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Crack Cocaine Withdrawal & Detox

Crack cocaine withdrawal and detox typically last one to two weeks, with symptoms including fatigue, anxiety, depression, and strong drug cravings. Professional assistance is crucial for a successful detox, and comprehensive addiction treatment should follow.

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On average, crack cocaine withdrawal and detox takes one to two weeks, but the specific timeline is dependent on the level of use and other individual factors. 

Symptoms of crack detox may include fatigue, agitation, anxiety, depression, and mild to severe cravings for the drug.

What Is Crack Cocaine Withdrawal?

Regular users of crack cocaine can develop a physical and psychological dependency on the drug. After use is stopped, they experience symptoms of withdrawal. Since withdrawal symptoms are unpleasant and often painful, it often prompts them to return to crack to make the symptoms go away. 

Cocaine increases dopamine in the brain, and the feeling of euphoria that is experienced when taking the drug abates during withdrawal. This triggers various negative symptoms, such as irritation, fatigue, depression, sleeplessness, and slowed thinking. 

What Causes Withdrawal From Crack? 

With repeated crack use, the body and brain adapt to the drug’s presence. They learn to function with crack cocaine, making this the new “normal” state for the person. When crack is no longer used, it throws the body and brain off balance, and the person has to achieve a new state of homeostasis without the drug.

When the use of crack cocaine stops, it results in an immediate crash, affecting the brain’s pleasure center. When this happens, the person experiences a rebound effect, which involves symptoms that are the opposite of the exhilaration they feel when using the drug. 

As a result, they may feel depressed, tired, or agitated. They are also hit with intense cravings for the drug, which can lead to a relapse if not carefully monitored.

Common Symptoms of Crack Withdrawal

Cocaine withdrawal can manifest itself in both physical and psychological symptoms. The severity of these symptoms depends on a range of factors like frequency of use, duration of abuse, and an individual’s overall health, including any co-occurring disorders, such as anxiety or depression. 

Common withdrawal symptoms from crack cocaine include the following:

  • Fatigue: One of the most common symptoms experienced during cocaine withdrawal is extreme tiredness or fatigue. This is a result of the body attempting to recover from the overstimulation caused by the use of crack over time.
  • Anxiety and depression: Since cocaine affects dopamine levels in the brain, users often experience anxiety and depression when they cease consumption. Research suggests that women feel more anxiety during cocaine withdrawal, which may contribute to a greater relapse risk. Researchers believe this is linked to a woman’s hormonal and menstrual health.
  • Irritability and agitation: Discontinuing cocaine use can lead to mood swings and irritability, as the brain struggles to regain balance after being regularly exposed to high levels of dopamine.
  • Sleep disturbances: Insomnia or hypersomnia (excessive sleeping) are common during cocaine withdrawal, as the user’s brain adjusts to the lack of the stimulant.
  • Increased cravings for crack: Intense cravings for cocaine are produced as the body craves the dopamine surge the drug provides. Cravings for cocaine are the basis for using the drug, so it’s important to keep these in check during detox and recovery. Addiction treatment can help.
  • Vivid dreams or nightmares: During withdrawal, many individuals report vivid dreams or nightmares. These can lead to disrupted sleep patterns and insomnia. A lack of solid sleep can increase one’s risk of relapse.
  • Paranoia: During withdrawal, people may feel generally out of sorts and mistrustful of those around them.

Which Factors Affect the Severity of Withdrawal?

Several factors influence the intensity of crack cocaine withdrawal symptoms. Below are a few key factors to consider:

  • Duration of use: People who have used cocaine for an extended period are more likely to experience strong withdrawal symptoms. Longer periods of use foster greater levels of dependence, and this means withdrawal will be more extreme.
  • Average dose: Likewise, higher doses of cocaine also intensify withdrawal. 
  • Method of use: Crack cocaine is generally taken via smoking or injecting it. Both forms of use foster high levels of dependence, but injection users may experience slightly more intense withdrawal symptoms.
  • Underlying health conditions: People with underlying physical or mental health conditions are more likely to experience a more stressful withdrawal process. For example, if you have a mental health disorder, such as depression or anxiety, you may experience more severe symptoms when you stop using crack cocaine. It’s important that your treatment accounts for all co-occurring disorders.

