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Cocaine Detox Treatment Programs and Process

Detoxing From Cocaine

Cocaine is a highly addictive drug that is most often snorted, smoked or injected. Cocaine abuse can lead to marked physical dependency. When someone stops using cocaine, he or she may experience a range of withdrawal symptoms that can vary in severity.

How Long Does It Take to Detox From Cocaine?

When a person quits using cocaine, the body begins to quickly clear itself of all traces of the remaining substance. In fact, the bulk of the recently used cocaine stays in that person’s system for only about 24 hours.

This relatively quick clearance is often accompanied by the onset of acute cocaine withdrawal symptoms that, on average, will occur about 24 to 36 hours after the last use of cocaine.

The withdrawal symptoms often subside within 3 to 5 days, though sometimes the symptoms can last for up to 3 to 4 weeks or longer, in some cases. 1

Cocaine Detox Symptoms and Effects

Although cocaine does not cause the type of physical withdrawal symptoms produced by drugs such as alcohol or opiates, the experience can be quite unpleasant. The depression, irritability and cravings that occur when someone is in withdrawal from cocaine can be very difficult to deal with. Many people relapse due to the intense psychological symptoms of withdrawal.

In some people, cocaine cravings can last for months after the last use of cocaine. In addition, for some people, withdrawal can lead to the onset of depressive symptoms, including suicidal thoughts. 1

The symptoms of cocaine withdrawal include:

  • Depression.
  • Anxiety.
  • Increased appetite.
  • Irritability.
  • Paranoia.
  • Poor concentration.
  • Fatigue.
  • Psychomotor retardation.
  • Somnolence (sleepiness or drowsiness).

Detox Treatment

While the physical symptoms of cocaine withdrawal may be unpleasant, they generally don’t pose any immediate danger to the recovering individual. As such, the detox process from cocaine is often a more straightforward procedure than that seen in some other forms of detox – like that from alcohol or sedative medications.

Cardiovascular health may be affected in those who have long-standing histories of cocaine abuse, and being aware of any medical needs will be important as these individuals detox. But such severe consequences are relatively rare. More commonly reported physical complaints include withdrawal headaches, which can be treated as needed.

Many people who are in early withdrawal from cocaine are also sleep-deprived. For the first 24 hours to 36 hours after entering treatment, they often need a lot of sleep. 1

What Happens in Detox

Generally, detox treatment involves the following:

  • Intake. Mental health professionals or physicians assess whether you need to be admitted to a detox program. The person performing the intake will ask a variety of questions about your physical and emotional health. They may take your vital signs and perform other physical examinations. The intake staff will determine if inpatient treatment in a detox program or a rehab program is right for you. Occasionally, you may be referred to outpatient treatment.
  • Medical monitoring. When you are admitted to a detox program, you are usually seen by a physician within the first 24 hours. A nurse will monitor your vital signs and assess other aspects of your physical condition as well. Other staff and therapists will meet with you, assist you in the program and provide support throughout the day.
  • Activities. In most detox programs, meals are shared in a cafeteria-like setting. Activity therapists typically design a program that can include volleyball games, yoga or table tennis. You usually have at least one support group per day. In longer-term rehab programs, the staff may also incorporate art therapy, music therapy and pet-assisted therapy, as well as more intensive therapy groups.
  • Medications. Medications are sometimes given in detox, but it depends on your needs. As of this writing, no medication has been specifically approved to help with withdrawal from cocaine.1
  • Setting. The environment can range from a hospital-like setting to a more home-like setting. Some more expensive programs may offer such amenities as massages and chefs. In most programs, you will have a roommate, but private rooms may be available.
  • Diet. If you have special dietary needs, such as food allergies, or you cannot tolerate gluten, most programs can offer special diets. Some programs can accommodate vegan or kosher diets, as well. Many people in cocaine detox have nutritional deficiencies from not eating enough while in active addiction, and the physician will assess for this and prescribe vitamins and other supplements as needed.

Detox Programs vs. Treatment Programs

A detox program usually lasts 1 to 3 days. Supervised, medically assisted detoxification is often not needed with cocaine addiction. However, many cocaine users also abuse other drugs, and these may require a more formal detox protocol. 1

Treatment programs provide a structured setting that entails more intensive group and individual counseling. These programs may last from a few days to a few weeks.

The major treatment options for cocaine addiction are:

  • Inpatient programs: live-in programs where you attend daily individual or group therapy sessions and receive medication and medical care. They can last anywhere from 30 days to 90 days or longer and may include detox.
  • Outpatient treatment programs: these can use group and/or individual counseling and typically meet 1 to 3 times a week. They may also offer outpatient detox regimens for recovering individuals to follow.
  • 12-Step programs: These programs are another option that is free and can be found in almost every community. Groups such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) provide a supportive environment to help you maintain abstinence from using substances such as cocaine. Twelve-step programs are also an important part of aftercare following inpatient or outpatient treatment.2 The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop using drugs or alcohol.4
  • Group therapy sessions: these can provide an environment to aid in the recovery process. Further, a group can provide important social interaction for addicts, who typically isolate themselves. Groups also provide role models and show that many people have successfully overcome cocaine addiction.2
  • Individual counseling: One-on-on therapy can also be a helpful approach to treating cocaine addiction. Individual counseling usually involves cognitive behavioral therapy to help you work on changing the behavioral patterns that trigger your use of cocaine. In addition, programs often use contingency management, which provides you with rewards for staying abstinent from cocaine.3

What Happens After Detox?

In some cases, you will be sent from a detox program to a longer inpatient or outpatient treatment program, which can last several days to a few weeks. Detox and addiction treatment may be provided in one place, or the treatment program may be in a separate facility from the detox program. Not everyone will go to an ongoing treatment program after detox. It depends on the needs of the person and the physicians evaluation of his or her specific case.

Aftercare, or follow-up care you receive after a cocaine detox or recovery program, is a vitally important component of many people’s ongoing recovery from addiction. Aftercare can include formal programs that meet up to several hours per week. This outpatient treatment is typically time-limited and lasts only for a few weeks. Other aftercare options include 12-Step programs and sober living homes.

However, some people do not feel comfortable with the idea of attending a group in person and would rather approach aftercare from a different perspective. One fairly recent development in ongoing support for people in recovery is Rational Recovery, which approaches recovery as a process that people can manage for themselves. The program takes place online, and the participants in Rational Recovery learn new ways to avoid relapse. 5

Another option is SMART Recovery (Self-Management and Recovery Training), which uses support groups and online programs to help people achieve long-term recovery from cocaine addiction and other forms of drug addiction. 6

Detoxing at Home

Cocaine withdrawal rarely has side effects that require medical attention. However, most cocaine users find it very difficult to stop using without the proper support in a controlled environment.

Further, just stopping the use of cocaine does not usually solve the underlying problem. A person began using cocaine for a reason. Just stopping cocaine without therapy to examine these underlying issues usually results in a quick relapse and use of cocaine again.

At this time, no natural detox methods for cocaine are endorsed by the medical community. You may see herbs or supplements advertised on the Internet as a substitute for cocaine or as a way to withdraw from cocaine. But many of these are dangerous or simply have no real demonstrated value in treating cocaine addiction.

How to Find a Detox Program

Whether you have concerns about your own cocaine addiction or are seeking help for a family member or friend, call today. Our specialists will help you locate a treatment center in your area that best suits your needs for treatment and recovery. Cocaine detox programs offer many different types of settings and services, and one of them is bound to be a good fit for your needs.

Detox for Specific Drugs

Learn more about the detox process for commonly abused drugs, including:

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