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Cocaine Detox

Cocaine is a powerful and habit-forming stimulant drug. Recreational cocaine use is illegal, though rates of recreational cocaine use remain relatively high throughout the U.S. According to the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 1.9 percent of Americans over the age of 12 (roughly 5.2 million people) reported using cocaine at least once within the past year. Out of these people, roughly 1.3 million suffered from a diagnosable cocaine use disorder. Cocaine is a Scedule II chemical susbtance, meaning that it has a high potential for misuse but does have legitimate medical uses; for example, cocaine can be administered by a licensed doctor as a local anesthetic. If you or someone close to you has been struggling with cocaine misuse or dependence, Princeton Detox & Recovery Center is available to help. Our medically monitored detox program helps clients undergo a safe and comfortable cocaine withdrawal while preparing them to take the next appropriate step on their personal journeys of recovery. Contact us to learn more or to get started with our simple, straightforward admissions process. 

What is Cocaine

Cocaine is a naturally derived stimulant drug. It often comes in a powdered form and is typically white or off-white in color. People typically ingest cocaine nasally, snorting the substance in its powdered form, but it can be ingested in other ways. NIDA states, “People abuse two chemical forms of cocaine: the water-soluble hydrochloride salt and the water-insoluble cocaine base (or freebase). Users inject or snort the hydrochloride salt, which is a powder. The base form of cocaine is created by processing the drug with ammonia or sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and water, then heating it to remove the hydrochloride to produce a smokable substance.” People who use cocaine often binge on the substance, meaning they use a significant quantity over a relatively short period of time in order to maintain their high. This pattern of use leads to an increased risk of substance use disorder development, seeing as a physical tolerance is built more quickly and withdrawal symptoms tend to develop sooner. 

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Signs & Symptoms of Cocaine Addiction

Individuals who have been struggling with cocaine addiction will typically exhibit a range of behavioral, psychological and physical symptoms. If you believe you or someone close to you might be struggling with a stimulant drug addiction of any type or severity, there are several signs and symptoms to look for.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-V) outlines a list of diagnostic criteria associated with stimulant drug addiction. If you answer “yes” to two or more of the following questions, entering into a treatment program is likely a good idea. However, it is important to note that symptoms of cocaine use disorders vary in severity, and a multi-staged program of recovery is not an ideal option for everyone. Contact us today to learn more about what type of treatment program will best meet your unique, personal needs. 

The DSM-V diagnostic criteria for a stimulant cocaine use disorder are outlined below. Ask yourself the following questions when attempting to determine whether or not professional treatment is right for you. 

  1. Do you often use more cocaine than intended for a longer period of time than intended?
  2. Have you attempted to cut back on the amount of cocaine you take to find yourself unable to cut back or quit for an extended period of time?
  3. Do you spend a significant amount of time using cocaine and recovering from its effects?
  4. Are you often consumed by thoughts of using cocaine, or do you experience cravings for your drug of choice throughout the day?
  5. Does using cocaine or recovering from the effects of excessive stimulant drug use affect your ability to take care of personal responsibilities and obligations?
  6. Has cocaine use caused issues and interpersonal problems between you and your family and/or friends?
  7. Have you given up activities you previously enjoyed because of your cocaine use?
  8. Have you experienced an increase in risk-taking activities as a result of your cocaine use, like combining cocaine with other chemical substances or driving while under the influence of cocaine?
  9. Have you experienced worsening symptoms of a physical or mental health problem as a direct result of your cocaine use?
  10. Have you developed a physical tolerance, meaning a larger amount of the drug is required in order for the desired effects to be achieved?
  11. Do you experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop using cocaine abruptly?

Cocaine Side Effects

Cocaine use results in a variety of short and long-term effects. The effects produced by cocaine depend on several factors, including the amount being taken, the duration of use, and whether or not cocaine is being combined with other chemical substances.

Common short-term effects of cocaine use include:

  • Increased energy levels.
  • Positive mood/increased happiness. 
  • Mental alertness. 
  • Increased talkativeness and sociability. 
  •  Raised body temperature. 
  • Rapid heart rate and increased blood pressure. 
  • Nausea and vomiting. 
  • Tremors or twitching muscles. 

Common long-term effects of cocaine use include: 

  • Respiratory distress. 
  • Chronic nosebleeds. 
  • Increased risk of heart disease.
  • Higher risk of infections and bloodborne diseases.
  • The development of a cocaine use disorder. 

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Withdrawal & Detox Process

Cocaine withdrawal might not result in the same severe physical symptoms that withdrawal from other chemical substances does, but the detoxification process from cocaine abuse or addiction undeniably comes with a set of psychological and health-related issues of its own. In most instances, acute cocaine withdrawal will result in more psychological symptoms than physical symptoms. While cocaine withdrawal is not generally life threatening, it can be extremely uncomfortable, and the psychological and health-related symptoms must be treated in a medically monitored detoxification facility.

The effects of cocaine withdrawal are typically experienced very quickly after the detox process begins. Cocaine has a very short half-life, meaning that the withdrawal effects can be felt as quickly as 90 minutes after the last dose is used. Individuals who have been struggling with a cocaine abuse disorder benefit from entering into a medical cocaine detox program immediately upon ceased use, in order for withdrawal symptoms to begin being treated as quickly as they begin and in order to prevent potential relapse.

