What is Cocaine?
Cocaine is an illegal stimulant drug that comes in two main forms: powder cocaine and crack cocaine. Powder cocaine is a loose, white substance that people consume by either snorting it into their nostrils or rubbing it into their gums. Some prefer to dissolve the powder in water and then inject the mixture directly into the bloodstream. Crack cocaine resembles rock crystals, and people who use this form usually smoke it. The name “crack” comes from the crackling noise that the substance makes when lit.
In 2014, roughly 1.5 million people used cocaine.
No matter the form or the method of use, cocaine causes a “high,” or an intense happiness and energy. Generally, people who use cocaine do so recreationally – at clubs and parties, for instance – but some have used cocaine as a performance enhancer or to overcome exhaustion.
What Causes Withdrawal?
Withdrawal refers to a group of unpleasant symptoms that arrive after a person stops taking drugs. Withdrawal begins with addiction. Like many other drugs, cocaine works by taking over the brain’s dopamine system. Dopamine is the feel-good chemical that the brain uses as a reward. The brain produces it naturally, and in normal amounts, dopamine is great for human health. Cocaine, however, forces the brain to produce far too much dopamine. Obviously, the rush of feel-good chemicals will cause pleasurable sensations at first. However, the human brain was not built to handle that much dopamine at once. The brain responds by numbing its own ability to feel dopamine. As a result, a cocaine user begins to need the dopamine rush to feel normal, not to feel high. With numbed dopamine receptors, a normal amount of dopamine never feels like enough. In fact, it can make a person feel tired and sick. Withdrawal is what happens when a person stops using drugs and suddenly goes back to a normal amount of dopamine.
Binge and Crash
Cocaine withdrawal becomes even more complicated thanks to the “binge and crash” cycle. Compared to some other drugs, a cocaine high doesn’t last very long. Those who are addicted to cocaine often consume the drug in large doses to maintain the high. Inevitably, though, the “crash” shows up, leaving the cocaine user feeling exhausted and maybe even depressed. Often the only thing that can make a person feel better during a crash is another cocaine high. The crash is like a mini-withdrawal, even if one has only used cocaine once.
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Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms
Withdrawal symptoms will likely begin quickly after one stops using cocaine. Thankfully, the symptoms tend to stop fairly shortly after detox begins. Though a few patients have reported withdrawal symptoms that lasted a few weeks after quitting, many others have said that withdrawal only lasted for a few days.
Cocaine withdrawal may cause physical symptoms, although those are rare. If physical symptoms do show up, they may come in the form of nausea or shakiness. Usually, though, cocaine withdrawal causes psychological symptoms. In addition to intense cocaine cravings, a person in withdrawal might experience any of the following:
- Mood swings
- General feelings of unwellness
Sometimes people who desperately want to quit cocaine have relapsed just to get relief from withdrawal symptoms. If you’re trying to quit cocaine, it’s important to surround yourself with the support and tools you need to get through withdrawal.
The best thing to do during withdrawal is to seek out medical detox. One can detox from home, especially while surrounded by a strong support network. However, a medical detox facility can provide more structure and safety from relapse. Furthermore, if the patient has a medical emergency during withdrawal, the trained staff can provide treatment as quickly and safely as possible.
Psychological counseling and certain medications can help with the depression and anxiety associated with cocaine withdrawal. The counseling is especially important to help the patient get to the root of the addiction. A counselor can also teach the patient some healthy coping mechanisms to deal with triggers and cravings. An individual can find counseling through a residential program or an outpatient program. A residential program will be highly structured and last for 30 to 90 days. An outpatient program allows the patient to recover from home, but it’s less structured and lasts much longer. In either case, the addicted individual should continue to seek counseling even after the rehab program ends.
Do You Need Help?
Has withdrawal kept you from making a full recovery from a cocaine addiction? Has a loved one relapsed because of cocaine withdrawal? We can help you. At RehabInfo.com, we help our clients find the right detox and rehab programs.