Cocaine Comedown: The Best Methods to a Fast Recovery
Although cocaine is notorious as a potent, addictive stimulant drug manufactured from the coca plant in South America, it is technically a Schedule II drug. In the 19thcentury, cocaine was a prescription medication considered to be useful for a variety of people, but it was soon discovered to be very addictive and to cause serious, harmful effects. Currently, it is used as a local anesthetic for very limited surgical procedures, usually on areas involving the ear, nose, and throat.
Cocaine is predominantly known as a fine white powder sold illicitly on the street and probably cut with other drugs like fentanyl or PCP. The drug is commonly snorted through the nose, but it may also be smoked or injected. People who abuse cocaine often end up bingeing the drug, or taking larger and larger doses over a period of days or even weeks. This leads to serious psychological and physical problems, which frequently include overdose.
People who abuse cocaine are at risk of experiencing a comedown, or intense effects that are opposite to those the drug causes during the euphoric phase as the drug wears off. Comedowns are similar to alcohol hangovers for many people, but some symptoms may be very intense and different from alcohol hangovers. People who experience serious symptoms from abusing cocaine are at risk of bingeing the drug because they may take a lot more of it to offset the comedown symptoms.
What Is the Cocaine Comedown?
Cocaine abuse occurs because people seek stimulating effects like:
- Elevated mood
- High physical energy
- Mental alertness or feeling better able to pay attention
However, other effects of cocaine abuse include:
- Extreme irritability or intense mood swings
- Violence toward others
- Self-harming behaviors
- Shakiness or loss of physical control
- Sensitivity to sensation like light, touch, or sound
This stimulant drug hits the brain very quickly, so effects begin soon after the first dose is consumed. Because the drug is metabolized rapidly, the effects wear off in about an hour, which may trigger immediate comedown symptoms. This, in turn, may trigger a binge as the person takes too much to avoid depression or feeling sluggish.
A cocaine binge may include symptoms like:
- Panic attacks
- Lack of sleep
- Increased irritability
- Intense paranoia
- Delusions of grandeur or paranoia
- Break from reality
Why Is a Cocaine Comedown Risky?
Cocaine forces the brain to release a lot of dopamine, which leads to the intense side effects often reported. As the drug wears off, there is less dopamine active in the brain, and that can lead to the opposite of many of these effects: depression, physical slowness or sluggishness, foggy thinking, exhaustion but trouble sleeping, aches and pains, and more.
Although some of the symptoms of a cocaine comedown are like those of cocaine withdrawal, these experiences are a little different. Withdrawal occurs when the last dose of a drug metabolizes out of the body, and the brain cannot regulate its own chemistry without the presence of the substance. Signs of cocaine withdrawal are more intense than the comedown.
They may include:
- Extreme depression
- Agitation or restlessness
- Fatigue or exhaustion
- General physical discomfort
- Increased appetite and binge eating
- Unpleasant or vivid dreams, nightmares, or other sleep disturbances
- Slowing of physical and mental activity
A comedown from a large dose of cocaine may be very uncomfortable, leading to a binge. Comedown symptoms are the first to occur if a person tries to quit abusing cocaine.
Phase 1 of cocaine withdrawal essentially involves intense comedown symptoms. After that, some symptoms will become more intense, some will be less intense, and some will change.
The other phases of cocaine withdrawal include:
- Phase 2: decreased cravings, increased inability to concentrate, emotional swings or irritability, and lethargy
- Phase 3: intermittent craving associated with addiction even after the drug has long been out of the body
Most people are able to detox from cocaine in two weeks with medical supervision; however, some people who repeatedly attempt to stop abusing cocaine without medical supervision and relapse may develop post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), which can last for weeks or even months. Psychological symptoms, physical aches and pains, and drug cravings may increase or decrease in intensity over that time.
Abusing cocaine even once can lead to a binge, which can trigger addiction or an overdose, so it is important to know how to take care of oneself when the depression and flu-like symptoms hit.
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Signs of a Cocaine Comedown
To avoid a cocaine binge, it is important to understand where comedown symptoms come from and potentially find home-based remedies to manage them.
- Runny nose: Cocaine is a vasoconstrictor, meaning it shrinks the blood vessels. When snorted, the vessels in the nose in particular shrink tight. When the drug wears off, the vessels open wider than they were before, which can lead to feeling congested, or cold or flulike symptoms appearing.
- Depression: Serotonin and dopamine fill the brain when cocaine is present, and when it goes away, these important, mood-elevating neurotransmitters are depleted. The brain will not be able to return to normal chemistry if more cocaine is consumed, so it is important to wait out the depression. If it does not lift after a day or two, a doctor can help.
- Foggy or slow thinking: Lack of neurotransmitters makes thinking, remembering, and learning new things very hard.
- Physical shaking or tremors: This is also related to neurotransmitters being depleted from the brain. Physical activity may feel somewhat painful, it may take more time because of slower movements, or it may require much more motivation to get up and moving. Physical shaking is also likely.
- Increased appetite: The desire for comfort food or high-fat foods often increases. Stimulants reduce appetite, so people high on cocaine may not eat for hours at a time until the drug wears off or the binge stops. Once appetite returns, it may return in force.
Long-Term Harm from Cocaine Binges: Addiction and Physical Harm
If a person who abuses cocaine goes on a binge, they may permanently alter their brain chemistry. Psychotic symptoms may stay with them, or they may experience chronic depression when they eventually detox from the drug. Cocaine also reduces blood flow by constricting blood vessels all over the body, which can lead to stomach and intestinal problems, and eventually cause ulcers or gastrointestinal bleeding. Malnutrition from failing to eat healthy meals is also a risk. Cardiovascular damage is extremely likely. Blood clots, weakened heart muscle, and chronic high blood pressure can all occur because of a cocaine binge.
Quitting cocaine is not easy, so it is important to find medical supervision for safe detox and then enter a rehabilitation program that provides evidence-based therapy to change behaviors around drugs or alcohol.
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