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  • Cocaine Detox: The Critical Initial Step to Recovery

    According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about 6 percent of all individuals who are admitted to substance abuse treatment programs are habitual cocaine users.

    Cocaine Detox

    Cocaine affects neural cells in many ways and fundamentally alters brain chemistry and functionality. These effects last for months and sometimes, years. Unfortunately, besides triggering a host of adverse neurological, psychiatric, and emotional effects, these changes also intensify cocaine-seeking behavior. This makes a chronic cocaine user go on taking the drug despite being aware of its physiological, psychological, and socio-economic consequences or an addict being unable to quit even if he or she intends to do so.

    What is Cocaine Detox

    Cocaine detox is a critical stage of the addiction treatment program that helps the user purge the residues of the drug from his body. The detox program closely follows or is carried out simultaneously during the period of abstinence or withdrawal.

    How long does a cocaine detox program last for?

    The length of a cocaine detox program depends on the following factors:

    • Duration of drug use
    • Frequency of drug use
    • Dosage of drug use
    • Presence of co-occurring mental conditions
    • Presence of physical disorders
    • Other substance abuse

    During cocaine detox, drugs are usually administered to manage the unpleasant and potentially fatal symptoms of cocaine withdrawal or the crash and also to prevent relapse. Relapse is common during the abstinence period because users crave the high that taking cocaine brings on. They also want to escape the physical pain and mental anguish of the withdrawal symptoms and resorting to cocaine, once more, seems to be the only solution. Cocaine detoxification ensures stable, pain-free, and safe abstinence.

    Here’s what happens during a cocaine detox program:

    • It follows or is carried out during the period of withdrawal.
    • Drugs may be administered to manage the symptoms of cocaine withdrawal that can trigger a relapse.
    • Drugs may be administered to reduce the reinforcing effects of cocaine and lessen cravings.

    What is the Typical Duration of Cocaine Detox?

    The duration of cocaine detox depends on the following factors:

    • Duration of Abuse: The lengthier the period of use, the more is the amount of cocaine present in the body of the person.
    • Frequency of Use: Frequent use means that the person has taken in larger amounts of cocaine in his body than the recreational user.
    • Intensity of Dosage: Binging introduces more cocaine in the body.
    • Presence of Co-Occurring Mental Disorders: Mental disorders like depression, borderline personality disorder, bipolar syndrome, or post-traumatic stress disorder necessitate simultaneous detox and psychotherapy.
    • Presence of Physical Disorders: Heart disease and hepatitis make it challenging for detox specialists to administer some drugs.
    • Abuse of Other Substances: This complicates the management of the withdrawal symptoms.

    Are there medications to treat cocaine dependence?

    No, there are no FDA-approved medications to treat cocaine dependence. Although there are medications used in drug therapies, they are mainly prescribed to manage withdrawal symptoms, to produce unpleasant effects when cocaine is taken, or to reduce the intensity of cocaine-induced high.

    Drug Therapy During Cocaine Detox

    Currently, there are no FDA-approved medications to treat cocaine dependence.

    The objectives of prevalent drug therapies are to ensure stable and safe abstinence and prevent relapse. The drugs that are commonly prescribed work in one or more of the following ways:

    • By managing withdrawal symptoms: Propranolol is used to treat high blood pressure. In cocaine users, it reduces anxiety and feelings of restlessness that can otherwise intensify cocaine-seeking behavior.
    • By reducing the intensity of cocaine-induced high: Drugs like baclofen, tiagabine, modafinil, and topiramate and beta-blockers like carvedilol reduce the high that cocaine users experience when they take the drug after a period of withdrawal.
    • By producing unpleasant effects when cocaine is taken: Disulfiram, a popular drug to treat alcoholism, produces unpleasant symptoms like anxiety after taking cocaine. The goal is to put users off the drug.

    It is heartening to note that research is underway to develop a vaccine that produces cocaine-specific antibodies. TA-CD produces antibodies that prevent cocaine from reaching the brain of the user. This reduces the intensity of the euphoria.

    Clinical trials of TA-CD have shown positive results and provide hope to countless many who want to recover themselves or see their loved ones become drug-free and rebuild their lives.

    Can I detox from cocaine at home?

    Yes, you can detox from cocaine at home, but the result will be more successful if done in an inpatient facility and supervised by medical professionals. Home detox and outpatient detox are ideal for those who have important responsibilities at home or at work.

    Cocaine Detox in a Rehab Versus DIY Detox at Home

    Cocaine detox can be carried out at an inpatient rehab clinic, outpatient facility, or at home. An inpatient facility may be a hospital or a residential clinic outside of a hospital setting.

    Cocaine detox is not a one-size-fits-all treatment. The treatment approach depends on the severity of the withdrawal symptoms, the frequency and intensity of drug abuse, and the presence of other physical and/or mental health issues. Done “correctly,” addiction treatment can be successful.

