If you are like me and had an intense love-hate relationship with cocaine, you understand the highly addictive qualities that it holds over the user. Once the high fades, or for me, before I even took a hit, I already wanted more. After six long years of ingesting cocaine in many different forms, I had finally reached my tipping point. I was about to stop my cocaine addiction which I had never tried to do before. While I knew of the irritability that came along with stopping for a few minutes or a few hours, I hadn’t realized just how serious my addiction was until it was time to put an end to it entirely.
When I first sought treatment, I was coming off a two-week, no food, no sleep, crack bender and was about to be turned away from detox because cocaine withdrawal doesn’t result in death. Luckily, the hospital deemed it necessary to admit me on the grounds that I was a potential danger to myself or others. I had a three-inch gash on my forehead from being pistol-whipped and I was saying that I deserved it because I had been irresponsible with someone else’s money. In other words, I was involuntarily committed (Baker Act), and thank God for that. Otherwise, I might have never been gotten the chance to start my journey of recovery.
What Does Withdrawing From Cocaine Look Like?
Since the withdrawal effects from cocaine and crack don’t present life-threatening physical reactions, it is often not deemed medically necessary to detox a user in a hospital setting. However, the psychological withdrawal does present users with a difficult recovery period after the final use.
For starters, most crack users will find that one of the side effects of prolonged usage is a frequent sense of anxiety and paranoia. Once the usage ends, those feelings don’t suddenly disappear. For example, my brain had been running on a small loop for the past several years, and all of a sudden, when I stopped using, the only track it knew had been broken. Even in detox, I found myself scanning the floor for rocks I may have dropped, despite the fact that I was in a sanitized hospital. I dug through my purse the entire first day, trying to find old pennies or razor blades that I had used to cook with and scrape them clean, even though I knew I had no way to smoke or shoot them even if I DID find anything. The anxiety I felt at every failed attempt was so intense that I considered ending my life with each passing moment. Luckily, I was in a good hospital with very attendant staff.
Smoking and shooting crack cocaine results in the almost immediate intense cravings for more. When the user stops, these cravings are immediately intensified, especially for the next few days. Users are often plagued with violent paranoia and many report seeing “shadow people” or dark shadowy figures that are not actually there.
The massive influx of dopamine that cocaine boosts in the brain causes severe depression once usage stops, so users often experience mood swings and bouts of irritability.
Many frequent users have a difficult time getting back onto a regular eating schedule. While some tend to overeat, others struggle to regain an appetite at all. Former cocaine users also can experience sleep issues; some cannot sleep on a regular cycle, while others find they are constantly fatigued. Some users report having vivid and upsetting dreams when they DO sleep.
While medically, it’s not life threatening to detox from cocaine, it can be very intense for the user mentally. It can be a struggle to feel happiness at first as the brain finds a normal balance in dopamine levels. A psychiatrist or therapist will often help past users assess their addiction and combat returning to sober life.
Some Helpful Tips to Prevent Relapse:
If you or a loved one is currently in early recovery from crack and cocaine, it is very helpful to avoid the people, places, and situations where your drug use was most encouraged. Many cocaine users would drink in combination, so avoiding bars or other situations where drinking is prevalent will also aid in a smoother recovery. The recent and recurring rise in mixing heroin with cocaine has become a nationwide issue as well. This is extremely dangerous and has resulted in hundreds of overdoses and cases of heart failure.
If you are looking to truly get sober and stay sober, working a 12-step program in the fellowship of your choice will always be a 100% guarantee of maintaining long-term sobriety. The fellowships range from Cocaine Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and if you’re like me, Alcoholics Anonymous and any addict or alcoholic is welcome at all of the fellowships
Getting Help At Wayside House
If you are a woman struggling with addiction, Wayside House can help. We offer a women-only program and provide a safe, supportive environment to recover in. We have outstanding treatments and therapies that are often only found in more expensive programs. We offer inpatient rehab with relapse prevention education, outpatient, and aftercare. Contact Wayside House at 800-655-0817 to learn more.