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Cocaine is a stimulant drug that’s listed under Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act, which means that while it has some medical value, it has a high prevalence of abuse, which can quickly lead to addiction and dependence. Quitting using cocaine can be very difficult without professional help if addiction and dependence have developed, resulting in cocaine withdrawal.

Addiction vs. Dependence

The National Institute on Drug Abuse stresses that addiction and dependence are not the same thing.

Addiction is characterized by being unable to stop using a drug despite the problems it’s causing in your life. If you’re addicted to cocaine, you likely have intense cravings for it and continue to use it even though you want to or have tried to quit. Addiction is the result of brain changes that cause compulsive drug-seeking and -using behaviors.

Dependence is characterized by withdrawal symptoms that set in when a drug is withheld from the body. When you use cocaine, your brain compensates for its presence by changing the way it functions chemically. With chronic use, brain function may shift so that it now operates more normally when cocaine is in your system than when it’s not. Withholding cocaine produces withdrawal symptoms that can quickly lead back to using if you’re not receiving medications to alleviate the symptoms.

Cocaine Withdrawal: What to Expect

Unlike alcohol and heroin withdrawal, cocaine withdrawal doesn’t typically cause flulike symptoms such as nausea and vomiting. It can, however, be every bit as unpleasant as withdrawal from these and other drugs.

The primary symptoms of withdrawal from cocaine include agitation and restlessness, deep depression, fatigue, vivid and unpleasant dreams and intense cravings. The depression associated with cocaine withdrawal may lead to suicidal thoughts and behaviors. For long-term, chronic cocaine use, the cravings and depression may last for several months.

Why Medical Detox is Essential for Withdrawal

Medical detox is a detox process that’s supervised by medical professionals who administer various medications as needed to help alleviate the intensity of some of the withdrawal symptoms. Medical detox is critical for successful withdrawal, since the majority of people who try to stop using cocaine without medical assistance will turn back to using it simply to end withdrawal.

Although no medications have been approved specifically for reducing cravings for cocaine, amantadine and bromocriptine may be used to help reduce their intensity, increase energy and normalize sleep, and diazepam may be used as needed for a few days for those who exhibit intense irritability.

An article in the journal American Family Physician points out that those in withdrawal from cocaine and other stimulants should be observed and monitored for depression and suicidal thoughts. Persistent depression can be treated with antidepressants for up to six months before being gradually discontinued.

Detox Doesn’t Treat Addiction

Detox is the first step in a high-quality treatment program and only addresses physical dependence. Addiction is far more complex, and addressing its underlying issues requires a variety of therapies. If you’ve developed an addiction to cocaine, treatment will include cognitive-behavioral therapy to help you identify and replace self-destructive ways of thinking and behaving, and you’ll develop a number of strategies to reduce cravings, stress and other potent triggers.

Nearly half of those addicted to cocaine have a co-occurring mental illness like anxiety or depression, and treating both the addiction and the mental illness through a treatment program that addresses such a dual diagnosis is essential for successful long-term recovery.

There Is Hope

Chances are, if you use cocaine chronically, you no longer enjoy its effects, and it may even make you depressed, irritable or paranoid. While taking the first step toward recovery and entering treatment is difficult for many people, doing so can help you restore your physical and mental health and prevent devastating health effects down the road.

Recovery isn’t easy, but through a high-quality rehab center that offers both traditional and alternative therapies for a holistic approach to treatment, you’ll likely improve your level of self-awareness and gain a new sense of purpose for your life. Many people successfully recover from a cocaine addiction, and you can, too.

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Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms: All You Need to Know
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