Your best strategy for detoxing from cocaine is to understand cocaine withdrawal symptoms and learn how to manage and cope with them. Based on the expected symptoms, strengthening your physical and psychological health and well-being will help you through your detox. Your brain and body will slowly readapt to living without the drug; however, cocaine craving can continue for months, and sometimes years, after your detox, so be prepared to deal with that long-term.
According to the National Institute for Drug Abuse, cocaine is a powerful, addictive stimulant. Long-term use leads to physical dependence on the drug and stopping it causes withdrawal symptoms. Like other addictive drugs, cocaine hijacks the brain's nerve circuits and chemistry and changes its structure and function, which can lead to long-lasting drug craving.
According to NIDA and a MedlinePlus factsheet, cocaine withdrawal doesn't produce visible physical signs, such as tremors and sweating, unlike, for example, heroin or Vicodin. However, the general lack of physical well-being and the behavioral and psychological symptoms are unpleasant, nevertheless.
If you decide to stop taking cocaine and detox from the drug at home, be prepared to manage the unpleasant, negative, down feelings of your detox phase. These withdrawal symptoms occur because chronic cocaine use causes several brain circuits to function normally only when the drug is on board. Without cocaine, several systems malfunction, leading to the unpleasant symptoms.
Coping With Your Symptoms
The distressing symptoms of withdrawal start quickly after taking your last dose because cocaine has a quick onset and short duration of action. You have to resist the temptation to use more cocaine to stave off these symptoms and craving for the drug. Apply simple methods to cope with and manage your physical and psychological cocaine withdrawal symptoms to ease your path through your detox and decrease your risk of relapse.
Managing General Lack of Physical Well-Being
The following symptoms during cocaine detox add to your general lack of physical well-being:
- Generalized malaise - a feeling of discomfort and being unwell that you can't quite describe
- Diminished motivation to move and think and poor concentration
- Fatigue and lack of energy
- Insomnia and poor sleep quality
To combat these problems, it is important to improve your physical condition and energy through adequate nutrition, exercise, and sleep.
Eat a balanced, healthy diet to improve your nutrition and physical health. Your body needs this during your detox and afterwards to restore itself.
- Eat six small meals a day instead of three large meals to keep your blood sugar even and avoid insulin-related energy crashes.
- Focus on getting enough lean protein from skinless chicken, fish, beans and peas, nuts and seeds, and protein substitutes like soy.
- Include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to provide you with complex carbs for energy.
- Avoid unhealthy foods that don't provide good sources of energy, such as soda, sweet desserts, and junk fast foods. These foods may increase your low feelings.
- Take a multivitamin supplement daily to help restore any vitamins and minerals you might be deficient in from poor eating habits during your cocaine use.
- Keep yourself hydrated by drinking at least eight glasses of water or unsweetened drinks a day.
In addition, during cocaine detox you will find you have a boost of appetite, in contrast to the lack of appetite and weight loss during cocaine use. It is important to restore good eating habits and manage your calories and food choices during your detox.
Exercise is known to improve energy and sense of well-being, and this is important to your detox and recuperation. At the least, push yourself to get out of the house and take a 15 to 20-minute walk every day during your detox and after. You will be happy you did.
Insomnia or other poor sleep quality will further rob you of energy and your sense of well-being. Call on strategies to help you fall asleep and stay asleep. To help you relax and soothe your brain during the day and at bedtime:
- Practice a relaxation technique such as meditation, deep breathing, imagery, or visualization. Learn at least one technique before you begin your detox.
- Listen to soft, soothing music.
- Try stretching exercises or yoga, which can help you feel calmer.
Managing Behavioral and Psychological Symptoms
The behavioral and psychological symptoms of cocaine detox can be overwhelming and difficult to deal with. They may be worse than withdrawal from other drugs, according to the MedlinePlus reference cited above, and may include:
- Agitation and restlessness
- Unpleasant dreams and poor concentration
- Depressed, negative mood, thoughts, and feelings (dysphoria) can be intense and lead to suicidal thoughts
- Inability to experience pleasure in normal sources and heightened displeasure in everything
- Fear, paranoia, and extreme suspicion of others
- Diminished ability to cope with stress, which increases the risk of restarting cocaine
Improve Your Mood
To help lift your spirits and mood and decrease negative feelings:
- Use meditation and other relaxation techniques as mentioned above.
