cocaine abuse facts

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In the United States, cocaine gained popularity in the 1970s thereafter followed by the “crack” cocaine wave of popularity in the 1980s (Reinarman & Levine, 1997). According to the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) showed the following:

  • 4% of the American population started cocaine use in the past year
  • The number of cocaine deaths from overdose has steadily increased since 2012
  • There has been a 61% increase in cocaine users since 2013

Cocaine acts as a stimulant, also known as an “upper.” It stimulates a user and causes euphoria or a “high.” It does so by increasing the relative amount of circulating brain neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin (Ciccarone, 2011). Dopamine, in particular, is associated with euphoria and acts on the reward center of the brain. These pleasurable effects are short-lived and soon disappear before the concentration of the drug in the blood drops. Cravings set in relatively quickly in order to avoid a “low” or withdrawal.

Long-term use of cocaine has dire consequences. In an unlucky individual, even one “hit” could cause complications. Examples include (Ciccarone, 2011):

  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Myocardial infarction or heart attack
  • Arrhythmias or abnormal heart rhythm
  • Hypertension or elevated blood pressure
  • Renal/kidney failure
  • Perforated nasal septum
  • Acute shortness of breath and pulmonary oedema

symptoms of cocaine withdrawal

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Cocaine withdrawal involves a strong rebound of psychological symptoms referred to as a “crash.” This withdrawal is better explained in terms of its timeline (see below), but some of the symptoms experienced during withdrawal include the following (Ciccarone, 2011):

  • Agitation and restless behavior
  • Insomnia
  • Cravings
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Increased hunger
  • Nightmares

cocaine withdrawal timeline

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The withdrawal syndrome is usually dictated by the following phases (Gawin & Kleber, 1988):

  1. Crash phase

This is the phase where the user is agitated and depressed. Patients experience severe cravings, insomnia and exhaustion. Thereafter, a patient may be hypersomnolent (sleep for extended periods of time).

  1. Honeymoon phase

The user feels better for a short period of time.

  1. The wall phase

This is the period wherein the cocaine-user experiences protracted, unpleasant withdrawal. This stage usually lasts for months. Symptoms include depression, anxiety, low energy levels, insomnia and prominent cravings. There is a high chance of relapse during this phase because of the prolonged symptoms.

  1. Extinction phase

Eventually, normal behavior resumes with cravings still being brought on by certain triggers.

The withdrawal timeline varies depending on length of cocaine use, drug purity, dose, patient environment as well as co-existing mental disorders (Gawin & Kleber, 1988).

symptoms of cocaine detox

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Cocaine does not cause severe symptoms requiring medical detoxification. However, it involves a prolonged withdrawal period resulting in a high relapse rate. Because of this, long-term rehabilitation is advised. Professionals should always be involved.

If you or someone you love wants to start the brave journey of detoxing from cocaine, give us a call today and we will suggest a customized recovery plan for you.



Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2016). Risk and protective factors and estimates of substance use initiation: Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Retrieved February 24, 2019, from

Ciccarone D. (2011). Stimulant abuse: pharmacology, cocaine, methamphetamine, treatment, attempts at pharmacotherapy. Primary care38(1), 41-58.

Gawin, F. H., & Kleber, H. D. (1988). Evolving conceptualizations of cocaine dependence. The Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine61(2), 123-36.

Reinarman, C., & Levine, H.G. (1997). Crack in America: demon drugs and social justice. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Medically Reviewed: September 25, 2019

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Your Guide to Cocaine Detoxification.

Written By Jeff Mahre BA MFA MLIS - January 12th, 2017

Cocaine is a short-lasting drug. It is sold in a powder form and is snorted or injected intravenously. Alternatively, it is smoked when processed and sold as “crack” cocaine (Ciccarone, 2011). Regardless of the way it is taken, this drug is highly addictive. Contact someone who can help you today.