    It is always preferable to undergo a cocaine detox therapy under medical supervision instead of doing it at home. Here’s why:

    • Customization: Only a specialist can create a customized detox program that ensures the prescribed drugs do not aggravate the health issues a person may already have or flare up the withdrawal symptoms of the other substances the person may abuse.
    • Simultaneous Treatment for Dual Diagnosis: Only a medical facility with detox specialists, psychiatrists, counselors, and therapists can coordinate amongst themselves and provide simultaneous treatment for substance abuse and co-occurring mental disorders.
    • 24×7 Supervision of Withdrawal Symptoms and Drug Side Effects: Besides withdrawal symptoms, detox specialists also manage the adverse side effects that drugs may trigger. For instance, anticonvulsant medicines may cause liver failure, blood abnormalities, life-threatening skin diseases, and suicidal thoughts. Gabapentin can cause nausea, dizziness, and drowsiness. Disulfiram can cause diarrhea, acne, rashes, and liver damage.
    • Distancing from Addiction Triggers: Going through the cocaine detox program at an inpatient facility provides a unique advantage. It removes the person from the addiction triggers that may be present in his home or at the workplace and lets him focus on the healing process.

    A cocaine user who chooses to go through a detox program at an outpatient facility can return home at the end of the day after being under the supervision of healthcare professionals. This is ideal for people who have familial obligations like caregiving duties to fulfill.

    How Long Does Cocaine Stay in the Body Without Detox?

    About 1 to 9 percent of cocaine is excreted unchanged in the urine, stool, and saliva of the user. The rest of the drug is broken down in the liver within 2-4 hours of taking it. Some cocaine metabolites like benzoylecgonine may remain in the body for up to 144 hours.  So drug tests examine biological samples for cocaine metabolites.

    How long cocaine or cocaine metabolites remain in the body without detox depends on the route of administration, frequency of use, purity, and concentration of cocaine.

    • Frequency and Dosage: If someone took a large dose of cocaine or is a frequent user, his body might take 5 to 10 days to eliminate benzoylecgonine.
    • Concentration: Crack contains more percentage of cocaine than the powder form of the drug.
    • Route of Administration: Cocaine is excreted from the body more rapidly when it is injected, sniffed, or smoked than when it is taken orally.
    • Metabolism of the User: Young healthy people have higher rates of metabolism—the cocaine is broken down and eliminated faster—than the elderly or people who may suffer from liver diseases.

    Cocaine Detox Before Drug Test


    Cocaine can be detected in urine, saliva, blood, sweat, and hair samples even after a person stops using it.

    According to the laws laid down by the United States Department of Labor, companies can screen current and potential employees for the presence of cocaine in their bodies. If tests return positive results, employees may be fired and job applicants are almost always rejected.

    When the stakes are so high, many cocaine users feel compelled to find out ways to circumvent the drug testing process. The first step of detoxification before a drug test is to stop taking cocaine altogether.

    A report published by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), Drug Tests: Products to Defraud Drug Use Screening Tests Are Widely Available, mentions that brick-and-mortar and online shops sell mainly four types of substances designed to mask the presence of cocaine and its metabolites in urine samples and produce negative test results:

    • Dilution Substances: They have to be ingested before the urine sample is collected or added to the sample after it is collected. Drinking lots of fluids, preferably water, can flush out cocaine metabolites from the body quickly. However, the effect is temporary.
    • Detoxifying Substances: They have to be ingested just before the sample is collected.
    • Adulterants: They have to be added to the urine sample to destroy traces of drugs. Zinc added to a urine sample can mask the presence of cocaine and cocaine metabolites. Zinc can be added to the urine sample or the individual can take zinc supplements just before the sample is collected.
    • Synthetic, Cocaine-Free Urine: This is provided for testing instead of the individual’s urine sample.

    The internet is teeming with many other methods of cocaine detox before a drug test. For instance, there are many herbal products that claim to detox cocaine. However, not all have been scientifically proven to yield results.

    The Benefits of a Cocaine Detox Program

    Detox is critical to the success of a cocaine abuse treatment program because:

    • It is the start of the sobriety period for the user.
    • It is a period where the person’s body and mind start to heal in preparation for the subsequent stages of the treatment.
    • When the effects of cocaine begin to wear off, the individual is able to think logically and process his emotions better. This helps him understand the roots of some of his psychiatric problems and deal with them better.
    • When the individual is able to think clearly and his mood is improved, he is more responsive to the treatment program and participates willingly. This improves his chances of recovery.

    The ideal cocaine detox program is customized to meet the unique physiological, emotional, and psychiatric needs of the user. Detoxification is also the start of the road to recovery and the best chance a cocaine user gets to reclaim his life.