Crack Cocaine Withdrawal and Detox

Withdrawal from crack cocaine may cause symptoms like depression and anxiety, as well as intense cravings for the drug. The process is best managed with a medical detox.

What is Crack Cocaine Withdrawal?

Withdrawal from crack may cause a lack of motivation and inability to feel pleasure.Someone addicted to crack cocaine has developed a physical dependence on it, and will experience withdrawal symptoms when quitting.

Crack cocaine is a more concentrated form of powder cocaine. Because of crack’s potency, withdrawal from it is often more intense. Crack cocaine use causes changes in the brain and the body’s nervous system. When someone addicted to crack stops using, their body must go through an adjustment period to relearn how to function without crack cocaine in their system.

During withdrawal, the former user will often experience many uncomfortable symptoms, such as depression, paranoia or agitation. The physical and psychological symptoms of withdrawal will vary depending on many individual factors, such as the user’s tolerance, metabolism, and length of addiction.

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Symptoms of Withdrawal

Crack cocaine is both physically and psychologically addicting. Because addiction to crack can be so hard to overcome, users are generally advised to go through detox in a supervised drug treatment center program. There are two phases of withdrawal: acute withdrawal, which refers to the immediate symptoms, and protracted withdrawal or post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS), which refers to the extended psychological symptoms that may occur weeks or months after quitting use.

Common acute withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Exhaustion
  • Unpleasant dreams
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Mood changes

Protracted withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation or shaking
  • Cravings
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Lack of motivation
  • Inability to feel pleasure
  • Anger or emotional outbursts
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Duration of Withdrawal

How long withdrawal from crack cocaine takes varies for each user and is based on a number of different factors. These include the user’s body chemistry, tolerance and the severity and duration of the addiction. Withdrawal can begin anywhere from an hour to 72 hours after the last crack cocaine dose. Physical symptoms of crack withdrawal typically last anywhere from 1 to 3 months, although there is no exact timeframe for how long symptoms will last. There have been reports of psychological withdrawal symptoms lasting as long as 6 months.

During the first week of crack cocaine withdrawal, the former user has generally recovered from the extreme physical symptoms and may feel as if they have been cured. Many people have unintentionally let their guard down and become vulnerable to relapse during this time. In order to avoid relapse during the withdrawal process, it is important to detox in a drug treatment facility and have a support system in place to help with difficult days and future cravings.

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    Crack Cocaine Withdrawal Timeline

    24-72 hoursDuring the first 72 hours of withdrawal, users may experience symptoms such as paranoia and body aches. There have also been reports of visual and auditory hallucinations during this period. It is not uncommon for extreme paranoia to set in during the first 24 hours. After this initial period, hallucinations and paranoia generally subside.
    Week 1During the first full week of withdrawal, other symptoms often set in, including irritability, extreme fatigue, trouble sleeping and a general lack of motivation.
    Week 2During week two, cravings for the drug become more intense and depression often sets in. The brain is still reacting to the withdrawal process, and typically will not produce enough dopamine for strong positive emotions. Anxiety may return during this period.
    Weeks 3-4During weeks three and four, the body’s chemistry is still changing and mood changes are fairly frequent. Though the physical craving for crack has subsided by this time, the psychological cravings generally remain through the first month. Feelings of anxiety or depression may remain as well.

    Crack Cocaine Detox

    Physicians at drug treatment facilities develop detox strategies based on the person’s unique body chemistry and medical history. Unlike some other drugs, including prescription anti-anxiety medications, crack isn’t tapered down during detox. Users quit cold turkey under medical supervision, with medications to help counteract uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.

    Two drugs that may be used during crack detox include:

    • Gabapentin

      Officially used to treat seizures and restless legs syndrome (RLS), gabapentin is sometimes used during the detox process to reduce withdrawal symptoms like anxiety and insomnia. The drug attaches to GABA receptors in the brain and may neutralize some of the neurological effects of an extended crack addiction until the former user is able to fully recover.

    • Vigabatrin

      An antiepilectic drug, vigabatrin may be used during detox to curb feelings of anxiety, which may help prevent relapse.

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    Treatment for Crack Cocaine

    Individuals addicted to crack cocaine often have the best chance of recovery while detoxing at a drug treatment facility. Treatment programs are run by therapists and physicians who personalize recovery based on each patient’s needs. Group therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy can help patients recognize and change the behaviors that led to their addiction. In fact, many researchers have found that the social aspect of crack use may be the single most difficult part to overcome. Overcoming a crack addiction starts with finding new surroundings, healthy relationships and a positive support system.

    Crack addiction can be treated…the key is that the addict must be given a place in family and social structures where they may never have been before. Habilitation more than rehabilitation.

    - Substance abuse specialist Dr. Herbert Kleber, The New York Times, 1989

    The relationships and support groups in drug treatment facilities are vital in helping addicts through the recovery process. If you are looking for a crack cocaine addiction treatment program, please contact us today.

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