Cocaine is an illegal stimulant that can be snorted, smoked, or injected. It floods the brain with dopamine; the “feel good” chemical connected to feelings of happiness or euphoria. Like with many illicit drugs, cocaine can cause physical or psychological dependency in users. Even worse, the short-term effects of cocaine can cause users to take too much of it, leaving them prone to overdose. In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse has determined that cocaine overdose was the cause of death for more than 5,500 people in 2014. With this in mind, it’s easy to see why cocaine detox is necessary for users who have become addicted.
Is it Possible to Detox At Home?
Detoxification, or detox, is the process of managing withdrawal symptoms after a user begins abstaining from drug use. During detox, the user’s body purges the rest of the toxins that cocaine left behind during ingestion. In short, detox is the body’s way of naturally restoring itself after expelling harmful substances.
Most doctors and addiction treatment professionals strongly advise against self-detox, especially for cocaine addiction. Most cocaine users are unable to detox at home successfully. More often than not, those who try to quit without help end up relapsing because the withdrawal symptoms become too severe to handle. Additionally, the addiction recovery process doesn’t stop at detox. Even if a user can detox at home, it would only address the physical side of addiction. Most people who abuse substances have underlying psychological or emotional issues that also need to be treated. Self-detox would not address these issues, leaving the user at a higher-than-average risk of relapsing.
Potential Symptoms of Unsupervised Cocaine Withdrawal
During active addiction, withdrawal occurs any time someone stops using an addictive substance like drugs or alcohol. Depending on the substance, the symptoms of withdrawal may vary. When it comes to cocaine withdrawal, the symptoms can be so extreme that users would rather feed their addictions just to avoid them. Some of the withdrawal symptoms of cocaine addiction include:
- Fatigue, exhaustion, or lethargy
- Increased appetite
- Joint pain
- Mood swings
- Muscle aches
- Nausea or vomiting
- Nerve pain
- Poor concentration or slower thinking
- Suicidal thoughts, behavior or actions
What makes cocaine withdrawal especially dangerous is that many of these symptoms can affect more than the user. Extreme behavioral symptoms, like aggression or paranoia, can put others in harm’s way as well. This is one of the primary reasons why ‘cold turkey’ cocaine detox is so ill-advised. Attempting cocaine detox without medical help usually leads to relapse, hospitalization, or even death. So, even if a user has help from a friend or family member, the more extreme withdrawal symptoms can leave everyone involved in danger.
Cocaine Detox Under Medical Supervision
Any reputable physician would recommend undergoing medical detox when quitting a substance— especially a drug as potent as cocaine. During medically-assisted detox, doctors, nurses, and therapists are there to monitor their patients’ discomfort and manage it throughout the entire stabilization process. Their goal is to ensure long-lasting sobriety by keeping their patients as comfortable and as safe as possible during what is easily the hardest part of the addiction recovery process.
The Medical Detox Process for Cocaine Addiction
Medical detox is not as cut-and-dry as most people seem to believe. In fact, medical detox for any addictive substance is a multi-step process. Every addiction treatment facility will follow a different model for medical detox, but most of them involve the following steps:
The first part of the medical detox process is always patient assessment. Once the patient is admitted to treatment by the rehab facility’s intake staff, the medical recovery team will document details about the patient’s medical history. Typically, they will also evaluate their new patient’s current physical, mental, and emotional health. These and other physical examinations help the medical recovery team determine the best course of action to treat the patient’s individual recovery needs. For example, the assessment can determine whether inpatient treatment or outpatient treatment is better for the patient.
Monitoring and Customized Treatment
Once the assessment is complete, the medical recovery team will work with their patients to establish customized treatment plans for during and after detox. From this point forward, patients receive continuous medical and psychological care from their assigned healthcare professionals on the medical recovery team. For those undergoing cocaine detox, prescription medication and tapering is common in this part of the process.
Many rehabs and detox facilities utilize prescription medications for addiction recovery. The different medicines that patients might receive during the detox process depend entirely on their individual needs. For example, a patient struggling with restlessness and self-harming behaviors might receive more sedative medications during detox. In any case, most addiction treatment medical teams will prescribe non-addictive medicines to their patients for withdrawal symptoms management throughout the detox process.
