Cocaine is a powerful stimulant that affects chemical signaling in the brain. Regular use, even for a short period, can rapidly lead to dependence and addiction. Overcoming cocaine addiction is associated with an uncomfortable detox and withdrawal process, often referred to as the “cocaine comedown.”
How Long Does Cocaine Stay in Your System?
A drug’s half-life determines how long it will stay in your system. One half-life identifies the amount of time it takes your body to metabolize half of the amount of drug that was administered. After five half-lives, more than 95% of the drug will have been broken down into metabolic byproducts.
The half-life of cocaine is about one hour, so over the course of about five hours, all of the cocaine that was taken will be broken down, as long as more cocaine is not used. This is why the pleasurable cocaine effects will have mostly subsided within a couple of hours after use. However, metabolic byproducts can be identified if a drug test specifically looks for them, and byproducts can be present for far longer than the cocaine itself.
Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms
Cocaine use can rapidly lead to withdrawal signs and symptoms that make up cocaine withdrawal syndrome. Common symptoms include:
- Symptoms of Cocaine Withdrawal
Anhedonia (inability to experience pleasure)
Dysphoria (a general sense of dissatisfaction or uneasiness)
Cocaine Withdrawal Timeline
The cocaine withdrawal timeline depends on several factors, most notably the degree of dependence. People who regularly use cocaine are far more likely to experience symptoms beyond the initial “crash” phase.
Withdrawal symptoms can be broken into three overlapping categories that fall on a relatively predictable timeline:
- The Crash
Within hours after the last use, early withdrawal symptoms including cravings, restlessness, and insomnia become apparent and may persist for several hours or days.
- Acute Withdrawal
Immediately following crash, a period of withdrawal sets in. Characteristics include exhaustion, lethargy, dysphoria, anhedonia, anxiety, and hypersomnia (periods of excessive sleep). Acute withdrawal can last anywhere from several days to up to four weeks. Acute withdrawal is associated with susceptibility to triggers and a high risk of relapse in an unstructured environment.
Once the acute withdrawal has been overcome, a period of learning how to master cravings and resist triggers sets in. This phase can last for months or even years while someone who has successfully achieved early recovery reorients to a lifestyle without cocaine.
People who overcome serious cocaine dependence may experience protracted withdrawal symptoms that persist for weeks or months beyond the expected withdrawal timeline. This frustrating “post-acute withdrawal syndrome” is characterized by fluctuating symptoms that will gradually abate.
Factors Impacting Cocaine Withdrawal
The most significant factor that determines the duration and severity of cocaine withdrawal is the degree of dependence that someone has developed. However, several other factors can influence the severity and duration of cocaine withdrawal, including:
- Cocaine Withdrawal Factors
Amount of cocaine used
Frequency of use
Mental and physical health status
Polysubstance abuse (concurrent or simultaneous use of other drugs or alcohol)
Proximity to triggers
Availability of social support (friends, family, rehab professionals)
Coping with Cocaine Withdrawal
The most effective strategy to successfully manage cocaine withdrawal is to undergo medical detox and acute withdrawal in a professional rehab setting. Cocaine withdrawal is rarely dangerous but people who attempt to quit without support are at high risk for relapse.
Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts or home-remedy cocaine withdrawal treatments. If you choose to detox at home, it can be very helpful to enlist a trusted friend or family member who can provide support and encouragement throughout early recovery. Make sure you discuss why quitting is important to you and outline goals for short- and long-term recovery. When you are challenged with cravings and triggers, ask them to remind you why you want to quit. In addition, make sure you eat healthy food and drink plenty of water during detox and early withdrawal.
Detoxing Off Cocaine
Detox is a very uncomfortable period that is associated with cravings, restlessness, insomnia, and anxiety. Professionally managed medical detox can provide some comfort during cocaine detox and early withdrawal. In addition to providing a safe environment that minimizes access to triggers, medical detox provides behavioral tools and, when appropriate, medications to reduce symptom severity. Look for a medical detox program that has a low staff-to-patient ratio to ensure that you have plenty of access to medical professionals and other staff members.
When to Find Help: Cocaine Rehab in Florida
If you are concerned that you or someone you love has a cocaine use disorder, it may be time to seek professional help. The first step is to have an evaluation with an addiction specialist who can provide recommendations for how to proceed and referrals for follow-up care.
When you are evaluating cocaine rehab facilities, there are several important things to keep in mind:
- Comprehensive treatment programs can manage physical and psychological aspects of recovery, from the initial evaluation and detox periods to long-term aftercare.
- Make sure the program you choose uses evidence-based treatment plans.
- Multidisciplinary teams including doctors, nurses, addiction specialists and therapists who are experienced in cocaine treatment and recovery will maximize your success in rehab.
The Recovery Village Palm Beach at Baptist Health has a proven record in helping people overcome cocaine use disorders. Call us today to learn how professional rehab can help you achieve your recovery goals.
DrugBank.ca. “Cocaine.” Updated September 2019. Accessed September 23, 2019.
Australian Government Department of Health. “The Cocaine Withdrawal Syndrome.” April 2004. Accessed September 23, 2019.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Protracted Withdrawal: Substance Abuse Treatment Advisory.” July 2010. Accessed September 23, 2019.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.