Cocaine Detoxification: The Facts You Need to Know
What is Cocaine?
Cocaine is a strong stimulant drug that is produced from the leaves of the South American coca bush. Cocaine is available in three different forms:
- Cocaine hydrochloride: a white powder that is often diluted, or cut, with other substances
- Freebase cocaine: a white powder that is usually more pure and less diluted than cocaine hydrochloride
- Crack cocaine: crystalline form of cocaine made by processing cocaine with sodium bicarbonate that may be white, cream or yellowish in color.
What is Cocaine Detoxification?
Cocaine detox is the process of ridding the body of the effects of the drug. The cocaine detoxification process can begin within hours of the last dose. Symptoms of acute withdrawal can last between one and three weeks, while post-acute withdrawal can last for up to 10 weeks.
However, most people believe that getting through the initial stages of detox should mean they’re somehow cured. What those people underestimate is the severe psychological effects of cocaine withdrawal can take some months, especially after prolonged use.
Breaking the binge/crash cycle of cocaine use is perhaps the most challenging aspect of the cocaine detox process, as users experience fierce cravings to take more of the drug.
Detox is the first step to recovery from cocaine addiction. However, perhaps the most insidious aspect of cocaine addiction is the psychological dependency. Cocaine is a habit-forming drug that may require specialist psychological treatments in order to reduce the risk of relapsing back into a cycle of addictive drug use.
Who Should Consider a Cocaine Detox Program?
Anyone struggling to break free from a cycle of cocaine abuse should consider seeking professional help from a cocaine detox program. Cocaine use artificially stimulates the brain to release abnormally large amounts of dopamine into the body. When the effects of the drug wear off the brain is unable to adapt quickly, which causes the user to ‘crash’ and experience a temporary inability to feel pleasure from any normal source that is often accompanied by feelings of depression and intense cravings to take more of the drug.
In order to avoid the crash phase, many users will take more cocaine, beginning a binge/crash cycle that can be difficult to break. The longer a person continues to abuse cocaine, the more intense the symptoms of withdrawal will be.
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How Long Does Cocaine Detoxification Last?
The cocaine detox process affects people in different ways, so the length of time it takes to detox will vary based on a number of factors. These include:
- The duration and frequency of use
- The dose being taken
- The presence of any other simultaneous substance use
- The patient’s individual health condition at the time of treatment
- The presence of any coexisting mental health conditions
- Any previous detox attempts
What are the Dangers of Detoxing without Professional Help?
Detoxing from cocaine is different to withdrawing from other drugs. There are no severe physical withdrawal symptoms, so many users believe that it must be easier to detox from cocaine than from other types of drugs.
However, the extreme psychological withdrawal symptoms can often increase the risk of relapsing back into a cycle of addictive drug use. Some of the more common withdrawal symptoms of cocaine detox include:
- Intense cravings to take cocaine
- Exhaustion and extreme fatigue
- Inability to feel pleasure from normal sources
- Mood swings
- Suicidal thoughts
Trying to complete the detox process without professional monitoring or supervision increases the risk of relapse. Many recovering cocaine addicts may also try to self-medicate with alcohol or other types of drugs in an effort to reduce particularly severe withdrawal symptoms. However, the risk of trading one addiction for another is especially high during this time unless the person has access to professional treatment facilities and medical monitoring.
Medications Used During Detox
There are not currently any prescription medications to treat cocaine addiction. However, there are some medications that may be given to treat the symptoms of withdrawal.
Benzodiazepine drugs such as Valium (diazepam) may be given to treat anxiety caused by cocaine withdrawal. Antidepressant drugs such as phentermine or desipramine may also be given to treat symptoms of depression associated with the detox process.
Why Seek Professional Help for Cocaine Detoxification?
Cocaine detox is the first step on the path to recovery. However, in order to make a successful recovery from cocaine addiction it’s important that specialized psychological therapies to address the underlying emotional and mental triggers behind the addictive behaviors are incorporated into a treatment program.
The most effective rehab treatments for cocaine addiction include teaching the recovering person strong relapse prevention strategies for living a productive, drug-free lifestyle after recovery.