Cocaine Withdrawal Timeline

How long does the cocaine withdrawal process last from start to finish? The answer depends heavily on the severity of the cocaine use disorder. If you have been using cocaine regularly for a prolonged period of time, withdrawal symptoms will be more severe. A standard cocaine withdrawal timeline looks like this:

  • Stage One — The “Crash” — During the earliest stage of withdrawal, which typically lasts for between 1 and 3 days (24 and 72 hours), a person might experience fatigue, mood swings, and physical symptoms that resemble the symptoms associated with a bad cold or flu. Cravings are likely intense and appetite might increase significantly. 
  • Stage Two — Acute Withdrawal — Symptoms grow in severity, and can be both physical and psychological in nature. These symptoms include restlessness, irritability, mood swings, temporary weight gain, anxiety, panic attacks, and depressed mood. 
  • Stage Three — Post-Acute Withdrawal — The final stage of the withdrawal process can last for months. The person has been physically stabilized, though they might continue to experience psychological symptoms like cravings and anxiety or depression.

Treatment Options

The best treatment options for cocaine addiction depend on your unique case. When it comes to professional treatment, several factors should be taken into close consideration, including:

  1. The severity of the cocaine use disorder. If the cocaine use disorder is moderate or severe, entering into a long-term treatment program is likely a good idea. 
  2. The potential of withdrawal symptoms. Because the physical and psychological symptoms associated with cocaine withdrawal can be unpredictable, it is important for anyone who has been suffering from cocaine addiction to enter into a professional medical detox program for short-term monitoring. 
  3. The presence of any co-occurring disorders. If a person has been simultaneously suffering from a cocaine use disorder and a mental illness, entering into a longer term dual diagnosis treatment program might be necessary. 

In most cases, it is recommended that a person who has been suffering from a diagnosable cocaine use disorder of any severity enter into a multi-staged treatment program, which begins with medical detox and transitions into the next appropriate level of care. Depending on your personal needs, you might choose to follow detox with an extended stay in an inpatient treatment center, or continue with a more flexible and less time-demanding option like outpatient treatment. 

Treatment options include:

  • Medical detox. In medical detox a person undergoes a safe, pain-free cocaine withdrawal under the close supervision of a team of medical professionals. Both physical and psychological symptoms of withdrawal are treated. 
  • Residential inpatient treatment. This is the most intensive treatment option; residential programs typically last for between 30 and 90 days depending on the needs of the individual. Most inpatient programs incorporate individual, group, and family therapy, 12 Step program education and involvement, and holistic treatment modalities to provide a comprehensive treatment experience. 
  • Partial hospitalization. This level of care is a step down from inpatient treatment, and includes full days of intensive therapeutic care (usually 7 days a week) with the freedom to return home in the evenings. 
  • Intensive outpatient treatment. Also known as IOP, this level of care is ideal for those who have completed a short stay in medical detox and are looking for a flexible treatment option with an ample amount of personal freedom. IOP is ideal for those with a mild or moderate cocaine use disorder and no co-occurring issues. 
  • Outpatient treatment. Outpatient treatment, or OP, is one more step down from IOP, with group sessions typically only meeting between 2 or 3 times a week for several hours. 
  • Aftercare. Because cocaine addiction is a chronic and relapsing health condition, ongoing treatment is necessary to longer term recovery. Most aftercare plans consist of ongoing involvement in a peer support group (like Alcoholics Anonymous or Recovery Dharma) and ongoing individual therapy, along with any long-term psychiatric care that is deemed appropriate. 
  • 12 Step program involvement. While many recovering individuals choose to participate in a 12 Step recovery program like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, there are numerous other options available. Some additional options include Recovery Dharma and SMART Recovery. Peer support is often an important part of aftercare. 
  • Individual therapy and/or ongoing psychiatric services. Because many individuals who suffer from cocaine addiction simultaneously struggle with co-occurring issues, ongoing therapy and/or psychiatric care often come recommended. 
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If you or someone you love has been suffering from a cocaine use disorder of any severity, Princeton Detox & Recovery Center is available to help. Our medically monitored detox program was designed with client comfort in mind. We provide our clients with a safe, pain-free cocaine withdrawal in a therapeutic setting, actively preparing them to take the next appropriate step on their personal recovery journeys. As soon as you make the decision to reach out for help you will be put in contact with one of our experienced and compassionate Treatment Advisors, who will help you determine whether or not our drug and alcohol detox program is right for you. If we believe our program is a good fit, we will proceed with a brief pre-assessment and a free, no obligation health insurance benefit check. We accept coverage from most major national health insurance providers as well as most regional providers throughout New Jersey and surrounding areas. To learn more about cocaine addiction and treatment or to begin your own personal journey of cocaine addiction recovery, contact us today.

Cocaine FAQs

What makes cocaine so addictive? Cocaine increases the amount of the neurochemical dopamine present in the brain, which increases feelings of pleasure and euphoria and often leads to a desire to use the drug again.

The effects of cocaine might not last for a significant amount of time, but the chemical substance can stay present in the system for several days. For most, cocaine stays present in the system for between 1 and 4 days, though it might be detectable in some people for up to several weeks.

When a person uses cocaine they are likely to experience increased alertness and energy levels, increased heart rate and blood pressure, increased body temperature, and feelings of euphoria. Cocaine increases the amount of dopamine present in the brain, a neurochemical that increases feelings of pleasure and leads to the desire to use the drug again.

Amanda Hilzer

Reviewed for accuracy by: our Executive Director:

Amanda Hilzer M.Ed, CAADC, IADAC, ICCS, LCADC, CCS


Amanda graduated from Lehigh University with both an undergraduate degree in Psychology and a Master’s of Education degree in Counseling Psychology and has worked in the field of substance use disorder treatment and mental health treatment as a counselor and as a clinical manager for over 14 years.

  1. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine/what-scope-cocaine-use-in-united-states