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What to Do During a Cocaine Hangover (Ease the Symptoms)

A hangover from any substance is characterized by a series of unpleasant mental and physical symptoms that occur after using the substance, most often in excessive amounts.

Physical Symptoms of a Hangover

Physical symptoms of a hangover are typically:

  • Muscle aches, headache, and fatigue
  • Redness of the eyes, increased sensitivity to sensation (most often light and sound), and excessive thirst
  • Flu-like symptoms that include nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and sleep problems

The experience of a hangover includes the activation of the part of the peripheral nervous system (outside of the brain and spinal cord) that is responsible for speeding up bodily actions (the sympathetic nervous system).

These actions include:

  • Increased blood pressure
  • Sweating and increased body temperature
  • Dizziness, vertigo

Mental or Cognitive Symptoms

Mental or cognitive symptoms will accompany the physical symptoms listed above. Most often, these will include:

  • Mood swings
  • Irritability, anxiety, and/or depression
  • Issues with attention

Hangover symptoms will most often occur after heavy use or in people who have not used a particular substance very often. The symptoms can vary depending on the type of substance, the amount of the substance, and differences between people. Hangover symptoms are similar to the withdrawal symptoms that also occur from a specific substance.

The Difference Between a Hangover and Withdrawal

There is some overlap between the symptoms of a hangover from a particular substance and the withdrawal syndrome associated with that substance. The major difference is that a hangover occurs shortly after bingeing on a particular substance, and the symptoms are typically shorter in duration and less intense.
Withdrawal symptoms occur after chronic abuse of a substance, and the person has developed a significant tolerance to the substance (needs more of the substance to get the same effects they once got from using lower amounts).
Hangover symptoms will physically resolve relatively quickly, whereas withdrawal symptoms are more severe and occur for a longer time.

Cocaine Hangover Symptoms

Research has identified the hangover associated with cocaine use, sometimes referred to as a cocaine crash or cocaine comedown. A cocaine crash represents the unpleasant effects of recreational use of the drug.
Side effects associated with a cocaine hangover are often similar to mild flu-like symptoms. They may include:

  • A runny nose, aches, pains, headache, and mild confusion
  • Irritability, jitteriness, apathy and depressive symptoms
  • A lack of energy, mild body temperature increase, mild heart rate increase,

Symptoms can be exacerbated if cocaine was used with alcohol or some other substance.

Withdrawal symptoms are often very distressing for individuals. Many times, people will resort to potentially dangerous ways of dealing with them.

Why Is a Cocaine Comedown Risky?

Cocaine pushes the brain to release dopamine excessively, which leads to many intense side effects. As the drug starts to exit the body, there is less active dopamine in the brain. It can lead to an opposite reaction than what someone experienced while they were using cocaine. Someone will likely experience physical slowness, depression, foggy thinking, exhaustion, an inability to sleep, aches, and pains, among many other symptoms.

While some symptoms of a cocaine comedown are similar to cocaine withdrawal, the experiences are very different. Withdrawal will occur when the last dose of cocaine metabolizes out of the body, and the brain struggles to regulate its own chemistry without the substance. Abusing cocaine can lead to a binge, which can trigger an overdose.

What Not to Do

There are probably as many different types of so-called “cures” for hangovers as there are different symptoms for specific substances of abuse. The bottom line is that most of these remedies do not actually work.
Several popular “cures” are suggested, but they really have no special effects to combat a hangover. Among them are:

  • Drinking coffee or taking caffeine is one of the most common cures for a hangover. The liver still has to metabolize the caffeine, and drinking coffee does not speed up the metabolism process. However, the caffeine may increase energy levels slightly and also exacerbate nausea.
  • Taking a shower (cold or hot) does not affect your metabolism as much as it helps to get you moving. This can distract from the symptoms.
  • Taking aspirin may reduce some of the symptoms of a headache, but it will not fend off a hangover. Moreover, taking any type of medication puts an additional burden on the liver. Because many people use cocaine along with alcohol, this burden can be increased.
  • The popular “hair of the dog” cure is often associated with alcohol withdrawal, but taking more of the substance that produced the hangover is a common approach to curing hangover effects for nearly every drug of abuse. Unfortunately, this approach just leads to more rapid development of a formal substance use disorder (addiction) and the development of physical

What Does Work?

The only reliable cure for any hangover is the passage of time. The body simply needs to rid itself of the substance and normalize the effects of excessive use.
Using cocaine results in a massive release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine. When someone stops using cocaine, these neurotransmitters and other substances, like hormones, become depleted. Within several hours, the system will attempt to adjust itself.

Some Strategies

Several strategies may help to optimize a person’s recovery from a hangover by relieving the symptoms, but they will not cure a hangover.

  • Sleeping off the hangover typically just capitalizes on the passage of time as the only way to actually cure hangover effects. When you are sleeping, you don’t feel the effects of the hangover as intensely.
  • Drinking plenty of water can maximize the efficiency of your metabolism, which can help speed up the recovery process; however, the notion that hangovers are caused by dehydration has been demonstrated to be an old wives’ tale.
  • Eating high-protein foods will help to reduce the burden on your metabolism and may raise blood sugar levels, but it will not cure a hangover.
  • Mild exercise can distract you from the symptoms.
  • Other concoctions, such as fruit smoothies, herbal teas, and so forth, do not cure hangovers. They may produce placebo effects in some individuals who believe in their effectiveness.

An Overall Approach

If you approach a cocaine hangover the same way you would address the beginning of the flu or the onset of a cold — by simply resting, drinking water, and taking it easy — the symptoms will resolve relatively quickly (usually within a few hours to a day).
Distraction techniques, such as showering, mild exercise, and watching television, may take your mind off the symptoms, but they will not cure the hangover. Focusing on the symptoms of a hangover and complaining about them will only exacerbate the experience.

Trying to overdo it by drinking several cups of coffee or exercising excessively may also make the symptoms worse.

The Ultimate Hangover Cure

There is one sure way to rid yourself of a hangover and ensure you will never experience one again: Do not use cocaine at all.
Anyone who wishes to stop their use of cocaine or any other substance should discuss this with a mental health professional who specializes in the treatment of addictive behaviors. Many substance abuse treatment programs are available to help.
By engaging in evidence-based treatment, you can ensure you never again experience a cocaine hangover.