What to Know About Cocaine Withdrawal and Detox for Women

Cocaine abuse is a common problem among women of all ages and backgrounds. While the withdrawal symptoms of cocaine are usually not as severe as other drugs, such as opiates, they still require a detox program once the quitting process is begun.

Attempting to quit a cocaine addiction on your own, commonly known as going “cold turkey,” is likely to end in failure or relapse. The professional assistance and support found in a good detox program is vital to achieving and maintaining freedom from addiction to cocaine.

Colorado is no stranger to the dangers of cocaine addiction and has seen its share of the rise in drug abuse seen around the country over recent years. In fact, drug overdoses were responsible for more deaths than car accidents last year statewide. In 2018 alone, nearly 1,000 people died from drug poisoning. While many of these deaths are attributed to opiate addiction, cocaine deaths were still much higher than they were merely two years before.

Women have always been especially vulnerable to cocaine addiction. This is not a new problem, experts identified this increased risk as far back as the 1980s. Women have a tendency to begin abusing cocaine at an early age than men. They also are prone to taking larger amounts and spending much more on it than their male counterparts.

If you are a woman, and are tired of suffering from the ravages of cocaine addiction, there has never been a better time to seek out treatment. While skyrocketing cocaine abuse among women is definitely a problem, it has also given rise to many more treatment options than ever before. Because the process of getting clean can be frightening, it is usually helpful to know what to expect before you begin it. We understand this truth, and have created a guide to help you get a handle on what you are likely to face when you detox from cocaine. No matter what type of information you are looking for, our guide is likely to have what you are seeking.

cocaine use

Why Are Women More Likely to Abuse Cocaine?

Understanding why cocaine abuse is more likely for females, in general, is an important way to understand your own addiction. The primary reason for this is the way a woman’s body works compared to a man. The brain is the primary organ affected by cocaine, and this is where the main difference lies.

Effects of Cocaine on a Woman’s Brain

There are several different areas of the brain that are affected during cocaine use, in both men and women. The difference comes from how these effects manifest, and their intensity. The primary regions of the brain that are affected include:

  • Frontal Cortex: An increase in activity causes an enhancement to the emotional responses to taking the drug.
  • Amygdala: This area sees a decrease in activity, which reduces in the connection felt between taking the drugs and the consequences.
  • Right Nucleus Accumbens: This area increases in activity, which heightens the sensation of the drug, and its resulting cravings.
  • Anterior Cingulate Cortex: Both the dorsal and ventral areas of this part of the brain increase in activity when cocaine is taken. This results in an additional increase in sensation and cravings, as well as a decrease in the amount of control over what a woman will do to obtain the drug.


Estrogen plays a large part in why the effects are different in these key areas than those experienced by men. Estrogen greatly enhances the pathway used to reward the brain with dopamine, so they feel the effects even more intensely than men do. This is even more evident during high-estrogen times, such as a woman’s menstrual cycle.

Women also have more mucus in their nasal passages than men do, another effect of estrogen and the menstrual cycle. This extra thickness makes it more difficult for the cocaine to be absorbed, meaning more cocaine is needed to compensate.

How Can I Tell if my Friend or Family Member is Addicted to Cocaine?

If you have a female friend or family member that you feel is at risk for cocaine abuse, it is important to identify it as early on as possible. Quitting cocaine use is much easier and less traumatic when it is done as soon as possible since cravings and withdrawal symptoms only increase with longer and more substantial addictions.

It can be more difficult to identify an addiction to cocaine than it is with many other types of drugs. Cocaine is a stimulant, and as such, it is possible to be a functioning addict on it. A functioning addict is someone that is able to live their life with at least some degree of normalcy while they are using. While it can be difficult to spot a cocaine addict, there are a few signs that should point the way.

Rest and sleep patterns are a prime area in which the effects of cocaine abuse can be observed. If you notice a change in sleep patterns, such as staying up all night, this could be the cocaine’s stimulant effect keeping them awake. Cocaine addicts can also find it difficult to relax, and the lack of proper rest can result in irritability and restlessness.

Finances can also take a hit with a moderate to severe addiction. A cocaine habit is expensive, and the short-lived nature of its effects means more and more needs to be bought to stay high. This is even more noticeable once the addiction matures since the body builds up a tolerance, and more is needed to feel the same effects.

Sexual dysfunction or promiscuity are also common and noticeable effects that can stem from cocaine use. Many women experience an increase in libido when using cocaine because its effects stimulate the body in so many ways. The drug can also reduce their ability to determine safe and healthy sexual activity, which can lead to an observable increase in sexual partners.

cocaine withdrawal

What Are the Withdrawal Symptoms from Cocaine for Women?

