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Also referred to as “coke,” cocaine is a very strong stimulant drug that is commonly abused as a recreational drug.
Though snorting is the most common way of using the drug, cocaine can also be smoked or injected. Cocaine is an addictive drug and is illegal, though a schedule II drug – as it does have some medical uses, with severe restrictions.

Where Does Cocaine Come From?

Cocaine comes from coca leaves of one of four plants in the Erythroxylaceae family, native to South America (Bolivia, Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru). A natural stimulant in the plant, coca is synthesized into cocaine and used for recreational purposes the world around.

Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine is a powerful stimulant, which works by targeting the natural reward system of the CNS and brain. Using cocaine results in highly pleasurable effects. Repeated use of the drug over time eventually alters the way the brain works. Cocaine addiction results in the compulsive drive to seek such drug effects, despite other negative consequences. After a while, the effects of cocaine “die down”, so the person will feel compelled to use again, but in higher quantities, and more frequently to get the same pleasurable sensation.  In the depths of addiction to cocaine, the amount of pleasure declines, and the person becomes single-focused on acquiring more cocaine, to the detriment of every other part of their life.

Crack cocaine increases the risk of addiction even more, because the drug gets into the brain nearly instantly. Both cocaine and crack cocaine typically lead to binge use, meaning consuming large quantities over a relatively short period time before stopping. After stopping, the person will feel high levels of anxiety and irritability, part of the withdrawal effects. Other cocaine withdrawal effects can include mania, depression, agitation, paranoia, and complete exhaustion.

Cocaine Side Effects

Cocaine users often suffer from scabs that develop on the interior of the nose, damaging the fragile mucous membranes. Sometimes the nasal septum, which is the thin wall that separates the left and right nostrils), can completely collapse.  The heart can give out completely due to the overstimulating effects of cocaine/crack. Breathing can stop, causing death by respiratory failure. Fatal stroke is another common liability from cocaine abuse. Cocaine is definitely a drug that is not worth dying for!

Physical Signs and Symptoms of Cocaine Use

  • Chronic Headaches and Migraines
  • Twitching, Shaking and Jerky Motions
  • Dilated Pupils
  • Uncontrollable Sniffing
  • Recurrent Runny Nose or Nosebleeds
  • Hoarseness of the Throat/Voice
  • Dark Circles Under/Around the Eyes
  • Increased Heartrate, Rapid Heartbeat
  • Impotence

Long Term Side Effects and Health Risks from Cocaine Use

  • Chronic Impotence and Sexual Dysfunction
  • Infertility (Fertility Issues in Both Men and Women)
  • Difficult Breathing and Swallowing (Permanent Damage to the Throat, Nose, Sinuses)
  • Lung Damage and Chronic Lung Diseases
  • Seizures and Convulsions
  • Weight Loss, Malnourishment, and Subsequent Symptoms
  • Gastrointestinal Issues and Diseases
  • Increased Risk for Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)


 Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms?

Cocaine withdrawal is not considered as immediately dangerous or severe as withdrawal from chemicals like opioids, benzodiazepines and alcohol, though the withdrawal symptoms can be quite severe and put a person through quite an ordeal. Much like with other drugs, cocaine addicts may keep using cocaine in order to put off the withdrawal symptoms or avoid withdrawal altogether by staying on the drugs long-term.

Cocaine Withdrawal: Crash Phase

When an individual decides to quit cocaine, there will first be an initial “crash” stage, where the initial effects of the stimulant wear off and leave the individual with cravings for more of the drug, both fatigue and sleeplessness, an inability to feel pleasure (anhedonia), as well as feelings of paranoia and anxiety.

Because cocaine only stays in the body for a few hours, the crash stage comes on quickly, but can take 24-36 hours to finally subside.

Cocaine Withdrawal: Acute Withdrawal Phase

After the “crash stage” from cocaine, begins the acute cocaine withdrawal stage. In this stage, the cravings for the drug will increase, anhedonia increases and evolves into depression and feelings of sadness, sleeplessness worsens, and anxiety and feelings of unease increase.

Withdrawal is often prolonged in cocaine users – opposed to with other drugs – and acute cocaine withdrawals can last up to 7 days in some individuals. The exact timeline for cocaine withdrawal really depends on how much cocaine you have used, how long you have been a cocaine user, and for how long your last cocaine binge lasted.

The good news is that after the acute cocaine withdrawal phase, an individual experiences an “extinction” of the cravings and dependence symptoms. Recovering cocaine addicts rarely experience Post-Acute Withdrawal (PAWS) symptoms, like are common with alcohol, benzodiazepine, and opioid addictions.

Cocaine Addiction Treatment: How Alternative to Meds Provides an Alternative to Addiction

Cocaine withdrawal without professional guidance and help can be unpleasant, and difficult, which may ultimately lead to relapse.

However, if the process is undergone correctly, the process can become tolerable, with little to no discomfort. At the Alternative to Meds Center, the program is built around several foundations of treatment. One very important of these is to stabilize the person’s neurochemistry. That means, in part, we need to balance dopamine levels.  We use multiple methods of detoxification and therapies to balance neurochemical levels naturally. We also employ multiple techniques of detoxification and therapy, during and after the initial withdrawal process. Recovering from cocaine use can become reality.

The adjunctive treatments and holistic therapies we offer ease most withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Corrective methods are aimed towards addressing the underlying causes that ultimately led to cocaine use and abuse. These foundations for recovery allow for stability and real relief from physical, mental, and emotional pain. Examples of the adjunctive treatments and holistic therapies we offer include therapeutic massage, cranial sacral work, soothing mineral baths, natural cleansing/detox methods such as low-temperature sauna, conjugators (supplements to gently purge toxins), chelation strategies, clean, nutrient-dense diet, Reiki, mild exercise, yoga classes, acupuncture, and much more.

Alternative to Meds Cocaine Treatment

We treat cocaine addiction on many levels. One of the most fundamental goals in our treatment program is the normalization of brain neurochemistry. After cocaine has altered the way the brain functions, this must be addressed thoroughly. Our protocols focus on this goal for every one of our clients.

At our center, we have many staff who have overcome their own addiction issues. With the correct kinds of help and the true understanding from our dedicated caregivers, addiction to cocaine can be conquered. You or your loved one can access the best help available by calling the number listed on this page. Ask the important questions, and get the important answers. We can help you overcome and heal the damage of addiction. The most important first step in that direction can be best achieved with correct methods of cocaine withdrawal.

This content has been reviewed and approved by a licensed physician.

Dr. John Motl, M.D.

Dr. Motl is currently certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in Psychiatry, and Board eligible in Neurology and licensed in the state of Arizona.  He holds a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in biology and minors in chemistry and philosophy. He graduated from Creighton University School of Medicine with a Doctor of Medicine.  Dr. Motl has studied Medical Acupuncture at the Colorado School of Traditional Chinese Medicine and at U.C.L.A.

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