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Cocaine Cravings: What They Are and How to Find Help

Cocaine cravings are a normal part of the recovery process and are common when a person is withdrawing from an addictive substance such as cocaine. Understanding cravings can help you deal with them, identify potential triggers, and prevent relapse.4

What Are Cocaine Cravings?

Cocaine cravings are strong feelings of desire for cocaine that can result in both physical activities and intense emotions related to cocaine use.5 Cravings are often related to specific memories centered around cocaine use known as cues or triggers. Common triggers can include: 2

  • Drug paraphernalia.
  • Friends or social situations associated with cocaine use.
  • Specific locations associated with cocaine use.
  • Emotions or moods associated with cocaine use.
  • Underlying stress or a traumatic event.

If a person has been using cocaine over an extended period of time, they can develop a physical dependence. This means their body is physically adapted to cocaine in order to function and when cocaine use is cut down or stopped, the individual is at a high risk of withdrawal symptoms.3

When a person experiences withdrawal, they will experience uncomfortable signs and symptoms as well as intense cravings that often lead them to use cocaine again.2

Cravings can occur after a cocaine binge (cycles of repeated use) or when a person is withdrawing. Due to the potential for withdrawal symptoms that may lead to cravings and a return to use, detoxing under medical supervision or at a cocaine treatment facility can provide a safe, comfortable environment to start recovery.

How Long Do Cravings Last?

For many individuals, cravings can occur after only a few hours following the discontinuation of cocaine use. Acute withdrawal for cocaine usually lasts a few days, which is less than other simulants, but some symptoms can last up to a few weeks.2, 3 The following factors can contribute to cravings and withdrawal timeline:

  • The length of time a person has been using cocaine.
  • The amount of cocaine a person uses.
  • How often a person uses cocaine (e.g., every day, once a week, etc.).
  • Presence of co-occurring mental health conditions.
  • Family history.

Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms

Compared to other substances, cocaine detox and withdrawal are considered mild and not typically associated with medical problems.3 However, there can be some risks associated with cocaine withdrawal, particularly if a person has co-occurring physical or mental health conditions.

Common withdrawal symptoms can include:10

  • Depression.
  • Increased appetite.
  • Sleepiness.
  • Insomnia.
  • Irritability and restlessness.
  • Vivid dreams.

How to Prevent Relapse

Relapse rates for cocaine addiction are similar to other illnesses. If a person relapses, it does not mean treatment has failed.4 People should continue treatment and recovery to promote continued abstinence and a healthy lifestyle.4

For most people, a relapse doesn’t just happen. It is often associated with certain signs that the person is beginning to move toward using cocaine again. These relapse warning signs may include:11

  • Romanticizing past drug use and thinking about the good times or the positive aspects of using cocaine.
  • Discontinuing therapy or support groups.
  • Engaging with people associated with past cocaine use.
  • Returning to common behaviors when a person was using cocaine.
  • Moving away from activities, people, and other things from your sober lifestyle.
  • Stopping medications used to help with co-occurring conditions.

To help prevent relapse, the following methods may be helpful:11

  • Know your triggers and have a plan to deal with them.
  • Attend support or mutual-help groups.
  • Know the signs of relapse and be prepared to spot them.
  • Have a backup plan in place if you feel that you are headed toward a relapse.
  • Identify when you’re hungry, angry, lonely, or tired (HALT).
  • Engage in stress reduction techniques like mediation, exercise, and hobbies.
  • Take medications prescribed to help manage co-occurring conditions.

Treatments and Medications for Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine addiction treatment, like other substance use disorder treatment, should be tailored to meet a person’s individual needs. These can include medical, psychological, social, vocational, and legal challenges associated with cocaine use.7

Currently, there are no FDA-approved medications to treat cocaine addiction and withdrawal, but medication may be used to treat depression and agitation associated with stimulant withdrawal.2

Stress reduction, harm prevention, and behavioral therapy techniques are often used during cocaine withdrawal and treatment.2

Behavioral Therapy

Psychotherapy programs directed at cocaine addiction recovery most often use approaches that incorporate behavioral therapy. These techniques may include:2, 8

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy(CBT). This approach to preventing relapse is designed to help a person recognize triggers, develop coping strategies, and develop a plan of action to deal with triggers when they arise.
  • Contingency management uses positive reinforcement to reward abstinence from cocaine use by providing points or tokens. When a person has a clean urine screen, they can redeem the points or tokens for a valuable reward that encourages healthy living.
  • Motivational interviewing can help guide people toward acknowledging problem behaviors and committing to change.

Support Groups

Mutual-help and peer support groups like Cocaine Anonymous can be an effective part of a person’s treatment and aftercare. These methods can help support the ongoing recovery journey and encourage abstinence.9

Many groups are affiliated with 12-step facilitation but there are other groups like SMART Recovery that do not focus on the 12 steps.

Find Cocaine Treatment Near You

If you or a loved one are struggling with cocaine addiction and cocaine cravings, and need support, American Addiction Centers (AAC) is here to help. You don’t have to do it alone and our compassionate admissions navigators are ready to take your call so you can learn about treatment options and check your insurance coverage. Call today to start your recovery journey.