Crack Withdrawal

Crack withdrawal typically lasts for a month and it usually includes anxiety, depression, mood swings and intense cravings. We’ll review what to expect when you detox on crack and how to go through withdrawal safely. More here.

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ARTICLE SUMMARY: This article reviews what to expect when you detox from crack and how to go through withdrawal safely. Your questions are welcomed at the end.



Beat Your Crack Cocaine Dependence

People describe crack cocaine as a “love at first puff” drug. When the famous comedian George Carlin was asked what does cocaine make you feel like? He answered: “It makes you feel like more cocaine”.

But if you want to give up crack… know that it can’t be done in the blink of an eye. Quitting crack requires strong will, good preparation, and professional help.

In this article, we cover cocaine crack withdrawal process. We’ll describe what awaits you during a medically guided detox and give you some recommendations on how to help yourself on your journey to sobriety. We’ll also give guidance to family and friends on providing support to addicted loved ones during withdrawal.

Your Brain On Crack

Cocaine + baking soda = crack.

The mixture of cocaine and baking soda produces a different composition of this drug called “crack”. The reason why people make crack is because this modification takes 8 seconds to reach then brain after being smoked, while cocaine produces peak effects a few minutes after being snorted.

When crack cocaine reaches the brain, it triggers an excessive amount of energy, alertness and awareness of senses. The Ventral Tegmental Area is part of the brain mostly influenced by crack cocaine. This part of the brain is rich in dopamine and serotonin neurons. It is considered to be part of the pleasure system, or reward circuit.

When taken, crack activates this part of the brain and releases large amounts of dopamine, the chemical messenger associated with pleasure and euphoria. Naturally produced dopamine would be reabsorbed back into the neuron, by a dopamine transporter, but crack cocaine disrupts this process. Crack binds with transporters and blocks dopamine re-absorption.

As a result, dopamine levels increase 10 times more than what is normally produced. The effect is “feeling extremely good” for several minutes.

This extreme sensation lasts a very short time. After dopamine levels drop, people feel depressed. This is why you keep going back for more.

Long Term Negative Effects Of Crack Abuse

Prolonged crack abuse can cause severe damage to your mind and body including:

  • Aggressive, paranoid behavior
  • Brain seizures
  • Death
  • Delirium or psychosis
  • Hallucinations
  • Heart attack and heart disease
  • Irritability and mood disturbances
  • Reproductive damage and infertility for both men and women
  • Respiratory failure
  • Severe depression
  • Sexual dysfunction for both men and women
  • Strokes
  • Tolerance and addiction, even after the first use

After a few days or weeks of using crack regularly, the brain adapts. You become crack dependent. The brain has to adapt to cocaine in order to keep functioning.

Crack dependence is a medical disorder of the brain which can be successfully treated at a licensed medical detox center. Professionally assisted detox can greatly reduce, or eliminate most of the symptoms of crack withdrawal.

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The Difference Between Dependence And Addiction

Drug Dependence ≠ Addiction

Physical dependence means that your body has gotten used to the presence of crack and when you suddenly stop taking it you’ll experience withdrawal symptoms. Drug dependence is an expected physical outcome of repeated crack use.

The term “addiction” is more focused on is the negative behavior associated with crack use, rather than the physical. The physical dependence is not excluded from addiction, but that is not the main issue.

Understanding Crack Cocaine Withdrawal

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines withdrawal as:

“A group of symptoms which occur on cessation, or reduction of use of a psychoactive substance that has been taken repeatedly, usually for a prolonged period and/ or in high doses. Withdrawal syndrome may be accompanied by signs of physical and psychological disturbance. A withdrawal syndrome is one of the indicators of a dependence syndrome.”

People addicted to crack consider withdrawal symptoms as the “the biggest curse of addiction”. Becoming ill after quitting a drug that makes you feel good is the reason people fear giving up crack in the first place. If you’ve developed crack dependence you probably know what’s like to be a day or two without having crack in your system. For those who have not experienced this yet, it feels awful.

Coming off crack after some period of regular use is accompanied by unpleasant and sometimes even painful withdrawal symptoms. Discontinuation of crack triggers a complementary adjustment process known as “withdrawal” or “abstinence syndrome”. Crack withdrawal is easier to conquer with the guidance and help of professionals.

