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How to Quit Cocaine

Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant drug that can be difficult to quit due to its reinforcing, pleasurable effects and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.4 However, cocaine addiction is treatable, and getting support when quitting cocaine can help lay a good foundation for ongoing recovery.2

Why is Quitting Cocaine Challenging?

Many people may want to stop using cocaine and try quitting without outside help, but due to cocaine’s addictive qualities, this can be very difficult without support.

Cocaine’s rewarding effects on the brain can lead people to continue using it, often in increasingly large amounts, which can lead to dependence on cocaine. When a person becomes dependent on cocaine and tries to cut back or quit, they are at risk for withdrawal symptoms that range from mild to very unpleasant.3 To avoid withdrawal symptoms, people will often return to use, even if they have a strong desire to quit cocaine.3

Individuals who struggle with cocaine addiction may have trouble when they attempt to quit cocaine on their own because:

  • They lack structure in their approach.
  • They don’t have appropriate support such as a mutual-help group, therapist, or medical supervision.
  • They fall back into old habits or engage with people they used to take cocaine with.
  • They are unprepared to deal with the symptoms of withdrawal and strong cravings that can occur when quitting cocaine.

Cocaine Withdrawal

Cocaine use produces an extreme sense of euphoria (intense excitement or pleasure) because the brain releases large amounts of dopamine upon taking cocaine.5 When you stop using cocaine, you may experience “a crash,” or immediate intensification of negative feelings like anxiety and agitation, which are often accompanied by strong cravings to use more cocaine.3

The combination of withdrawal symptoms and cravings often lead people to use again even if they were trying to quit cocaine.3

Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms

Cocaine withdrawal is typically not associated with severe medical complications like some other substances, but can still produce the following unpleasant symptoms:6, 7

  • Severe fatigue or drowsiness.
  • Depression.
  • Anxiety.
  • Agitation.
  • Increased appetite.
  • Severe restlessness.
  • Being extremely suspicious or paranoid.
  • General feelings of malaise.
  • Vivid dreams.
  • An overall slowing of physical activity.
  • Strong cravings.

Cocaine Withdrawal Timeline

The length of cocaine withdrawal symptoms is typically less than other stimulants, lasting a few days, but some symptoms can last up to a few weeks.3, 6 The timeline for cocaine withdrawal symptoms will depend on several factors including:

  • Length of time a person has been using cocaine.
  • How much cocaine they use.
  • How frequently they use cocaine.
  • Presence of co-occurring mental or physical health conditions.
  • Genetics.

Can You Quit Cocaine “Cold Turkey?”

Quitting a substance cold turkey means that a person suddenly stops all use of the drug. While people may try to do this, it’s best to quit cocaine and other substances with the support and supervision of qualified treatment professionals, especially if a person is using other substances or has co-occurring conditions.8

Supervised detoxification is a good place to learn how to quit cocaine use in a safe, managed environment. Detox services are often available at both inpatient and outpatient facilities depending on the level of care needed, and provide support to manage withdrawal safely and comfortably.

Types of Cocaine Addiction Treatment

The most effective professional treatments for stimulant use disorders like cocaine are certain behavioral therapies and psychosocial treatments that promote abstinence and harm reduction.3

In addition to behavioral therapies, effective cocaine treatment may include:2

  • Detoxification.
  • Medication, if needed.
  • Ongoing evaluation and treatment for co-occurring mental health conditions.
  • Relapse prevention and aftercare.

Structured cocaine treatment programs allow a person to receive support and supervision from trained treatment professionals to assist them in their recovery.

Behavioral Therapies

Individual counseling and therapy give people access to an addiction treatment professional who can help structure a program of recovery and address the inevitable issues that will occur.

Behavioral approaches generally focus on helping a person manage their ongoing recovery, promote abstinence, and gain understanding about behaviors related to substance use.11

Group counseling or therapy offers the added benefit of interacting with others at varying levels of recovery. Through these groups, they can develop a positive support network. Group counseling programs can also consist of family counseling.

