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Cocaine Withdrawals

Cocaine Withdrawals

Cocaine Withdrawal

Cocaine is a powerfully addictive stimulant drug. It can blind your vision of how you, your family, and your friends are being affected by your choices and substance use. One step of any recovery process is to purge your system of the substance through detox. With detox comes symptoms of withdrawal, which can be difficult to deal with, but it’s a step in recovery that most clients must go through. Let’s discuss cocaine withdrawal and what to expect during it. We will also touch on your brain on cocaine and different treatment options. But first, let’s take a look at what cocaine is.

What Is Cocaine, and Why Is It So Popular?

Cocaine is a stimulant that has been around since the late 1800s. Made from the coca leaves of South America, the white powder form of cocaine (cocaine hydrochloride) has been used as an anesthetic for certain surgeries, and most notably was an ingredient in early forms of Coca-Cola. The most common way of using cocaine is through snorting it, but there are other routes of use as well. People can also inject cocaine, and different forms of it, such as crack, can be smoked. Crack cocaine is made by dissolving cocaine in water and baking soda. This mixture is boiled, dried, and broken into rocks that are sold and smoked. Because of the inexpensive nature of crack, it is much easier to produce and sell, which was a contributing factor in the 1980s crack epidemic. Cocaine is a Schedule II substance, which means that it can be administered by doctors for medical reasons but is still very addictive. Typically, dealers will “cut” (dilute) cocaine with other substances like cornstarch to make more money. This becomes even more dangerous when dealers cut with substances like heroin or fentanyl, which leads to more accidental overdoses.

Your Brain on Cocaine

Cocaine stops normal communication between the brain and the chemical messenger dopamine. Dopamine is the messenger responsible for reward and pleasure. Normally, dopamine will be released by cells and recycled back into the cells that released it. Cocaine stops that recycling, which makes the dopamine build up. The brain receives this as a huge reward, or “high,” and encourages taking in more cocaine to get the same “high” as before. This is how addiction can start. It also can affect the brain by influencing decision-making. Studies have shown that repeated cocaine use weakens the part of the brain that controls decision-making, which results in poor decision-making, poor self-control, and lack of self-insight.

Short-Term Effects of Cocaine

The effects of cocaine appear almost immediately and disappear within the hour. It doesn’t take much cocaine to feel its effects. How long the effects will last also depends on how the substance is taken. For example, snorting cocaine will produce a high that lasts from 15 minutes to half an hour, while smoking it will give a stronger high that lasts just five to 10 minutes. The short-term effects of cocaine can include:

  • Euphoria (extreme happiness)
  • Anxiety
  • Energy
  • Hypersensitivity to sight, sound, and touch
  • Irritability

There are short-term effects on the organs as well. For example, blood vessels tend to become tightened, the pupils (black centers of the eyes) get bigger (dilate), muscles twitch, blood pressure and body temperature increase, and the stomach may feel nausea. With repeated cocaine use, there are also long-term effects on the body.

Long-Term Effects of Cocaine

Repeated use of cocaine can affect many parts of the body. Now, it can depend on how the substance is taken. For example, injecting cocaine will have different long-term effects than snorting it. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, here are some of the long-term effects one may have from cocaine:

  • Snorting: nosebleeds, runny nose, problems with swallowing
  • Injecting: scarred veins, increased risk of contracting bloodborne diseases (HIV, hepatitis C)
  • Smoking: increased risk of pneumonia, asthma, coughing, respiratory (breathing) issues

Repeated use can affect other organs as well. It can lead to tears and ulcers in the gastrointestinal tract of our bodies because blood flow is reduced. Also, repeated use can mess with a person’s appetite and lead to extreme weight loss. It is also linked to an increased risk of stroke and inflammation of the heart. Cocaine use has its effects on the brain as well. It can lead to seizures and bleeding within the brain. Plenty of cognitive functioning (thinking and reasoning) skills are also impaired by repeated use of the substance. Decision-making and attention are two other functions that are impaired by cocaine use.

Cocaine Withdrawal

Withdrawal is simply getting the substance out of your system. When one has a dependency on cocaine, the withdrawal symptoms can be difficult to deal with on your own. This is why Swift River has a team of medically trained staff to help you every step of the way. There are three stages of cocaine withdrawal: the “crash,” withdrawal, and extinction.

The “Crash”

“The crash” is the first stage of cocaine withdrawal and happens right after your last dose of cocaine wears off. It’s called this because people come down at a rapid pace. The side effects you may encounter will be:

  • Irritability
  • Acute dysphoria (short bursts of feeling uneasy)
  • Exhaustion
  • Increased appetite
  • Decreased craving for cocaine
  • Wanting to sleep more

This phase will typically last a few hours or even up to a day. Then comes phase two: withdrawal.


The withdrawal phase of cocaine withdrawal can last up to 10 weeks. The symptoms of this can include:

  • Cravings for cocaine
  • Nightmares (unpleasant dreams)
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Agitation
  • Poor concentration

Swift River’s medical team knows how to help with these symptoms and can lead you to the final phase of withdrawal, extinction.