While the withdrawal symptoms from cocaine are usually less intense than those found with other drugs, it is still no picnic to experience them. Unlike substances like opioids or benzodiazepines, these symptoms are mostly mental and emotional in nature, rather than predominantly physical. The horrible vomiting and tremors found with quitting these other drugs are not found when cocaine is stopped.

Withdrawal symptoms usually start almost immediately after coming down from the high. These are felt intensely from the very beginning like your body is crashing from the absence of the drug. If the cessation follows a binge or taking a larger quantity than normal for a period of time, these feelings are even more intense.

Common withdrawal symptoms experienced from cocaine include:

  • Severe irritation
  • Depression
  • Restlessness and agitation
  • Fatigue
  • Slowed or difficulty thinking
  • Absence of sexual arousal
  • Extremely vivid dreams
  • Thoughts of self-harm and suicide
  • Increase in appetite
  • Severe cravings
  • Nerve pain
  • Chills

Factors That Can Affect Symptom Intensity

While all people quitting cocaine will experience similar symptoms, their intensity can vary greatly from person to person. There are certain factors that can play a big part in how badly the symptoms are felt, and how long they stay with you.

Length and Amount

While most drug withdrawal is usually affected by how much of the drug is taken, and how long the addiction has been going on, it is even more of a factor with cocaine. For those who have only dabbled here and there, or have a mild addiction, it may only take days for them to start feeling back to normal again. However, the longer the drug is used, and the more that is taken causes a buildup of cocaine in the body. This means it will take longer for it to flush out, and cause withdrawal symptoms to linger for weeks.

Multiple Dependencies

For a person addicted to more than one substance at a time, known as polysubstance dependence, the withdrawal symptoms of each can feel greatly magnified. The symptoms of one can exacerbate the other, and make it feel like one big ball of discomfort. It can also lengthen how long it takes for recovery to be achieved.

Co-Occurring Disorder

Because there are so many mental and emotional withdrawal symptoms when stopping cocaine, the co-occurring disorder can play an even larger part in how severe they are than other drugs. A co-occurring disorder is when the addict also has a mental illness on top of their addiction to alcohol or a drug like cocaine. This can include things like clinical depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, and ADHD.

What is the Timeline for Cocaine Withdrawal Like?

As with most drugs, there is a predictable timeline that most people experience when it comes to detoxing from cocaine. While each person experiences withdrawal differently, there is usually a pretty definable set of stages that everyone goes through.

Stage One

This is the period following right after cocaine usage is stopped, and is usually known as a cocaine crash. No matter how much of the drug has been taken, be it one line or a substantial binge, the crash always follows. As with most drugs, this is the most intense period when withdrawal symptoms are experienced. The most intense feelings usually last anywhere from an hour, on up to two days. However, it will not be until about a week that this stage can be considered conquered.

Stage Two

Following the crash stage, there is usually a period of calm before subsequent effects are felt. During the crash stage, it can be virtually impossible to sleep, something that should go back to normal once the first week is done. This feeling of normality usually lasts between one and five days.

However, once this period of relief is over, other withdrawal symptoms will start to appear. Regardless of sleep, it is common to feel a sense of lethargy or tiredness throughout the day and night. Cravings usually begin at this point and are set off by different things. This can include happy memories of the times on the drug, as well as specific people or triggers. Stage two usually lasts for about three weeks.

Stage Three

Once the initial two stages have been survived without relapse, the cravings should start to slowly decrease in intensity off over time. The cravings themselves will still be noticeable for many months; however, they are usually not as strong as what was previously experienced. It is still vital to stay aware and vigilant, even with this decrease, since triggers can cause a spike in their intensity. This happens without warning and can cause the unwary to slip back to using.


Detoxing From Cocaine

Before the necessary step of cocaine rehab is taken, you must first detox off the drug. This is the first stage when the body is flushing out the drug, and withdrawal symptoms are felt most intensely. It is extremely important to the success of quitting cocaine use that a professional detox program is used during this time.

One reason for doing detox under the supervision of a certified professional is so important is that the impact of withdrawal can be just too much to bear on your own. Withdrawal feels horrible, and this is usually the time where it is most difficult to fend off the inevitable cravings and urges. If the attempt is made to quit cold turkey, you have to battle these demons on your own. In a professional detox program, there will always be someone available to help you through the worst of times.

