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Cocaine Withdrawal

What is cocaine withdrawal?

If you are dependent on cocaine, you will have unpleasant emotional, mental, and physical effects when you stop using cocaine. This state is called cocaine withdrawal.

Babies born to cocaine-dependent mothers are addicted at birth. The infants are jittery and don't respond well to people. Babies have to go through the painful process of withdrawal.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of withdrawal that you must go through when the drug is no longer available can be dangerous and very unpleasant.

Emotional changes may include:

  • apathy, a sense of not caring
  • listlessness
  • severe depression
  • suicidal feelings
  • intense cravings for cocaine

Physical symptoms may include:

  • fatigue or extreme sleepiness
  • weakness

How is it diagnosed?

To diagnose cocaine withdrawal, your healthcare provider will review your symptoms, examine you, and take a medical history in which he or she will ask questions about your use of drugs. It is very important that you answer honestly.

How is it treated?

You may have trouble when you want to stop using cocaine because you feel depressed, or because you have cravings to use cocaine, or because your social setting provides access to cocaine every day. For treatment to be successful, cocaine has to be removed from your environment or you have to be removed from the cocaine setting.

Emergency treatment includes:

  • evaluating and treating you for any medical problems
  • evaluating and treating you for paranoia, agitation, severe mood changes, or severe depression
  • providing a calm and secure environment

Outpatient (out of the hospital) therapy usually includes:

  • individual and group counseling
  • family or marital therapy
  • regular attendance at self-help groups such as Cocaine Anonymous
  • random urine tests to test for presence of cocaine.

Individual therapy includes:

  • getting support
  • increasing the number of people you know who do not use cocaine
  • eliminating all cocaine and devices used with it, including whatever you have hidden away
  • ending all relationships with cocaine dealers. This may involve your moving to a new location, changing telephone numbers, and having your spouse or significant other receive counseling about your cocaine use
  • counseling about problems that either caused or followed the cocaine abuse

You may benefit from day treatment, outpatient treatment hospitalization, or long-term residential drug treatment center if you:

  • are a compulsive or freebase cocaine user
  • are dependent on other drugs or alcohol as well as cocaine
  • have medical or psychiatric problems
  • cannot function psychologically and socially
  • display destructive behavior stemming from use of cocaine, such as stealing
  • are without enough family and social support
  • have failed at earlier outpatient treatment
  • strongly resist treatment

The goals of long-term therapy are to:

  • change your environment, friends, and social situations that encourage you to use cocaine
  • recognize what creates your need for cocaine (such as poor self-esteem or fears of not succeeding)
  • help separate the feelings of anxiety and depression from the need for cocaine
  • set up a support system
  • find better ways to handle stress
  • work on bettering interpersonal relations
  • treat your addiction with or without medicine (sometimes medicine may be used to treat anxiety, depression, mood changes, paranoia, or hearing voices)

If you are treated as described above, you will usually improve at first, but you may be tempted to abuse cocaine after periods of not using the drug.

How can I take care of myself?

If you are already seeing a healthcare provider, it is important to take the full course of treatment he or she prescribes.

  • Get support. Talk with family and friends. You may want to call the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information (NCADI) at 1-800-729-6686.
  • Learn to manage stress. Ask for help at home and work when the load is too great to handle. Find ways to relax, for example take up a hobby, listen to music, watch movies, take walks. Try deep breathing exercises when you feel stressed.
  • Take care of your physical health. Try to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Eat a healthy diet. Limit caffeine. If you smoke, quit. Don’t use alcohol or drugs. Exercise according to your healthcare provider's instructions.
  • Avoid situations where people are likely to use alcohol or drugs.
  • Check your medicines. To help prevent problems, tell your healthcare provider and pharmacist about all the medicines, natural remedies, vitamins, and other supplements that you take.
  • Contact your healthcare provider or therapist if you have any questions or your symptoms seem to be getting worse.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2011-05-16
Last reviewed: 2011-05-16
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2011 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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