The extinction phase is the final portion of cocaine withdrawal. At 28 weeks, this is the longest phase of withdrawal. Extinction’s symptoms include periodical cravings for cocaine and feelings of dysphoria. Cocaine withdrawal can be challenging, but Swift River can help. Let’s discuss cocaine withdrawal treatment.

Cocaine Addiction Treatment

The first step of recovery is finding treatment. Swift River offers several different treatment options for clients going through recovery.


The first part of treatment will be getting rid of the cocaine in your body. This is the detox process. Detox can be tough as cravings can show up, emotions can run high, and a mental toll can be taken on the client. This is why Swift River offers medically supervised detox. Our staff understands that you will have feelings of anxiety and feel overwhelmed during this process, and we will be there to provide medical support. Our team also has counselors that will be able to provide advice and companionship during this difficult time. We approach detox holistically, which means that we address the mental struggles as well as the physical. This will be where the withdrawal symptoms mentioned above may kick in. After the detox process, clients will start their treatment plan.

Residential Treatment

Residential treatment, or inpatient treatment, is where the client will stay at the facility 24/7. This form of treatment is designed so clients can focus on their recovery without the distractions of the outside world. Each client’s treatment program is tailored to fit their individual needs, which allows Swift River to see clients as unique individuals. The length of residential treatment can vary. Our residential program ranges from 30 to 60 days. During this time, you can expect these components of treatment:

  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Creative writing and other types of expressive programming
  • Outdoor activities

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of talk therapy that focuses on catching inaccurate thinking patterns and reframing them. CBT is one of the most popular forms of therapy and is widely used for several reasons. It has been used to help those with anxiety disorders, depression, eating disorders, and substance use disorders. CBT addresses the emotional turmoil a client may be going through. CBT can help clients:

  • Cope with grief
  • Overcome emotional trauma
  • Identify ways to manage emotions
  • Learn coping skills for stressful situations

CBT works best when the strategies learned are used outside of the session. This is referred to as “homework,” and it can be something as simple as reading a book about your feelings. This will help to strengthen your abilities and give you more confidence in those abilities as well. CBT is also most effective when clients are open and honest with themselves and their therapists. This may not happen the first session, but as time goes on, opening up to your therapist will help them give you the skills you need, and help you grow on your journey.


Swift River offers mindfulness therapy as well. Mindfulness is a form of meditation that focuses on awareness. The goal of mindfulness is for clients to stay present in the moment without thinking about the past or future. Mindfulness has been proven to reduce rumination (excessive thinking), reduce stress, improve sleep, and improve attention. This can help with cocaine use disorder as it can give clients a coping strategy to focus on when a sudden craving comes, or it can replace the substance with something that will benefit their lives entirely.

Family Therapy

Because addiction can be a powerful influence in one’s life, it is not uncommon for clients to become estranged from their own families. Family therapy can help change that. Family therapy is a way for clients and families to begin healing their relationships with each other. The client might harbor feelings of resentment (anger) toward the family members, and vice versa. The family feels hurt by the addiction, and the client feels hurt by the family. In family therapy, the client and family can say everything that has been on their minds in a safe environment. Everyone is encouraged to be honest, so it can get uncomfortable, but that discomfort is growing pains from rebuilding the familial relationship.

Group Therapy

You are not alone. Sometimes, it can feel like you are the only one dealing with addiction. Group therapy shows clients they are not alone and they have support from other people struggling with addiction just like they are. Group therapy helps clients gain perspective. Other clients can share their experiences and can give insight as to how they deal with situations. This also helps with camaraderie (friendship or fellowship). It feels so much easier to go through hardship when you feel like you have a team that understands your pain. Swift River offers gender-specific groups for our fellow Bay Staters. We have found that these groups give a safe space for individuals to open up. We have seen that men and women are affected differently by addiction, and they may not be comfortable opening up to the opposite gender. Our gender-specific groups can help to get rid of that discomfort.

Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)

You may be saying, “What if I work and I have to keep food on the table? I still have to balance my life!” Well, worry not, because Swift River has an intensive outpatient program (IOP). In an IOP, clients will still get quality treatment by coming to the facility but not living there. Outpatient services would ideally come after being inpatient and require clients to attend mandatory sessions. These sessions take place in the morning from 8:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. Clients can expect to receive one-on-one therapy, weekly family therapy sessions, opportunities for community service, a local gym membership, as well as fun weekend activities like bowling. Learn more about IOP at our Pittsfield, Massachusetts, treatment center here.

Recovery Is Tough, But So Are You!

Swift River is here to help you on your road to recovery. Our mission is to provide quality care for each client. Every client is different, so we make sure to offer treatment tailored to fit the needs of the individual. Our goal is to empower our clients so they can live out their best future. Call (844) 906-0978 to start your journey and live out your best future.

Contact Swift River Now

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