong support system, individuals can successfully emerge from withdrawal without depending on cocaine anymore.

General Symptoms of Cocaine Addiction Withdrawal

According to WebMD, dependence on cocaine develops after an extended period of regular use. In such a case, stopping the use of cocaine suddenly usually leads to withdrawal; typical symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Depression and anxiety; possibly suicidal thoughts
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Agitation or extreme suspicion
  • Inability to feel pleasure
  • Stronger craving for cocaine
  • Physical symptoms in some cases: aches, pains, chills and tremors

In most cases, the cocaine addiction withdrawal symptoms subside within weeks, but individuals must be aware that an intense craving could return at any time, even years later.

Stages of Withdrawal

Many people progress through three stages of cocaine withdrawal.

  1. In the first stage, called the crash, the user experiences an intense decrease in energy and worsening of mood that follows cessation of the drug usage. This may last for up to four days, during which time the individual may sleep more and feel shameful, depressed, fearful, self-doubting, confused and/or anxious. The urge to use cocaine remains strong, and the person may also notice irritability, trouble concentrating, paranoia, and trouble coping with stress. Most notably, persons going through a crash are unable to feel pleasure due to the changes in the brain’s chemical makeup that were caused by the prolonged cocaine use. In this phase, the risk for suicide is the highest.
  2. In the second stage, called withdrawal, the individual may initially feel more optimistic and energetic, then hit a wall; now, he or she may feel very unpleasant with an inability to feel pleasure or motivation. Strong cravings are felt, along with a lack of energy, irritability, depression and anxiety. Since the wall feels so strong, the risk for relapse remains high during this stage, which could last for up to 10 weeks. On the brighter side, individuals who cross this stage without relapsing have a significantly higher chance of successfully avoiding cocaine use.
  3. The third stage, referred to as extinction, the individual experiences less frequent and weaker cravings. This period begins somewhere between two and 10 weeks after stopping cocaine use and can continue for years. Generally, the patient’s mood gradually improves, and he/she regains a sense of normalcy, but feelings of boredom or loneliness may persist. At any time, environmental cues could trigger residual memories of “cocaine euphoria” and cause the individual to seek cocaine again; for this reason, the individual must create an environment that is completely devoid of any people, places or things that were associated with cocaine abuse.

How Is Cocaine Addiction Withdrawal Diagnosed?

Cocaine addiction withdrawal is medically recognized as a psychiatric disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition. This standard reference describes the diagnostic criteria as:

A. Stopping or reducing cocaine use that is heavy and prolonged.

B. An unpleasant emotional and mental mood with at least two of these physical changes developing within hours or days of stopping use:

  • Fatigue
  • Vivid and unpleasant dreams
  • Inability to sleep or sleeping excessively
  • Increased appetite
  • Greatly increased or decreased actions or movements

C. The symptoms described in point B cause significant distress or negatively affect functioning in social, occupational or other aspects of life.

D. These symptoms are not caused by another medical condition or mental disorder.

Since cocaine withdrawal is a medical condition, it’s important to answer the health care provider openly and honestly so the user can receive the help he or she needs most.

How Is Cocaine Withdrawal Treated?

Emergency Treatment – The patient’s physical state is monitored, including the blood sugar level, and a calm, secure environment is provided to allow him or her to work through the emotional symptoms safely.

Outpatient Therapy – Counseling, whether in an individual or group setting, can be helpful in overcoming cocaine abuse. In addition, family and marital therapy can help loved ones understand what the former user is going through and equip loved ones to provide the support that the individual needs. In many cases, random urine tests check for relapses in cocaine use.

Individual Therapy – In this method, the individual must eliminate contact with cocaine users, devices and dealers while increasing contact with friends and family who are not using cocaine. A supportive environment is created by the therapist, non-using friends, and loved ones, who may also receive counseling; the individual and his/her family must rebuild their lives, and support is a crucial factor in success. Often, counseling is provided to address issues that caused or were caused by the cocaine abuse.

Inpatient Therapy or Admittance To A Residential Treatment Center – Individuals who lack sufficient family and social support, are unable to function socially and psychologically, are compulsive users, are dependent on other drugs, have other medical problems, strongly resist treatment, have failed at outpatient treatment, or display destructive behavior may be hospitalized for treatment.

What Are the Goals of Long-Term Therapy?

Successful therapy for cocaine addiction withdrawal helps the individual to create a more positive, constructive and supportive environment that discourages cocaine use, recognize and address issues that may create a need for cocaine, separate feelings of depression and anxiety from the need for cocaine, develop more effective methods for handling stress, improve relationships with others, and treat the withdrawal symptoms–with medication, if needed. This strategy helps most people to improve, but they may feel tempted to abuse cocaine again in the future after a period of avoiding the drug.

Therapy Helps

Overall, whether medical intervention is needed for cocaine addiction withdrawal symptoms may depend on the severity of the individual’s symptoms and the strength of the social support network. Medical treatment, combined with regular counseling and social support, can certainly help an individual to overcome cocaine dependence for a lifetime.

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