- A warm bath, with or without Epsom salts, can help relax your feelings of agitation and restlessness and improve your mood.
- Music can uplift you and keep you entertained and distracted from your symptoms when you are cooped up inside. Listen to CDs, DVDs, or downloaded music on your device(s).
- Walking or other forms of exercise will improve your mood by increasing endorphins and will also distract you from your symptoms and low feelings. When you are feeling most low and lacking in motivation is the time to push yourself to get up and go for all the physical and psychological benefits.
- Do something enjoyable with trusted friends or relatives who are not associated with your social or environmental cocaine habit and cues.
There are no specific FDA-approved or over-the-counter medicines to treat symptoms of cocaine withdrawal, although treatment medications for opioid or alcohol detox might be helpful.
- Avoid taking "herbal detox" medicines and other advertised concoctions. They are neither effective nor safe.
- Instead, tap into the resources and techniques above that will elevate your mood and psychic energy and improve your psychological well-being.
- Ask your doctor ahead of your detox about prescribing the blood pressure and heart medicine, propranolol. This medicine can help you feel relaxed, decrease your feelings of agitation and restlessness, and your symptoms of stress-induced increase in adrenaline.
- Treatment with an anti-depressant or an anti-anxiety medicine can also be helpful if you need it but be careful about trading one substance addiction for another.
Psychological Support and Therapy
If your behavioral and psychological symptoms are overwhelming during your detox, and you have difficulty coping afterwards, talk to your doctor about seeing a therapist that has expertise in managing substance addiction.
Consider enrolling in individual or group behavioral therapy and drug counseling in an outpatient treatment center before you start your detox. This will help you understand and cope with your thoughts, feelings, behavior, and stress, and the roots of your cocaine use, and help you recover your pleasure in life. A treatment center can help support you through your detox and after. If you think you might have difficulty managing your detox at home, consider doing it in a supervised inpatient rehab center.
Drug cravings and the threat of relapse during detox and after can be difficult to cope with for the addicted cocaine user. Cocaine imprints the memory of the drug experience and euphoria on your brain, as well as the social and environmental cues associated with use of the drug. Be aware cocaine craving can continue for years.
Unlike heroin and other opioids such as Vicodin, there are no FDA-approved drugs to lessen cocaine drug craving during or after your detox so you have to apply other strategies:
- To help diminish your cocaine cravings, focus on the positive aspects of your goal to detox and quit your drug habit instead of on the negative aspects of your withdrawal symptoms and craving.
- Avoid people, places, and things that are associated with your drug habit.
- Call on your support system, such as trusted family and friends or your doctors to help see you through.
- Consider detoxing in an inpatient rehab facility to help you manage cravings in your detox phase.
What to Expect
According to Recovery.org, expect your acute withdrawal symptoms to start about 24 hours after the last dose of cocaine. Your acute symptoms will last about three to five days but may last three to four weeks.
Some people continue to have a mild level of confusion, depressed mood, defensiveness, malaise, sleep problems, and anxiety for weeks or months after detox as a post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), which can worsen with stress. This highlights the need for ongoing behavioral therapy and support after detoxing from the drug to prevent cocaine relapse.
Preparing Ahead for Your Detox
Prepare for your expected lack of energy and motivation and your doom and gloom outlook before you start your detox.
- Stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy protein and snacks, and unsweetened fluids and water. You may not feel like doing so during your detox.
- Have your music ready and have a plan in place for walking or going to your gym.
- Have support system of family, friends, and doctors you can call on when needed.
If you think about what you will need to do to cope with your physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms before your start your detox and have a defined plan ready, you will have an easier time getting through your detox from cocaine.
A First Step to Overcome Your Addiction
Symptoms during cocaine detox can be difficult to cope with unless you are prepared for what it takes to manage your low energy and feelings and lack of motivation. A successful detox is your first step in your journey to overcome your cocaine addiction.