Cocaine Withdrawal

Cocaine is an addictive substance that can have severe withdrawal symptoms. Learn more about this drug in the following article. 

cocaine withdrawal

Table of Contents

What is Cocaine?

Cocaine is a drug that has been around for thousands of years. It is made from the leaves of the coca plant (Erythroxylon coca) that were chewed for energy and alertness in traditional use. Modern methods that have distilled this effect into a far stronger concentrated compound have only existed for about 150 years. Those who find themselves addicted to this drug may suffer from cocaine withdrawal symptoms if they attempt to stop using it.1

The modern version takes the leaves but instead of chewing them, they are collected en masse and are mashed and processed into a concentrate. Once it has been dried the final product, cocaine hydrochloride or simply “cocaine” is the white powdery substance that most people recognize.

Cocaine is a powerful stimulant that had legitimate use in early American medicine but has since been replaced by newer and more effective treatments or medications. Though still available by prescription in extremely rare situations, nearly all cocaine use is now illicit. 

Cocaine’s Drug Class and Schedule

Cocaine is a stimulant, or occasionally referenced as a topical anesthetic. It is included in the federal drug scheduling system as a Schedule II controlled substance.2

The federal drug scheduling is based nearly entirely on the substance’s potential for abuse. Cocaine is scheduled similarly to methamphetamine, fentanyl, and many of the opioid prescription medications such as hydrocodone and oxycodone. This level of addiction potential is extremely dangerous and can even lead to death. 

Why Is Cocaine Addictive?

Cocaine is highly addictive for several reasons. Initially, the high is a very potent attractant for those looking to experience that feeling again and again. Repeated use causes a significant dopamine build-up in the brain, and this elevated dopamine level creates an addictive feeling of pleasure.3

Since it is so adept at creating a cycle of use and positive reinforcement, cocaine addiction is particularly challenging to break. The primary pleasure centers of the brain are affected alongside the central nervous system and neurochemical levels. 

Street Names

Cocaine has a long list of street names and slang terms that are used in conversation and pop culture to refer to the drug. Some of these terms include:

  • Coke
  • Caine
  • Johnny
  • White girl
  • Yayo
  • Powder
  • Snow
  • Flake
  • Blow
  • Nose candy
  • Rail
  • Toot
  • Snuff 

Who Is at Risk of Cocaine Addiction?

The short answer is that nearly anyone who uses this drug is at risk of developing an addiction. Many of those living with addictions started with occasional use then began to experience cocaine withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms prompted more use, which deepened the cycle. 

Family History

One of the most reliable indicators of addiction challenges is the presence of other family members that have battled addictions. This information can not only represent the hereditary and inherited components but also the environmental components of their upbringing. People with members of their immediate family that have lived with addiction should be especially careful.

Addiction to Other Drugs

An individual with a demonstrated history of drug addiction will have a far larger chance of developing a cocaine addiction. This addiction can be exacerbated by the presence of other drugs which can either negate or enhance the effects of cocaine. In some cases, it can create a potential overdose situation when one or more drugs wear off. 

Mental Illness

Living with any sort of mental illness puts you at a greater risk of developing addictions and dependencies. This factor is true with cocaine as well, due to the euphoric feelings it creates and the energy it provides. It can quickly become the drug of choice for those with depression or bipolar disorder.

What is the Brain Reward System?

The brain reward system is a neurochemical system of reinforcement that your brain uses. When something good happens, your brain will release neurotransmitters like dopamine that give you a feeling of pleasure.

Drug Addiction and Brain

The mechanism of drug addiction on the brain is well understood. With a substance like cocaine, the brain is forced to release dopamine when the drug is used, so it quickly associates using cocaine with feeling good, which begins the initial use-reward cycle and plants the seed of addiction.

Anti-reward System

The anti-reward system of the brain is powered by neurotransmitters just like the reward system, but it exists to discourage the reward system. The anti-reward pathways are overactive in the brain of someone addicted to cocaine.

It makes the period after the drug wears off incredibly dysphoric and a highly negative experience. To many addicts, this is known as ‘the crash’. 

Impact on Cocaine Withdrawal

The combined effects of the reward and antireward system at work in the brain of someone addicted to cocaine can make the cocaine withdrawal process very challenging. Cocaine detox can be even more difficult when recovering from very potent forms of the drug, like crack cocaine. 

What Are the Symptoms of Cocaine Withdrawal?

