Cocaine Withdrawal Timeline
There are a myriad of reasons why a cocaine habit is hard to quit. One of the most obvious is the inevitable withdrawal that many users fear. The Cocaine withdrawal timeline and effects depend on a number of factors including age, gender, weight, history of abuse, and more.
But for any cocaine user, there are some things to expect with getting clean. Luckily, cocaine withdrawal has very little risk of serious physical harm. On the other hand, the mental and psychological effects can be destabilizing or even debilitating.
Before your withdrawal symptoms hit and increase in intensity, it’s vitally important to research your options. We strongly suggest going to a drug treatment center to recover in the safest and most effective way possible. Many users go through withdrawal only to relapse and have to start again. Having trusted professionals by your side significantly reduces the risk of relapse.
So whether searching for a cocaine or crack cocaine withdrawal timeline, we’ve got you covered. The more you know about cocaine addiction and withdrawal, the more you can prepare. The more you prepare, the easier it will be.
Just like cocaine overdose symptoms, cocaine withdrawal will affect everyone differently. For some people, a day of strong emotions followed by a long sleep is enough. For others, peak withdrawal symptoms can last for weeks.
This will depend on:
- History of use: Length of time used and amount used are extremely important predictors of cocaine withdrawal intensity. The basic rule is the more you’ve used and the longer you’ve done it, the harder and longer withdrawals will be.
- Age: Younger people often have easier withdrawals because 1) they’ve been using for shorter amounts of time, and 2) they’re bodies naturally heal faster. So if you have a lot of life experience, you may be in for a longer withdrawal period.
- Ingestion method: How you ingest cocaine will all have an impact on withdrawals. Because crack cocaine is smoked, the onset of withdrawal can be more sudden and intense, but also shorter.
- Concurrent drug use: If a user has also abused other drugs including alcohol, withdrawal symptoms could be increased. When multiple drugs are used over a long period of time, organ damage can occur, making withdrawal last longer.
- Other: Everything from weight to genetics, metabolism to overall health will impact your withdrawal.
The Three Stages of Cocaine Withdrawal
When it comes to side effects of cocaine abuse, withdrawal symptoms can be some of the most intense. But knowing what symptoms to expect, and having the right people by your side will set you up for a successful recovery.
Generally speaking, there are three stages recovering users will go through during cocaine withdrawal. It’s important to remember these stages aren’t concretely distinct. It’s helpful to talk about them as if they were, but when experiencing withdrawal, the stages flow one into the other without clear separation. Of course, the signs of cocaine withdrawal will differ depending on what stage you’re in, so having an idea of how long each stage will last will allow you to prepare more effectively.
It’s also important to remember that though serious physical harm is unlikely in cocaine withdrawals, you should consider getting help from professionals. Severe psychological symptoms such as depression, apathy, and suicidal thoughts may arise. Couple that with the poor decision making that comes from cocaine withdrawals, and you can be in for a dangerous spell.
Asking for help isn’t easy, but it will make the withdrawal process easier, faster, and safer. It also lowers your risk of relapse, so you can get on the road to recovery and back to living your life.
Stage 1: ‘The Crash’
The first stage of cocaine withdrawal is characterized by what’s known as “crashing” or “the crash”. This occurs after a period of heavy use and causes the user to experience symptoms such as tiredness, aches & pains, and anxiety. The timeline of this stage is similar to how long cocaine stays in your system.
But even before withdrawal starts, you have to make the decision to quit. During this time, you should seek support from family and friends, and consider seeking the help of professionals at a drug treatment center. This is the time to prepare for the road ahead.
Once use has stopped, withdrawal symptoms can begin in the first few hours. At this stage, the physical and psychological effects may be subtle and hard to notice. Some users report this stage can be compared to being sick with the flu.
Within the first 1-3 days, most users experience some or all of the symptoms below:
- Depletion, depression, or apathy: This can be experienced as an overall sense of dread of lack of motivation. This lack of motivation can be dangerous because it can make withdrawal seem impossible. Not only are you less motivated to stay firm in your recovery, but feelings of apathy could trigger more cocaine cravings.
- Inability to experience pleasure: Cocaine affects and sometimes demolishes ‘pleasure pathways’ in the brain. This can cause recovering users to be unable to experience pleasure and joy, or find usually enjoyable things bland or boring.
- Anxiety and irritability: This is often experienced alongside drug cravings. In fact, cravings can trigger anxiety and anxiety can trigger cravings, creating a vicious cycle.
- Extreme tiredness and fatigue: Many patients during this stage will be extremely exhausted. It’s suggested you listen to your body and rest.
- Insomnia & restlessness: Though patients can be extremely tired, insomnia and restlessness can keep them from getting some desperately needed sleep. This again creates a vicious cycle.
- Increased appetite: Cocaine dulls appetite, so when users come down they’re often voraciously hungry. IVs can be given to provide nutrition and satiation.
- Strong cravings: Of course, all these symptoms are aggravated by strong cravings for cocaine. The cravings haven’t yet reached their peak intensity, but many users quitting on their own will relapse at this stage.
