Author: John Carter

Cocaine withdrawal: timeline, symptoms and treatment

how long after stopping cocaine use is the brain affected

That can cause the neurons in your brain to work more slowly or begin to die off. There are several different methods to test if cocaine is present in a person’s system. Several different factors influence the amount of time that cocaine remains in an individual’s system.

It is tempting to speculate that these animals with higher basal rates of glucose metabolism in the prefrontal cortex may be most likely to exhibit greater behavioral recovery, based on findings described earlier in human cocaine abusers. Those able to remain abstinent for long periods of time (10 months or greater) appeared to have greater cortical functional activity, again suggesting that this may be an important indicator of successful abstinence. This translational line of research however, is clearly preliminary and needs further investigation. On the surface, much of what we now know about the process of recovery from human cocaine abusers and animal models may seem to be worlds apart.

The study, however, did not account for these individual differences, looking only at brain structure, cognitive performance, and cocaine remission. Although we cannot say with certainty that reducing/stopping cocaine use entirely accounts for the observed changes, this study does suggest that individuals recovering from substance use disorders can show neural and cognitive improvement. This study further demonstrated that neural recovery can occur even without complete abstinence, suggesting that positive recovery outcomes are also possible for individuals who struggle to maintain continuous sobriety, but who substantially reduce drug exposure. The first group was made up of 19 individuals (68% male; ~43 years old) diagnosed with cocaine use disorder (i.e. dependence; using the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, or DSM, 4th edition). All had recently attended or were currently attending one of three addiction treatment facilities and had at least 3 weeks of abstinence from all drugs.

Individuals experiencing depression are at risk of self-injury and suicide. The cravings and other unpleasant symptoms a patient experiences during withdrawal may prompt them to relapse, and this puts them at risk of overdosing. However, several later studies indicated that there are not distinct phases, but instead a gradual decrease in withdrawal symptoms.

What Happens to the Brain During Recovery from Cocaine Use Disorder?

Both groups completed brain scans upon entering the study (i.e. baseline) and at a 6-month follow-up to assess gray matter volume changes over a 6-month period. Brain scans were performed with Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), which produces detailed images of the brain that allow for the measurement of various structural attributes (e.g., size, shape, integrity) in specific brain regions. Participants also provided information regarding their substance use and mental health histories, and completed toxicology screens to assess recent drug use at baseline and follow-up. But are such neuroadaptations permanent even with the cessation of cocaine exposure?

  1. Sometimes, the long-term side effects of cocaine use are a sign of brain damage.
  2. If you are going through cocaine withdrawal symptoms, or know someone who is, never hesitate to reach out for support.
  3. Moreover, elevated BDNF expression occurred in parallel with an enhanced response to cocaine cues (the „incubation of craving’ phenomenon).
  4. For some individuals, certain symptoms, especially cravings or mood disturbances, can persist for a significant amount of time.
  5. Cocaine withdrawal can cause intensive depressive symptoms, along with negative thoughts and suicidal ideation.
  6. Systematic manipulation of these and other variables can ensure that the results are attributable to the variables in question and provide a framework for mechanistic studies.

Cocaine has numerous short- and long-term effects and serious health implications. The following sections will break down the effects and risks of short-term and chronic cocaine use. Sometimes, people experience symptoms for longer than the initial 1- to 2-week period. This is called chronic withdrawal, long-term withdrawal, postacute withdrawal, or subacute withdrawal, and it can last for up to 2 months.