There are many signs of cocaine withdrawal, with a large number of them able to be recognized by friends or family of the individual living with the cocaine addiction.

There are physical signs as well as psychological symptoms that may be noticed. These signs indicate that the individual’s body has become dependent on the drug.

Physical Symptoms

Erratic Sleep

The effects of cocaine on the user’s sleep habits during use will also affect their sleep habits while detoxing or recovering. Disturbed sleep cycles are one of the most commonly reported cocaine withdrawal symptoms. This issue can include feelings of fatigue and sleepiness during the day and restlessness or insomnia during nighttime.


Lethargy will be a significant withdrawal symptom during the acute withdrawal period. The individual may find that they do not have the energy for anything they may want or need to do. They will eventually recover, but it is another symptom of the damage to the reward pathways.

Psychological Symptoms

Most of the psychological symptoms that are experienced during the cocaine detox stage will have physical components as well. Some of the most common psychological symptoms will include the following.


Cocaine withdrawal is known for making the individual feel incredibly anxious constantly. It can be a steady feeling of anxiety or panic, or it can come in waves or attacks.


Irritability or even outright aggression or hostility are not uncommon emotions during the cocaine withdrawal process. The general emotional instability is going to peak during the early cocaine detox and withdrawal stage and will taper off with many of the other symptoms.


Depression or depressive episodes are frequent among those ceasing cocaine use. The rebound of the dopamine system will cause severe depression in many cases. It will be one of the cocaine withdrawal symptoms that will persist the longest following the detox period.


In addition to depression, the individual recovering will also experience frequent bouts of sadness. These feelings will often be related more to the emotional instability that the individual will have in the early stages of the withdrawals, and it can move into the deeper depressive episodes of the post-acute stage.

Cravings for Cocaine

The cravings will be another cocaine withdrawal symptom that will be unpredictable, and they are a common cause for relapse. Cravings have been known to occur years into successful recoveries and can be particularly difficult to effectively cope with.

Poor Concentration

The inability to maintain concentration or focus is one of the cocaine withdrawal symptoms that may stick around for a while,= compared to the other symptoms. It will vary with the individual and may take weeks, months, or even years to recover fully. 

How Long Does Cocaine Withdrawal Last?

The cocaine withdrawal timeline will depend greatly on each individual that is going through it, but in most cases, the physical detox process can be completed in about two weeks. The treatments and counseling needed to ensure a successful recovery, however, will often go on much longer. 

Factors Determining Duration Of Withdrawal

The factors that will determine the duration of the withdrawal process include some aspects of the addiction profile, many health-related attributes of the individual, and their medical history.

The amounts of cocaine that were used, as well as how they were used will matter. The frequency of use will also factor in. Generally speaking smoking or injecting the drug, like crack cocaine or IV cocaine, makes the withdrawals much worse. 

What is Cocaine Detox?

Cocaine detox is the process of your body metabolizing the remaining cocaine in your system, to below a level that you can feel. Cocaine withdrawal treatment can ease the process of cocaine detox with several effective therapies.

Avoid Relapse

Relapsing means using a drug after a period of successful recovery. Leveraging help from experienced professionals can mean the difference between relapsing, and having the strong foundation to cope with future challenges. 

Are there Medications for Cocaine Withdrawal?

Depending on the situation surrounding the recovery and the health of the person recovering, there may be the option to use medication to help reduce the severity of the withdrawal process. 


Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are frequently used to battle the depression that occurs with cocaine withdrawals. 

Sleep Medication

Various sleep medications may be tried with the objective of smoothing out the sleep schedule of someone recovering from cocaine addiction. 


If the individual is experiencing an overabundance of fatigue or sleepiness, Modafinil may be prescribed to help. 


Baclofen is a popular muscle relaxant and is frequently prescribed to help mitigate the tremors and cramping that may be experienced. 


Disulfiram is often used to help treat co-occurring alcoholism during cocaine detox. 

Treatment for Cocaine Addiction at Blueprints Recovery

  • Detox: Full detox facilities are available for individuals and families that need them. You or your loved one can safely detox from cocaine with the safety of medical supervision.
  • Therapy: Recovery depends upon successful coping mechanisms once the detox stage is complete. Without effective therapy to determine root causes and effective coping, no recovery can last.
  • Inpatient/Outpatient Care: With the perfect blend of both inpatient care and outpatient integration, recovering individuals are supported fully from day one. 


If you or a loved one needs help, please call us at
623-523-4748 and our team at Blueprints For Recovery in Arizona will help.

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