Crack Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms
Withdrawal from crack cocaine ranges from mild to severe and may cause mental and physical problems, including anxiety, depression, paranoia and severe cravings, among other symptoms.
While long-term crack abuse increases the odds of dependence and addiction, crack is so potent that a person could experience these states after abusing this drug a single time.
In an addictive state, a person will be physically dependent on crack. Once a person is dependent, their body and brain may struggle to function normally in the absence of this drug.
Dependent individuals may experience withdrawal, a state marked by physical and mental changes, including symptoms of certain mental illnesses. One of the most severe and often debilitating symptoms of crack cocaine withdrawal are intense and overwhelming cravings for the drug.
Withdrawal Symptoms Of Crack Cocaine
Crack dependence occurs when the chemicals within a person’s brain are changed by crack’s powerful stimulating effect. As these chemicals become imbalanced, withdrawal can cause a person’s psychological and physical functions to act in strange and intolerable ways. Research has found that women may experience certain withdrawal symptoms, like anxiety, more intensely, possibly due to their hormones.
Mental Signs And Side Effects Of Crack Cocaine Withdrawal
In the short-term, crack cocaine can cause an extreme sense of euphoria, however, once the drug exits a person’s system, and if they don’t take another dose, the psychological effects of withdrawal can quickly become anything but pleasurable. These may include:
- cognitive impairment
- lack of pleasure
- negative moods
- vivid and distressing dreams
In the most severe of cases, a person may experience an overwhelming sense of suspicion, paranoia or even develop psychosis.
Physical Signs And Side Effects Of Crack Cocaine Withdrawal
When a person abuses crack, the stimulation of their central nervous system causes certain physical functions to speed up. This can boost a person’s energy, increase their activity, cause insomnia and suppress their appetite.
Once a person’s body is without the stimulating effects of crack, the physical symptoms of withdrawal that occur are often the opposite of these states:
- intense fatigue
- increased appetite
- slowed levels of activity
The combination of physical and mental withdrawal symptoms may cause a person to return to crack as a means of reducing these ill effects.
Crack Cocaine Withdrawal Timeline
The timeline of crack cocaine may vary person to person, and in certain cases, a person may not exhibit any visible signs of withdrawal. However, once a person reduces their dosage or stops using the drug completely (such as after a binge) withdrawal can set in fairly quickly.
In certain case a person may go into withdrawal even while amounts of the drug remain in their system. Once acute withdrawal begins, it tapers off in roughly one to two weeks, though for some people it may take less time.
Symptoms Of Crack Cocaine Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)
Though withdrawal may wane for many people after a couple of weeks or even less, certain people may experience withdrawal symptoms for weeks or months after quitting crack.
Individuals who used large amounts of crack over an extended period of time may be more apt to develop this condition, called post-acute withdrawal syndrome or protracted withdrawal. Symptoms of PAWS could include:
- difficulty understanding and managing emotions
- trouble developing ways to cope with emotions
- impulse control
These symptoms can greatly disrupt a person’s life and ability to face the day-to-day demands of their work, family or other important responsibilities. The best treatment programs are equipped to treat protracted withdrawal and can help a person develop coping skills to deal these states.
Each Way Of Abusing Crack Can Cause Withdrawal
Crack cocaine is a powerfully addictive central nervous system stimulant. Though crack may be snorted or injected, the preferred method of administration for many is smoking.
Smoking crack causes the drug to reach a person’s system fast, an effect that can lead to compulsive patterns of abuse and the onset of addiction. But no matter how the drug is abused, crack cocaine can forge an intense physical dependence and addiction.
The Dangers Of Crack Cocaine Withdrawal
While many symptoms of crack withdrawal may be uncomfortable or bothersome, certain symptoms may become dangerous. This could include:
- Some people’s mental health may become so compromised by withdrawal that they become suicidal.
- People who struggle with paranoia or psychosis may act out, endangering themselves or those around them.
- Intense cravings could cause a person to relapses, placing them at risk of continued addiction and other long-term effects of crack cocaine abuse.
- After a person withdrawals, their tolerance may be lowered, increasing the risk of overdose.
- Post-acute withdrawal syndrome can cause a person to self-medicate with crack or another drug of abuse.
In order to alleviate these risks, comprehensive treatment should be sought. Rehab addresses the mental and emotional effects of addiction. This focus could teach a person coping and relapse prevention skills that help protect them from these risks.
Diagnosing Crack Cocaine Withdrawal
In order to diagnosis cocaine withdrawal, medical professionals will likely do a physical examination and inquire about patterns of drug abuse. In many cases, they may administer certain routine test procedures, such as:
- blood tests
- a cardiac enzyme test (to find signs of damage to the heart or heart attack)
- a chest x-ray
- an electrocardiogram (ECG) to track the heart’s electrical activity
- a toxicology screening to identify any poisons or drugs
- a urinalysis
If crack cocaine withdrawal is suspected, the appropriate treatments should be administered. At this time, clinicians may also recommend that a person get treatment for their addiction.
Treating Crack Cocaine Withdrawal
Individuals who don’t experience withdrawal or feel only mild symptoms can generally proceed directly to a drug rehab program, however, people with severe withdrawal may require treatment for their symptoms.
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During a medically supervised detox program, medications may be used to reduce or alleviate withdrawal symptoms. Since crack withdrawal can cause great emotional and mental strain, therapists or counselors may be on hand to offer support, guidance and encouragement.
Chronic crack abuse can deplete a person’s body and health, causing dehydration, malnourishment and weight loss. During detox, nutritional supplements and hydration may be used to help a person’s body heal. Providing a balanced and healthy diet during treatment can help a person’s body to regain weight and become healthier.
While acute withdrawal symptoms may be treated in a detox program, a good drug rehab program should be able to address any lingering symptoms caused by post-acute withdrawal syndrome.
Dual diagnosis treatment programs, which are commonly offered at inpatient drug rehab centers, may be useful for individuals experiencing depression or emotional struggles due to post-acute withdrawal syndrome.
Contact Addiction Campuses for more information on crack cocaine withdrawal and treatment options.
- Center for Substance Abuse Research — Crack Cocaine
- MedlinePlus — Cocaine withdrawal
- National Institute on Drug Abuse — What are the long-term effects of cocaine use?
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration — Substance Abuse Treatment Advisory: Protracted Withdrawal
- Thomas Jefferson University — Sex Differences in Anxiety During Cocaine Withdrawal
- US National Library of Medicine — Cognitive Impairment in Acute Cocaine Withdrawal