Commonly Experienced Crack Withdrawal Symptoms

Physical Withdrawal Symptoms:

  • Agitation
  • Anhedonia or the inability to feel pleasure
  • Craving for the drug
  • Exhaustion and fatigue
  • Flu like symptoms
  • Musculoskeletal pain
  • Sleep disturbances

Behavioral Withdrawal Symptoms:

  • Aggression
  • Violent incidents
  • Restlessness

Emotional/Psychological Withdrawal Symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression and lack of motivation
  • Hallucinations
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Paranoia
  • Psychosis
  • Suicidal feelings

Since people respond differently to crack withdrawal a tailored, and closely monitored medically assisted detox is essential. Crack anhedonia, is a common and devastating effect of crack abuse. It can lead to real thoughts of suicide, self-harm, or harming others. Managing such profound psychological changes requires the intervention of trained experts, both in the acute detox phase and in long-term recovery.

So, in order for things not to go out of hand during crack cocaine detox and withdrawal it is highly recommended you seek medical help. Medical experts will supervise the process round-the-clock in a medical detox. They will make sure your safe during the removal of crack from your system.

Crack Withdrawal Intensity

Medical experts track the withdrawal process and intensity of withdrawal symptoms with the help of simple reliably and validly scale that measures cocaine withdrawal signs and symptoms. The Cocaine Selective Severity Assessment scale is designed to be administered at each detox visit and measures withdrawal over the past 24 hours.

Experts believe the use of crack cocaine disrupts a person state of mind and therefore makes them unable to function and make rational decisions. Since crack produces severe and intense psychological dependence it is always better to have someone to guide you on your way to sobriety. A medically performed detox can decrease the severity and intensity of symptoms. Plus you’ll have the chance to receive round the clock care and psychological counseling when cravings strike.

Will Crack Withdrawal Be Severe, Or Not?

It depends.

Many different factors play a role in the severity of crack cocaine withdrawal. Since everyone is in a different situation, it is impossible to predict exactly how long symptoms will last. Furthermore, the severity of the physical symptoms experienced may be more intense for one person than another.

So, what does influence a person’s experience with crack cocaine withdrawal? The following factors contribute to the severity, intensity, and duration of crack cocaine detox:

  1. How long you’ve been using crack cocaine.
  2. How much crack cocaine you’ve been taking.
  3. Whether you abuse multiple drugs besides crack cocaine.
  4. Your general/overall physical health, age, gender.
  5. Your unique body response and metabolism of crack cocaine.
  6. The presence of co-existing physical or psychological health conditions.

How Long Crack Withdrawal Takes

24-72 hours after last crack dose body aches, paranoia, and hallucinations may occur. This is one of the critical periods of time for observation and medical supervision. After the initial period, these symptoms should start fading away. However, thoughts of suicide and extreme depression can last. So, continue to seek medical supervision until detoxification has been resolved.

Week 1 of crack withdrawal is accompanied by emotional disturbance such as drowsiness, insomnia, irritability, and lack of motivation. During this stage of crack withdrawal, nurses provide you with strong psychological support and you may be given some medications to calm down, if necessary.

Week 2 of crack withdrawal. During the second week of crack withdrawal, symptoms reach their peak and intensify greatly. At this stage of withdrawal, you’ll experience strong cravings for crack and an overall feeling of dissatisfaction and depression. This is because your brain still responds to the withdrawal process, and does not produce enough dopamine to create positive emotions.

Weeks 3-4 of crack withdrawal. At this period, your body’s chemistry is still transitioning and therefore you may experiment frequent mood changes. Most users fight with the psychological cravings for crack rather than the physical ones. Crack strongly influences the mind. Memories of extremely high dopamine levels can’t be easily deleted form your memory. These powerful psychological cravings for crack usually last for several months after your body gets cleaned from crack. Another challenge for people in crack detox at their last week of withdrawal is coping with anxiety or depression. Your therapist will teach you how to raise up your mood naturally and reach contentment and happiness without crack again.

Detox Clinics

So, what happens when you seek help from a detox clinic? Most states require clinics to follow specific protocols. So, before the cocaine crack detox starts, your doctor should ask you several questions about:

  1. Your drug history regarding the amount and duration of your crack abuse.
  2. When was the first time you went for a few days without using? What happened and how did you react?
  3. Do you have a history of delirium treatment or withdrawal seizures?
  4. Are you taking anything else that might affect your withdrawal?
  5. Do you have any medical or psychiatric comorbidity such as hallucinations or traumatic brain injury?
  6. Can you understand and carry out routine medical instructions?
  7. Do you have reliable transportation?
  8. Do you have a supportive person to assist with detoxification?

