Crack Withdrawal and Detox

Crack addiction has the potential to destroy your life, so it’s a momentous decision to admit that you have a problem and need help. Still, the hard part is yet to come. The first step toward recovery is detoxification from crack cocaine, during which you will experience the symptoms of withdrawal. Withdrawal can be physically and psychologically painful, and can last for a few short days or long months. Each person will experience withdrawal differently, and there are some risks to the process. For this reason, it’s recommended you undergo medically-supervised detox.
Detox is the body’s natural process of ridding itself of crack cocaine. As an addict, your body is dependent upon crack, and will feel ill if it does not have crack in the system. The ill feeling is known as withdrawal, the physical and psychological symptoms of your body’s adjustment back to life without the drug. If you’re withdrawing from crack, physical symptoms you may experience include:

Hypersexuality
Bronchitis
Heart attack
Increased appetite
Erratic sleep, including insomnia and hypersomnia
Vivid dreams
Exhaustion
Restlessness
Nausea / Vomiting
Spitting up black phlegm
Excessive sweating
Diarrhea
Fatigue
Lethargy
Brain seizures
If you’re withdrawing from crack, psychological symptoms you may experience include:

Paranoia
Irritability
Depression
Mood swings
Agression
Anxiety
Low sense of motivation
Cravings for crack
Chronic depression, or dysthymia
Difficulties concentrating
Withdrawal is often very uncomfortable, and can make a person who was originally interested in detoxing from crack change their mind. This transition from sobriety back to crack use is called relapse, and is very common. Relapse is also dangerous, though, because of the lasting effects of long-term crack use, and also because of the increased likelihood of overdose. Typically, when a crack user relapses during or after detox, they will go back to using the same dose of crack they were smoking before detox. However, since the body has been off of crack, that former dose may be too strong for the abuser. If a person takes too much of a drug, they essentially poison their body — a process known as overdose. Overdose is fatal and should be treated as a medical emergency.

Because of the risk of relapse, and the potential dangers associated with other, more severe withdrawal symptoms, it’s recommended all crack abusers undergo detox at a medical facility. Many patients at The Recovery Village begin their crack addiction treatment with detox, when our staff can monitor their withdrawal symptoms and make them as comfortable as possible.

crack detox
Detoxification is a natural bodily function that removes toxins from the body. As soon as a drug enters the body, it will begin the process of detox, which is why a crack high only lasts for a certain period of time. Most people use withdrawal symptoms to characterize detox because this is when these symptoms occur. There are many places detoxification can occur, although some are more recommended and will offer a more pleasant experience than others:

  • Hospital
  • Detox center
  • Rehab facility
  • Prison
  • A person’s home

It’s best to detox at a detox center or rehab facility so you may benefit from constant medical supervision. This type of personal attention will also ensure your withdrawal symptoms are minimized and you have the most comfortable experience possible. Detox can take anywhere from one day to more than a week, depending on how long you used crack, if you combined crack with other drugs and other, similar factors.

Although detoxification will remove crack from your body, the process of getting clean doesn’t end there. Detox is the first of multiple steps in treatment. At The Recovery Village, some patients enter rehab already having completed detox. Meanwhile, for most patients, this is the first step of their treatment. Typically the course of treatment goes as follows:

  • Evaluation
  • Detox
  • Therapy
  • Aftercare Planning

During evaluation, our intake team will get to know you. Both medical doctors and counselors on our staff will talk with you to discuss your addiction to crack. Our team may ask questions about how long you’ve been using crack, how frequently you smoke it and how much you smoke each time you use, for example. Clinicians will also use this time to ask you about other symptoms you may be experiencing. This helps identify if you have a dual diagnosis, or are experiencing another mental health condition at the same time as substance use disorder. This information will help our team plan for your arrival at The Recovery Village and develop a treatment strategy.

Detox is the first step of treatment, and often occurs after a patient arrives on campus. We strive to make our patients as comfortable as possible during detox. Our expert team of nurses will monitor you 24/7 and you will have regular visits with your doctor to make sure detox and withdrawal is not endangering your health. For example, severe dehydration is a risk during detox. As the body works to expel crack, it will use any means to do so, including diarrhea, vomiting and excessive sweating. This can leave a patient dehydrated and with low nutrient levels.

Once detox is completed, the real work can begin in therapy. Counseling is the crux of crack addiction treatment at The Recovery Village. Each patient’s treatment plan is customized to them, but always includes individual therapy and group therapy. All of our patients stay with us for at least 28 days, although research shows the longer a person is in rehab, the more likely they are to maintain recovery successfully.

As treatment comes to an end, our team of doctors and clinicians will work with you to develop an aftercare plan so you are set up for success in post-rehab life. Aftercare planning is a significant relapse prevention tool. In many cases, aftercare plans include follow-up doctors appointments and therapy appointments in your home town, as well as information on 12-step programs you can join once you’ve returned home.

