Cocaine is a water soluble drug which means that it rushes quite quickly through a user’s body resulting in a high that only lasts for a very short time compared to other drugs. In this short period, cocaine gives the user an intense high as large amounts of dopamine are produced but the ‘crash’ that follows this high is usually quite intense too.
The short lived nature of the high causes many people to use the drug repeatedly as they try to maintain the same levels of euphoria. A pattern of repeated use could follow. Tolerance develops as the user’s body adjusts and they will soon need more of the drug to reach the same ‘highs’.
The withdrawal symptoms of cocaine are usually seen if a person stops taking the drug after prolonged use or a pattern of binge use. The symptoms typically last from one to three weeks. The withdrawal symptoms of cocaine are not physical, only psychological. This, however, doesn’t make them less uncomfortable. Some of the commonly observed withdrawal symptoms include:
- Restlessness and agitation
- Feeling tired
- Higher appetite levels
- Realistic nightmares
- Sluggishness when performing any activity
- Complete uneasiness
Throughout this period, the recovering user will also experience intense cravings for the drug and these cravings and other psychological symptoms may even last for months. The reason for these symptoms is due to very low amounts of dopamine being produced by the body and sometimes antidepressants may be prescribed. Due to the intensity of the depression and other psychological side effects, the person may sometimes grapple with suicidal thoughts. This is why the presence of a psychiatrist or other mental health professional is important during this period.
The initial crash after heavy cocaine use can last from between nine hours to four days. This crash occurs even for first time users depending on how much of the drug they used. The acute withdrawal symptoms can go on for around a week for people who are dependent on the drug. Some people may also experience post-acute withdrawal symptoms which sometimes last for up to a year. Depression, cravings and sleeping problems are some of the symptoms of PAWS.
The toughest part of the withdrawal process is the crash after the last dose. This is usually intense and can go on for up to four days. Staying cleaning is much more likely if a person makes it through this period.
There are several research being conducted in the hope of coming up with drugs that make it easier for drug users to manage withdrawal and prevent relapses. These drugs include:
- Euphoria blockers: These are intended for use in preventing relapses. They are supposed to work by inhibiting cocaine’s euphoric effect or reducing the craving.
- Vaccine: Research is also being conducted on vaccines that will lead to the stimulation of antibodies that will target cocaine.
- Propranolal: There is research being carried out in using this drug to help in managing the first few weeks of abstinence.