Then, you’ll undergo the actual process of removing crack and other toxins from your body. The goal of this process is to manage symptoms and minimize physical risk of harm during the withdrawal process.

But your recovery journey does not end after detoxing on crack. On the contrary, it has just begun. After you successfully get crack out of your system, you’ll proceed working on your psychological dependence. Inpatient  rehabs provide multiple therapy techniques and use different approaches to help you address the underlying issues behind your addiction.

Is Cold Turkey Crack Withdrawal A Good Idea?

Only when done by medical professionals. Otherwise, quitting crack abruptly by yourself might be dangerous and lead you to relapse or even fatal decisions.

In fact, it may be difficult to just stop taking crack if you used it long term. Especially on your own. Frequent use usually results in physical dependence. If you are dependent on crack and just stop taking it cold turkey, the abrupt chemical change manifests a number of physical and mental symptoms which can be extremely uncomfortable.

Unlike some prescription medications, crack IS NOT tapered down during detox. Users quit cold turkey under medical surveillance. Abrupt crack discontinuation after a period of repeated use can trigger intense withdrawal symptoms and a strong urge to use it again. Crack has highly addictive properties, so your body and mind experience an intense desire for it once you eliminate it from your system.

For these reasons, emotional and psychological support is essential during withdrawal. Detox clinics usually provide counseling to help people addicted to crack go through their first days of withdrawal.

Quitting Crack Safely

The safest way to stop taking crack is by following professional guidelines. Consult a medical professional before beginning any detox plan and follow their instructions. Medically assisted detox can make crack withdrawal more bearable, and ensure your safety. Doctors and nurses at drug treatment facilities develop detox strategies according to your unique body chemistry and medical history.

Medications usually given to help ease uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms are gabapentin and vigabatrin. Gabapentin can be effective in treating seizures and restless legs syndrome. This medication is occasionally used during crack detox for managing anxiety and insomnia. Vigabatrin is administered during crack detox to curb feelings of anxiety, which may help prevent relapse.

Medical Experts

Who can you ask for help? Check out this list of medical professionals who can help assist with crack detox.

Your family doctor or a physician

A physician generalist takes professional responsibility for the comprehensive care of people with a wide range of problems. Family doctors and/or physicians are committed to the person they care about regardless of age, gender, type of illness. They emphasize health promotion and disease prevention. The scope of their practice is not defined by diagnoses or procedures but by human needs. Family physicians do not treat diseases, they take care of people.

You can find a physician at the physician compare page on Additionally, you can also visit  to find and compare doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers.

An addiction counselor or psychologist

Addiction counselor and psychologists work by helping you recognize the existence of an addiction problem and the associated irrational thinking. Next, they encourage you to achieve and maintain abstinence. They also teach you the necessary psychosocial skills and spiritual development to continue in recovery lifelong. These experts determine the content and structure of your ongoing recovery program. Some of the techniques addiction counselors use during therapy include: behavioral change, 12-step ideology and self-help tools.

The primary goal of addiction counselors is to help your achieve and maintain abstinence from crack cocaine. The secondary goal is to help you recover from the damage addiction has inflicted over your life. If you want to find a psychologist visit the American Psychological Association’s find a therapist website.

Addiction doctor 

Addiction specialists are addiction medicine physicians and addiction psychiatrists who fill the following criteria:

  • Hold either a board certification in addiction medicine from the American Board of Addiction Medicine
  • Subspecialty board certification in addiction psychiatry from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology
  • Subspecialty board certification in addiction medicine from the American Osteopathic Association
  • Certification in addiction medicine from the American Society of Addiction Medicine

These addiction doctors usually have expertise, experience and skills to provide prevention, screening, intervention, and treatment for crack cocaine addiction. Moreover, addiction specialists are trained to recognize, address and treat physical and psychological issues of addiction. If you are looking for a licensed addiction specialist visit the ABAM website.
Drug detox clinic

Crack cocaine detox centers are equipped with professionals and tools to help people with crack dependency issues easily overcome withdrawal symptoms and get through detox as safely and comfortably as possible. The role of detox clinics is to minimize the risk of relapse and facilitate the transition into ongoing addiction treatment.