Another reason is that detox removes you from contact with people and situations that can trigger the addiction. Detox is a controlled environment, and you are unable to just come and go as you please. Most detox programs keep a close eye on who visits and make sure you are not able to have someone sneak you some cocaine when the going gets difficult.

While the specifics of each cocaine detox program are different, most of them are similar in overall makeup. Once you reach the detox facility, a complete and thorough evaluation is administered by a health professional. This is meant to get a clear picture of your addiction in specific and identify which treatments will be the most effective. This evaluation is both physical and mental in nature since both sides must be addressed properly for the greatest chance of success.

This evaluation process does not end with that initial examination. As the detox program progresses, constant and continued supplemental evaluations are performed, to ensure the progress being made is the most effective. If problem areas are identified, therapy and treatment are adjusted to compensate.

Cocaine detox programs come in two forms: inpatient or outpatient. As their names would indicate, inpatient, means you live at the detox center, while outpatient involves you living at your own residence or a halfway house. Not all addictions require the same type of program, so understanding your own needs thoroughly is essential in picking the right one.

For most people with a moderate to severe cocaine addiction, inpatient detox is usually the best way to go. In inpatient detox, patients are monitored and controlled around the clock, and the opportunities and motivations for using again are much lower. Inpatient detox also means that someone will always be available if the going gets too tough for you to cope on your own.

More mild addictions may be able to take advantage of an outpatient detox program. Because the cravings are usually much milder than with a more serious addiction, they may not be strong enough to require attention round the clock. Outpatient settings are also suitable for those who have strong support systems in place where they reside. While friends and family are unable to completely take the place of professional assistance, they can supplement it during those times in between outpatient sessions.

One of the easiest ways to deal with the withdrawal symptoms of virtually any type of drug addiction is to go through medical detox. Medical detox is where different medications are administered either to help the body adjust to life without the drug or manage side effects once they manifest. Some addictions, such as those to opioids and benzodiazepines, have specific drugs that are used during the detox process, and medical detox is virtually a necessity.

There are currently no specific FDA-approved drugs solely used in cocaine detox. However, there have been recent studies that have shown that certain medications may go a long way in mitigating the intensity when withdrawing from cocaine. Naltrexone and Buprenorphine are medications that are used in treating withdrawal from other drugs, and preliminary findings suggest they may also do the same for cocaine addicts.

Because the mental side of the withdrawal is so pronounced, propranolol has also shown promise during medical detox for cocaine. This is a beta blocker that is commonly prescribed for anxiety and other psychological problems. Other drugs used to treat anxiety, depression and other mental disorders can also help with these side effects, and make sure they stay under control. Suicidal thoughts and extreme anxiety and depression are hallmarks of cocaine withdrawal, and they are some of the most important symptoms to manage.

While there are many quality detox programs for both men and women, there are also those that cater solely to a specific sex. This is called gender-specific treatment and is an effective option to consider when selecting the program you want to attend. There are certain advantages to being treated for addiction with only other women, rather than participate with men involved.

The most important advantage is the simple fact that women have different needs than men do as a whole. This is even more pronounced when it comes to addiction treatment, given that stress is high and women react differently to stress than men do. Some women have trauma at the root of their addiction, and dealing with these mental challenges is different with women than it is with men. Women-specific disorders, such as postpartum depression, can trigger the need for a substance like cocaine. Solely focusing on these sex-specific challenges can make the process much easier for women to deal with the detox process as a whole.

It is often much easier for women to open up in group therapy sessions when there are no men around. Many times, women feel especially embarrassed and vulnerable about their addictions and hesitate to share some of the things they have done to further their habit. Because other women are more likely to feel the same way they do and understand why they did what they did, having only them present can help women relax and share their experiences.

The Women’s Recovery Solution

If you or a woman you love suffers from cocaine addiction, the program offered by Women’s Recovery is an excellent choice to consider. Women’s Recovery has two convenient facilities, one located in Denver, and the other in Dillon. We offer a wide variety of treatment options for cocaine addiction, including:

  • Intensive Outpatient Treatment (IOP): Useful if you have completed an inpatient program, and need more concentrated therapy after. IOP is held several times each week, rather than just once or twice as in standard treatment.
  • Individual Therapy: Each patient is assigned a professional therapist who works closely with them throughout the treatment process.
  • Group Therapy: Having access to advice and feedback from peers is a crucial part of getting and staying sober. We provide group therapy of many different types and focuses.

If you are a woman with cocaine addiction in Colorado, we urge you to contact us right away. There is no time like the present to take your life back from a difficult addiction to cocaine.