In some detox facilities, the medical team will use a method called “tapering” to help their patients cope with withdrawal symptoms. Tapering is the process in which a patient is slowly weaned off of his or her drug of choice until it has left the body entirely. Detox facilities typically use tapering to address prescription drug abuse, like a benzodiazepine or opioid addiction. In cases like this, the medical team will continue to administer the drug at continually lower doses until the patient’s body is retrained to function without it. However, this kind of tapering cannot be done with illicit drugs like cocaine.
Instead, tapering for illicit drug addiction involves medication. During detox for illicit drug abuse, the medical team will continually administer medication to counter the drug’s effects until it has left the patient’s system. Most of the medicines used in detox are designed to combat a specific kind of drug. Unfortunately, the FDA has not approved any medications for cocaine addiction yet. Still, there are a wide variety of prescription drugs that can keep patients comfortable and safe during cocaine detox. If the medication used causes any complications or side effects, the medical team will make adjustments to the dosages or change the medication as needed.
Co-Occurring Mental Disorder (Dual Diagnosis) Treatment
Many people who struggle with addiction also struggle with mental health or behavioral issues. These kinds of problems may have developed alongside or been exacerbated by substance abuse. Either way, co-occurring addictions and mental health conditions are called dual diagnosis.
As previously mentioned, certain mental health conditions often co-occur with cocaine addiction. In fact, cocaine addiction is one of the most likely substance use disorders to be accompanied by mental health issues. The most recurring mental health issues in cases of cocaine addiction dual diagnosis include:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
One of the most critical aspects of cocaine detox is addressing any co-occurring mental health conditions. This is part of what makes medically-assisted cocaine detox so crucial for addiction recovery. Only a team of specialists at a detox facility will be able to provide the best treatment possible for both cocaine addiction and any co-occurring mental disorders.
The Detox Timeline for Cocaine Addiction
The amount of time that medically-assisted cocaine detox takes will vary from person to person just like with any other drug. Sometimes, cocaine detox only takes a few days. Other times, it may take a week or two before a patient is completely drug-free. In any case, the cocaine detox timeline tends to follow a specific pattern that consists of three distinct stages: the crash, the withdrawal period, and the extinction.
Phase I: The Crash
The first phase of cocaine detox is always characterized by a “crash.” Coming down or “crashing” from cocaine use happens immediately following the last dose and typically marks the onset of withdrawal. Many of the physical withdrawal symptoms (tremors, sweating, cravings, etc.) begin during this phase of the cocaine detox timeline. The duration and intensity of a cocaine user’s crash depend on a number of factors, including:
- the user’s frequency of cocaine use
- the amount of cocaine that the user took daily
- whether or not the user also took other substances
- the amount of food or water in the user’s system during the crash
Toward the end of the crash, the patient’s cravings for cocaine will subside. Unfortunately, these cravings will most likely return during the second phase of the cocaine detox process, when the majority of withdrawal symptoms come to a head all at once.
Phase II: The Withdrawal Period
After a few relatively normal days following the last dose, people undergoing cocaine detox will begin to experience withdrawal symptoms ranging from uncomfortable to severe. In addition to these symptoms, patients might also experience a sense of nostalgia for their past drug use. This phase marks the highest rates of relapse for those who attempt detoxing without medical help. Thankfully, the hospital-like environment and 24-hour medical supervision make relapsing during this phase near impossible for those receiving professional cocaine addiction treatment.
Phase III: The Extinction
The third phase of medically-assisted cocaine detox marks the end of withdrawal and the start of sobriety. When a patient successfully makes it through the worst of the withdrawal symptoms, any remaining cravings diminish over the next few months until they are gone. During this phase, it is possible for cravings to return in response to specific social or emotional triggers. However, the programs and services available after cocaine detox is complete can help patients in recovery manage and overcome these cravings.
What Happens After Cocaine Detox?
Detox is only the first of many steps in the addiction recovery process. Once the physical side of cocaine dependency has been extinguished, patients in recovery must go on to address the mental and emotional aspects of their addictions. Most rehab facilities offer a variety of services to continue addiction treatment after detox. One example is aftercare, or follow-up care, which can include programs like individual therapy, group therapy, holistic services, and continued dual diagnosis treatment.
Cocaine Detox and Addiction Recovery at TTC Care
Medically-assisted detox is not only the most effective way to treat cocaine addiction but also the safest. At TTC Care, our treatment staff has the skill and training necessary to make your detox and stabilization as comfortable as possible. Our doctors, therapists, and counselors are available 24-7 for all of your recovery needs. If you have any questions about our inpatient cocaine detox process, please call us at (844) 201-3136. All calls are confidential.