Addiction treatment center

Because addiction is a chronic disorder, characterized by occasional relapses, a detox is usually not sufficient. For many, treatment is a long-term process that involves multiple interventions and regular monitoring. Residential treatment centers help you stop your compulsive crack cocaine seeking and use.Crack cocaine addiction treatment can occur in a variety of settings, take many different forms, and last for different lengths of time.

Tips For Getting Through Crack Withdrawal

TIP #1: Journal your withdrawal experience.

Writing down your thoughts and feelings as you go through your withdrawal experience will keep your attention and thoughts occupied on something. Documenting the struggles you are going through can help you relieve some of the tension. This technique is also useful for distracting your attention away of negativity and depression. If you feel like you don’t want to talk to anyone else, grab a pen and a piece of paper and throw those tension in a notebook. Writing every day is like a regimen, like doing sit ups. It will give something to do each day.

TIP #2: Create a “first aid kit”.

Get a box and put some items inside that you find meaningful. The items you collect should represent things that keep you grounded and stable. You can choose whatever you like. The idea behind the simple item collection is to have something which signifies a life without drugs and something which you will later refer to your recovery. Physical and psychological pain is common during withdrawal. When you feel like you’re going to fail, your first aid kit will help you stay grounded and determined to succeed.

TIP #3: Pain is only temporary and it will pass.

Pain is not a limited period sensation and will go away eventually. Face the pain of withdrawal and let it pass. Don’t let it holding you back. Reach out for help during these times from nurses or other staff at the hospital. They will either administer some medication or comfort you with talk. But remember that pain is a natural part of the withdrawal, it cannot be escaped, but the good news is that it does not last forever.

TIP #4: Learn breathing techniques.

Deep breathing re-engages your prefrontal cortex. This way you activate the part of your brain that handles critical thinking and reasoning. When you are afraid, or very excited your prefrontal cortex is not active and in these situation the control is taken by your limbic system which tells you to fight or run away. Stress makes us forget to breathe. When experiencing a strong craving during crack withdrawal take a deep breath and slowly breathe out. Repeat this several times and you’ll see how you’ll begin to slowly calm down.

6 Suggestions For Helping A Loved One In Crack Detox

You can be a powerful influence for change. You know your loved one the best. With a bit of preparation, you can greatly contribute in their detox and recovery. In fact, your contribution is one of the most important factors in determining how well your loved one copes with crack withdrawal. The following suggestions may come handy when assisting a loved one in crack detox.

Suggestion 1: Educate yourself on crack withdrawal. Understanding what your loved one is going through is essential to be able to provide compassion. Knowing what to expect can also help you remain calm. Another benefit of being educated about the process of crack withdrawal your loved one undergoes is that you’ll be better prepared to assist him/her when they get back home, you’ll know how to take care for your loved one and how to behave.

Suggestion 2: Encourage your loved one to drink water and eat small amounts of food. Make sure the person doesn’t get dehydrated. People going through crack detox should take lots of fluid, about two liters a day. Withdrawal and detox can also increase appetite. You might try to organize an eating schedule that will include lots of fresh food. Fruit and vegetables must be included.

Suggestion 3: Remind your loved one to contact other support people. These contacts can help both you and your family member. Also, carve out time to help. Spending time with the person, particularly during the first week of symptoms, may require re-organizing your usual schedule. Therefore there’s no harm in being prepared.

Suggestion 4: As a support person, it is important to be positive, calm and create a stress free atmosphere. However, you also need to know what to do emergency situation. It is helpful to learn some basic first aid skills.

Suggestion 5: Follow any advice given to you by health workers, with careful attention to prevent the spread of infection.

Face Your Fear Of Crack Withdrawal

Withdrawal can be a challenging experience. When the body is used to crack, cravings come on strong. But, withdrawal is a phase you have to go through. Many people have gone through it before you. you can come out on the other side.

You need to weigh the risks of crack addiction and withdrawal. Then you might just realize that it’s not withdrawal that you should really be afraid about, but the addiction itself.  Detox requires a great deal of work but the reward of being drug-free makes the journey and the challenges worth it.

A medically guided crack detox will help you conquer your addiction to crack. Medical professionals can give you a genuine sense of confidence and help you regain real control over your life once again. They will back you up as you take your first sober steps.

Reference Sources: CESAR: Crack Cocaine
WHO: Management of substance abuse
KARG: Overview of Addiction Related Brain Regions
Drug ABuse: Description of an Addiction Counseling Approach
NIH: The domain of family practice: scope, role, and function.
Drug Abuse: Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition)
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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