Discussions of cocaine often focus on the intense boost in mood and energy that this drug can cause. But what happens when these effects wear off? Today, we’re turning our attention to the symptoms and timeline of what’s known as “the cocaine comedown.”
How Does Cocaine Affect the Body?
To fully appreciate what happens during the cocaine comedown, we should first take a moment to review how a person’s body is affected when they ingest this dangerous drug.
Cocaine interacts with the dopamine system, which is a part of the central nervous system (CNS) that is related to feelings such as pleasure and reward.
Normally, neurons within the CNS release dopamine into synapses, which are the small gaps that separate one neuron from the next. Once the message that the dopamine is carrying is received by the second neuron, a protein called a transporter carries the dopamine back to receptors on the originating neuron, so that it can be recycled and reused.
But when a person uses cocaine, the drug binds to these receptors. This prevents the dopamine from being reabsorbed, which results in a buildup in the synapses. This excess dopamine causes effects such as increased energy, elevated mood, greater self-confidence, and diminished need for sleep.
While these effects can be intense, they typically don’t last for very long. This is why people often use cocaine multiple times in rapid succession, which is known as a cocaine binge. This helps them maintain their pleasurable high and stave off the cocaine comedown.
What Is the Cocaine Comedown?
Also sometimes referred to as a cocaine hangover, a cocaine comedown is a physical and emotional crash that occurs when the drug’s effects wear off.
As we discussed in the previous section, the presence of cocaine in a person’s central nervous system leads to an artificially induced glut of dopamine. As the cocaine dissipates, the receptors that the drug had been blocking can once again absorb dopamine.
Typically, this wouldn’t be a problem. Neurons in the CNS regularly produce, release, and reabsorb dopamine. But because the cocaine had interfered with these functions, the sending neuron will be temporarily prevented from releasing dopamine to replace what is being reabsorbed. This leads to a dopamine deficiency, which contributes to the cocaine comedown.
The following are common symptoms of a cocaine comedown:
- Difficulty thinking clearly
- Impaired focus and concentration
- Deep fatigue or exhaustion
- Inability to get to sleep
- Aches and pains throughout the body
- Elevated appetite
- Cocaine cravings
The types of symptoms a person experiences and how intense they become can vary depending on several factors, including how long the person’s cocaine binge had lasted and how much of the drug they had taken.
How Long Does the Cocaine Comedown Take?
The amount and duration of a person’s cocaine use can also affect the cocaine comedown timeline.
Usually, the symptoms that we listed in the previous section will last for a few hours. However, in some circumstances, they may persist for a day or longer. A longer cocaine comedown is more likely to occur after a person has been on an extended cocaine binge.
Though it can be extremely dangerous, it’s not unheard of for a person to stay awake for several days while repeatedly using cocaine. When someone in this situation finally stops using the drug, the crash can be especially severe.
Cocaine Comedown vs. Cocaine Withdrawal
A cocaine comedown is a form of withdrawal. In both cases (comedown and withdrawal), a person’s body develops distressing symptoms in response to the absence of the drug.
One key difference, though, is that a person doesn’t have to be addicted to cocaine to have a comedown – just like someone doesn’t have to be an alcoholic to suffer from a hangover.
Withdrawal typically refers to the physical and psychological pain that a person experiences when they try to stop using a drug that they have become dependent on. In the case of cocaine, withdrawal can involve many of the same types of symptoms that a person experiences when they’re in the midst of a cocaine comedown.
However, withdrawal symptoms can be more intense and last longer:
- The acute phase of cocaine withdrawal – the period of time when a person’s symptoms are the most severe – usually lasts three or four days.
- Symptoms can begin within a few hours, then become increasingly stronger over the next 72-96 hours.
- For the next four to seven days, these symptoms should begin to subside.
- By about two weeks after a person ended their cocaine use, the majority of their symptoms should have eased, though they may continue to struggle with cravings and certain other effects for weeks or months.
When a person who has become addicted to cocaine tries to end their drug use on their own, the pain of withdrawal can quickly push them back into active substance abuse. This is why many people begin their cocaine addiction treatment by spending time in a detoxification, or detox, program.
During detox, trained professionals can offer both medical and therapeutic support to help people complete the withdrawal process safely and with as little discomfort as possible. Once a person has successfully completed detox, they can transfer to the next phase of treatment, where they can begin to develop the skills that will support their long-term recovery efforts.
Find Cocaine Addiction Treatment in Nashville
If cocaine comedowns or withdrawal symptoms have kept you trapped in active addiction, Nashville Treatment Solutions is here to help.
Treatment options at our center in Nashville, Tennessee, include detox, a partial hospitalization program (PHP), and intensive outpatient program (IOP) with day and evening sessions, and a traditional outpatient program. We also offer sober living residences if you need supportive housing while you’re receiving care.
In every program, you will work with dedicated professionals who will take the time to get to know you as a unique individual, so that we can be sure we’re providing the focused services that are most beneficial for you. Working together, you can make consistent progress toward a healthier and more hopeful future.
When you’re ready to get started, the Nashville Treatment Solutions team is here for you. To learn more or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Admissions page or call us today.