The following treatments may be useful in treating cocaine addiction and helping a person quit cocaine:3, 9

  • Contingency management. This behavioral intervention can help people choose more desirable behaviors by giving incentives for positive behavior. Vouchers may be given for things like food, movie passes, and other goods that align with a cocaine-free lifestyle.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy. This method of behavioral therapy helps people identify negative thoughts and behavior patterns that may have led to cocaine use.
  • Matrix Model. This method combines various strategies such as family therapy, education, motivational interviewing, and 12-step facilitation to promote abstinence.

Cocaine Detox

The process of detoxification includes interventions to help a person manage acute withdrawal from cocaine and/or other substances. Detoxification is the first step in the treatment process and once this stage is completed, the individual can then enter formal treatment.

Cocaine withdrawal is not associated with severe physical complications but can still be uncomfortable.6 Cocaine withdrawal has been associated with an increased risk for seizures and cardiac symptoms, which should be managed with the care of treatment professionals.6

In the first 1 to 2 weeks of cocaine withdrawal, some people may experience suicidal thoughts and should be supervised to help manage these symptoms.3 Currently, there are not any FDA-approved medications to treat cocaine withdrawal.

Inpatient/Residential Cocaine Rehab Programs

Inpatient or residential cocaine treatment offers a safe, supportive place for a person to live while receiving treatment. Services may include detox, individual and group therapy, medical monitoring, and aftercare planning.

Before entering treatment, each person is assessed so their unique needs are met, and they receive an appropriate level of treatment. Inpatient treatment is offered at varying intensity levels and can last from a few weeks to several months.2

Outpatient Cocaine Rehab Programs

Outpatient treatment often includes many of the same services as inpatient programs but does not require a person to live at the facility. Outpatient programs vary in intensity and services depending on the facility and needs of the individual, with lower intensity programs requiring about 9 hours a week, and higher intensity up to 20 hours per week.1, 10

Cocaine Addiction Aftercare

Recovery from substance use disorders is a lifelong endeavor so it’s important to create a plan to stay engaged in the recovery process. Aftercare, or a continuing care program is created with treatment professionals to address challenges a person may face when they leave a formal drug rehabilitation program. Having a plan in place may help prevent relapse.12

Benefits of Quitting Cocaine

The following benefits may potentially occur as a result of quitting cocaine:2

  • Reduced risk of certain health problems.
  • Better sleep.
  • Fewer ups and downs associated with repeated use of cocaine.
  • Lowered risk of developing mental health conditions like depression and anxiety.
  • Improved finances since you’re no longer purchasing cocaine.
  • Focus on professional and personal endeavors.
  • Improved attention, memory, and other thinking abilities, such as abstract thinking.
  • Increased self-confidence and self-control.

How to Help a Loved One Quit Cocaine

If you know someone who is struggling with cocaine addiction, it can be very stressful. Be sure to find support for yourself in the form of support groups, family, friends, therapy, and community.13

Support from loved ones can be helpful when a person decides to quit using cocaine. Remember that making big changes takes time and you’ll need to be patient with anyone struggling with addiction.13

While you can continue to support your loved ones, they are ultimately responsible for choosing to go to treatment, continue recovery, and manage their addiction.13

Find a Cocaine Addiction Treatment Program

If you or someone you care about is struggling with cocaine addiction, American Addiction Centers (AAC) is here to help. Our compassionate admissions navigators are ready to take your call at to help you if you’re ready to quit cocaine or have a loved one who is. We can also discuss treatment options at AAC facilities and check your insurance coverage so you can start the recovery process today.

  1. American Society of Addiction Medicine. (2015). What are the ASAM Levels of Care?
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction DrugFacts.
  3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2021). Treatment for Stimulant Use Disorders. Treatment Improvement Protocol: TIP 33.
  4. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2021). What is Cocaine?
  5. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). How does cocaine produce its effects?
  6. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment. Treatment Improvement Protocol: TIP 45.
  7. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Commonly Used Drugs Charts: Cocaine.
  8. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Treatment and Recovery.
  9. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Contingency Management Interventions/Motivational Incentives (Alcohol, Stimulants, Opioids, Marijuana, Nicotine).
  10. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Types of Treatment Programs.
  11. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Behavioral Therapies.
  12. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Principles of Effective Treatment.
  13. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2021). Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help.