How Long Does Crack Withdrawal Last?

The exact timeline of crack withdrawal will depend on the factors detailed above, but on average, crack detox lasts about one to two weeks.

Most people feel like they’re functioning at a normal level after a week to 10 days. For some people, certain symptoms may linger for weeks to months. It’s also possible that your symptoms may appear again over the next few months, so it’s important to guard against relapse.

Here’s the timeline to expect with crack withdrawal:

The First 3 Days

During the first three days, symptoms tend to be the most intense, and they include irritability, anxiety, and exhaustion. You may also feel very hungry. Cocaine cravings may be most intense in the first day or two.

Week 1

People often feel exhausted and have trouble sleeping during the first week of crack withdrawal. They may also experience muscle aches and nausea. Unpleasant and vivid dreams are common, including depressive mood swings.

Week 2

Strong crack cravings still continue, and depression is common. Additional symptoms include difficulty focusing, insomnia, mood swings, and lack of motivation. By the end of the second week, most of the intense symptoms have resolved.

Week 3 & Beyond

For most people, symptoms fade significantly at week three and beyond, though some experience protracted withdrawal symptoms that continue for several weeks or even months. Prolonged withdrawal symptoms may include cravings for crack, depression, anxiety, sleep issues, emotional outbursts, and an inability to experience pleasure.

How to Detox From Crack Successfully

Crack is incredibly addictive, and professional assistance is needed for detox. Without addiction treatment, relapse is very likely during withdrawal. You’re apt to simply return to crack use to make the discomfort of withdrawal disappear.

Currently, no medications are used to treat withdrawal from or addiction to crack, but medications may be prescribed to address specific symptoms of withdrawal. Short-term use of sedatives or anti-anxiety medicines may be helpful during withdrawal. Your provider may also recommend medications to help with sleep or nausea.

Your treatment team will monitor your withdrawal process and provide appropriate care throughout detox. It’s often recommended that you stay in an inpatient facility during the acute phase of withdrawal. This not only ensures that you stay safe and comfortable throughout detox, but it also reduces your chances of relapse substantially. You simply won’t have access to crack in an inpatient facility, and this takes your risk of relapse down to almost zero.

Treatment Following Crack Detox

Detox does not constitute crack addiction treatment on its own. It simply allows the body to safely process crack out of it, often with the help of medication and psychological support. But detox on its own doesn’t do anything to address the underlying causes of addiction.

This is why it’s so important that comprehensive addiction treatment follows crack detox. In a personalized treatment program, you’ll work with therapists and other treatment professionals to identify contributing factors to your substance abuse. You’ll then acquire skills to deal with these issues, enabling you to resist the urge to return to crack and other substances in the future.

While there is no quick fix for crack cocaine addiction, there is a clear path to long-term recovery with the right help. Take the first step toward a better life today.

Crack Cocaine Withdrawal & Detox FAQs

Does crack cause physical dependence?

Yes, crack can create physical dependence with regular use. Once use stops, withdrawal symptoms may appear.

How long does crack withdrawal take?

On average, crack withdrawal takes one to two weeks. Some symptoms may persist for months.

What are symptoms of crack withdrawal?

The most common symptoms include nausea, anxiety, depression, fatigue, mood swings, nightmares, and problems with concentration.

How is crack withdrawal treated?

Medical detox is recommended for crack withdrawal. Doctors and other treatment professionals will monitor you throughout the detox process, ensuring your withdrawal symptoms are effectively managed and you are emotionally and mentally supported. Medications may be prescribed to address specific withdrawal symptoms, such as insomnia, nausea, body aches, and depression.

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Medically Reviewed By Dr. Alison Tarlow

Dr. Alison Tarlow is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in the States of Florida and Pennsylvania, and a Certified Addictions Professional (CAP). She has been a practicing psychologist for over 15 years. Sh... Read More

Updated March 20, 2024
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