- Heart complications from arrhythmias to cardiac arrest: During this detox phase, heart complications are common. While cardiac arrest is rare, it’s a possibility. This is another reason to go to a drug treatment center.
- Severe dehydration: Cocaine withdrawals can cause dehydration. Drinking lots of water will make a patient feel better and recover more quickly. Drug treatment centers will often give their patients IVs filled with electrolytes to battle dehydration.
- Shaking or trembling: Shaking, trembling, and tremors may occur in the limbs or throughout the body. Generally, these are harmless but can be annoying and destabilizing.
Stage 2: “Withdrawal”
This stage is characterized by the increasing intensity of symptoms before peaking and declining. In many ways, this stage is a mixed blessing. The increasing intensity of symptoms can be extremely painful and hard to manage. But this is also a sign that a user is moving closer to the end of their withdrawals.
During this period, it’s vital to be in the hands of trusted medical professionals. A trusted drug treatment center will provide care to make the patient much more comfortable, and be there to ward off more extreme complications.
During this stage, dehydration can be a serious risk. So IVs can be given to patients when symptoms increase.
After the crash, users can begin to feel better for a few days before hitting peak withdrawal. 24-72 hours after last drug use, the following symptoms usually increase or occur:
- Extreme cravings to use: Once withdrawal symptoms really hit, the first thing a recovering user may notice are impulsive and intense cravings to use. This is why it’s vital to their recovery that they are with trusted professionals, away from dealers and other users.
- Depression and apathy: Another very pronounced effect of cocaine withdrawal is a feeling of overall depression and apathy. This is usually magnified by a feeling of lethargy and fatigue.
- Insomnia and restlessness: Though recovering users are often extremely tired, anxiety, poor concentration, and hyperactivity can cause them to struggle to fall asleep. Lack of sleep slows the recovery process and increases psychological distress.
- Intense dreams & nightmares: When a recovering user does fall asleep, they can often fall into vivid and extremely unpleasant dreams. When this occurs, it’s often a sign the withdrawal process is coming closer to an end.
The withdrawal stage can last between 1-4 weeks and will vary in intensity from person to person. If you’re going through cocaine withdrawal, plan to have some downtime for a few weeks if possible. Another option is to find a drug treatment center to get back on your feet faster and easier.
Stage 3, ‘PAWS’
Though the most intense withdrawal symptoms will be over, post-acute withdrawal system, or PAWS, usually lasts 1-4 weeks but can last longer for severely addicted individuals with a long history of abuse.
This stage can be characterized as the ‘moving on’ stage, where a recovering user has the opportunity to reassess their actions and move confidently in the direction of their choosing.
Though this stage is far less intense, the risk of relapse is still extremely high, so it’s important to have a rock solid support group of friends, families, and professionals by your side.
The most important thing when the peak withdrawal symptoms start coming to an end is for patients to focus on maintaining their sobriety. For many, this means enrolling in a long-term treatment program or meeting regularly with therapists and/or support groups.
Here are some important things for patients to consider when experiencing PAWS:
Cocaine cravings: Likely the hardest thing for a recovering patient to handle is the cravings they will feel. These can be strong physical or mental cravings triggered by environmental factors. This is the number one reason it’s highly recommended to enroll in a drug treatment program.
One reason for this is that users will often surround themselves with other users and negative influencers. So while a patient may have gotten clean, it may not take much peer pressure from old friends and acquaintances to get them back on the path of addiction.
But it’s not just people that can trigger use, everything from paraphernalia to certain songs or even experiences can trigger drug cravings and relapse.
The good news is that extreme cravings eventually stop. And for most users, once they do, sobriety feels so good, relapse is less likely to occur.
Mood swings: During the PAWS stage, a patient's’ mood should level out and become less dramatic and extreme. But there is still a likelihood their emotional regulation won’t be as stable as it was before becoming addicted.
One of the reasons for this is neurochemistry (the chemicals that influence the function of your brain). Long-term use of drugs such as cocaine can dramatically impact an individual's neurochemistry, and sometimes, this can take a long time to return to normalcy.
Mood swings are also common because many drug abusers use drugs to balance their emotions. In other words, drugs become a coping mechanism, so when sober, they have to find new coping mechanisms, which isn’t always easy.
Many patients experience lack of motivation, depression, irritability, anxiety, or just overall ‘not feeling right’. These emotions, especially lack of motivation, can be destabilizing or debilitating for recovering patients, making recovery that much more difficult. This is why having a robust support system can be the difference between recovery and relapse.
Extreme fatigue and difficulty sleeping: This again is a problem caused and exacerbated by out of whack neurochemistry. It can also occur from ‘sleep debt’.
It’s important to stay active, both exercising and maintaining day-to-day activities. Eating well and drinking plenty of water will also help fight fatigue.
An extremely frustrating aspect of the acute fatigue caused by PAWS is that it can also be coupled with difficulty sleeping. This is often caused by the anxiety and restlessness patients may experience. Again, this is a neurochemical issue and will improve with time.
If you or a loved one are expecting to go through withdrawals from your cocaine abuse, it’s extremely important you speak with a professional about a medical detox program. At Peaks Recovery, we’re by your side through the highs and lows of recovery.