A doctor can recommend treatment to help a person stop taking cocaine, including behavioral therapy and motivational incentives. For the person purchasing the drugs, the stimulatory effects of cocaine may be prolonged by a longer half-life of another substance taken at the same time. With cocaine being the second-most illegally trafficked drug across the globe, it’s important to understand how cocaine affects those who use it, including the possible dangers and effects cocaine has on the brain in both the long and short term. Led by a world class team of consultant psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists and other medical professionals, Priory offers world-class treatment for cocaine addiction at a network of UK hospitals and wellbeing centres. Some people might have withdrawal symptoms for a shorter amount of time, while others might feel them more intensely and for longer.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Although it is difficult to rectify the results of these two studies, they both suggest that altered glutamate function is not restricted to the nucleus accumbens in human addicts. Investigating glutamate and GABA concentrations in human cocaine users however, is still in its infancy. Future research in this area holds tremendous potential for translating many of the basic science results of altered glutamate and GABA activity to new, potentially patient-tailored treatment options for human cocaine users. One of the most robust findings from imaging studies of cocaine dependent individuals, and certainly among the most studied in cocaine abusers as well as in animal models, is the dysregulation of the dopamine system. These differences in the dopamine system are accompanied by decreases in stimulated dopamine release, again as measured with PET (see (Volkow et al., 1997) and (Martinez et al., 2007)).

how long after stopping cocaine use is the brain affected

Though it is rare, sudden death can occur either when cocaine is used or shortly afterward. Cocaine is commonly taken recreationally, either by snorting, smoking, or injecting it into the bloodstream. When cocaine is purchased from an unknown source, it is always possible that the drug isn’t pure cocaine—a situation that presents its own risks.

How long does cocaine withdrawal usually last?

Several studies have now documented specific disruptions of baseline frontal-striatal circuitry in cocaine users (Gu et al., 2010; Hanlon et al., 2011b; Ma et al., 2010). Repeated cocaine use disrupts the way your brain cells communicate, causing neurons to die off. It can also damage other vital organs, including your cardiovascular system. The typical brain loses 1.69 milliliters of gray matter each year as part of the aging process. People who regularly use cocaine lose more than twice that in a year, according to a 2012 study.

Reach out to one of our knowledgeable representatives today to learn how you can start on your path to recovery. However, people with a cocaine use disorder can lose a significantly greater amount of gray matter, and at a more rapid pace, than someone with no history of a substance use disorder. Cocaine is a potent stimulant drug that’s typically snorted as a white powder. Its potency means that cocaine withdrawal can be unpleasant and sometimes dangerous. Withdrawal can lead to intense cravings and various physical and psychological symptoms that need to be carefully managed in a medical setting.

The effects of cocaine become apparent quickly once someone takes it, but these effects are short-lived. They typically end within a few minutes to an hour after the drug is taken. Aftercare programmes, or secondary care, continue to support people after their initial treatment, keeping in place that valuable support network of peers and clinicians that can help reinforce abstinence in the long-term. This phase usually causes  feelings of depression, agitation and intense cravings. The impact of cocaine on your brain cells becomes even more significant as you age. It can also starve your brain of the blood it needs, which kills brain cells.

Addressing Legal Problems in Addiction Treatment

A 2016 study in the brains of mice gave more insight into this phenomenon. When the brain’s “cleanup processes” are sped up or disrupted from cocaine, brain cells are essentially thrown out. When you’re using cocaine, dopamine floods your brain cells, but then it doesn’t have anywhere else to go.

How early cocaine effects are felt and how long the effects of cocaine last can depend on the route of administration. In some cases, a live-in treatment program can help monitor safety and provide the tools needed to overcome addiction. There’s no one standard medication prescribed to help detox from cocaine, but medications can help treat symptoms such as depression or fatigue. This happens when babies are exposed to cocaine and other addictive substances while they’re in the womb.

The Dangers of Mixing Cocaine with Other Drugs

Through the integration of these components we will be much more likely to generate individually-tailored therapies, both pharmacologic and behavioral, for those that find themselves on this continuum of addiction, from vulnerable adolescents to treatment-seeking individuals that recurrently relapse. In human cocaine abusers, the reductions in D2 receptor concentrations persist into abstinence (Volkow et al., 1993). It is difficult to draw conclusions about the duration of this effect, however, since all of the participants had relapsed by the end of a few months. Furthermore, it is possible that lower D2 receptor concentrations may have predated drug use. In animal models where greater control over environmental and pharmacological variables can be exercised, Nader and colleagues have reported that D2 receptor availability following limited (less than a month) cocaine exposure in nonhuman primates, recovered to control levels after only 1–3 weeks. However, this was not the case when longer periods (12 months) of exposure to cocaine self-administration were investigated.