Detox is a natural process the body does on it’s own, so it is possible to undergo detox at home. However, home detox can be very dangerous because there are no educated medical professionals monitoring you. A person can easily dehydrate during detox, for example, or suffer from nutrient depletion. To ensure your health and safety, it’s recommended to experience detox at a detox center, hospital or rehab facility like The Recovery Village.
Crack withdrawal typically begins several hours after your last dose of crack. As many who have used the drug know, the high onsets quickly after smoking, and therefore dissipates quicker than other drugs. Some begin feeling cravings for crack 30 minutes after their last use.

  • 0 – 72 hours – During the first 0 – 72 hours, addicts will experience what many call the “crash.” Withdrawal symptoms during this time are severe and often involve all five senses. The addict may experience hallucinations, such as hearing voices or feeling as though their skin in crawling. Such visual, auditory and tactile hallucinations often cause extreme paranoia, especially in the first 24 hours. It’s possible for these hallucinations to last up to 72 hours, although for most people, the paranoia will subside after about 24 hours. People may also feel depression during this time, making it extremely important that the person does not go through detox and withdrawal alone.
  • Week 1 – The first full week of withdrawal often includes an abnormal sense of fatigue and difficulty sleeping. Symptoms will continue to occur, but decrease in severity as the days pass. You may also feel irritable or apathetic about your addiction and recovery. As the week progresses, these symptoms may begin to subside. In this scenario, patients sometimes feel that they do not need to continue the detox process. This relief is likely temporary, though.
  • Week 2 – Week two often includes an increase in the frequency and intensity of cravings for crack. You may also experience feelings of depression or anxiety because your brain is still in a state of withdrawal, and therefore not providing adequate levels of dopamine to adjust your mood. You may also feel frequent triggers to use crack. These triggers can be behaviors, thoughts, or even smells.
  • Weeks 3 and 4 – As you enter the third and fourth week of the withdrawal process, you may find your mood changes rapidly and without cause. Additionally, the depressed and anxious feelings may linger. Even if your body is no longer physically craving the drug, you can still experience psychological cravings. Some also feel optimistic during this time as withdrawal symptoms reduce or are eliminated completely. However, there is still a very real threat of relapse. Those who have completed detox need to enter treatment to learn to control these cravings, even though they may resist because they feel as though they have truly kicked their habit.
There are two ways to quit crack — by decreasing dosage slowly, also known as tapering, or by stopping all at once, also known as cold turkey. Many crack abusers who are sick of the drug’s hold on them may be inclined to quit cold turkey, however this can be dangerous and is not recommended outside of a detox center. When you quit crack cold turkey, withdrawal symptoms will occur faster and more severely, causing an uncomfortable experience of the person going through detox. This pain is also likely to cause relapse, which could lead to overdose if the abuser has been off of crack long enough and returns to a high dose.
It’s very unlikely a person will die from crack withdrawal, although it is possible. Crack withdrawal can cause intense discomfort and a few severe symptoms, such as a heart attack, brain seizures and paranoia. Each of these symptoms could be fatal in certain circumstances. For example, someone suffering from extreme paranoia may try to kill themselves.

To make sure you are experiencing the safest detox possible, you should detox at a hospital, detox center, or rehab facility such as The Recovery Village. In the case of an emergency during withdrawal, this medical supervision could save your life.

crack overdose
Withdrawal can be a painful process — one of many reasons why it’s recommended those looking to detox from crack do so at a medical facility or detox center. During a medically-supervised detox, doctors can monitor your withdrawal symptoms and possibly offer medications to relieve them. This will make your time in detox much more comfortable, and safer. Scientists have already developed medications, such as Suboxone and Methadone, that ease withdrawal symptoms from other narcotics. Cocaine is not among these, however, and scientists are still working to identify which drugs may treat cocaine withdrawal. Although their research is not finished, some drugs have shown preliminary promise:

  • Propranolol, which may treat anxiety, agitation, angina and hypertension
  • Baclofen, a muscle relaxer that has shown positive results reducing cocaine cravings
  • Tiagabine, an anticonvulsant that has shown positive results improving cocaine and opiate abstinence
  • Topiramate, which has proven in animal studies to prevent cocaine relapse
  • Modafinil, a narcolepsy medication that has shown positive results preventing relapse
  • Disulfiram, an effective alcohol addiction treatment drug that blocks a cocaine high

Researchers believe the majority of these drugs show positive results when tested in cocaine withdrawal because they are GABAergic medications that block cocaine euphoria and reduce cocaine cravings. Gamma aminobutyric acid is a neurotransmitter that stops certain messages in the brain from being sent, effectively stopping or lessening certain crack withdrawal symptoms.

In addition, scientists are beginning to study human trials of TA-CD, a vaccine bred to target cocaine antibodies. TA-CD causes the body to produce cocaine-specific antibodies that attach to cocaine molecules and prevent them from entering the brain, therefore reducing the drug’s euphoric effects. In rodent studies, the TA-CD vaccine has led to the animals taking less of the drug. Preliminary human trials have also shown positive results. In addition, the doctor monitoring your detox may also prescribe certain medications to treat specific symptoms you may be feeling. For example, they may recommend:

  • Anticonvulsants that will stop or prevent seizures, such as Gabapentin and Vigabatrin
  • Antidepressants or antianxiety medications
  • Nausea aids
Addiction Blog. “How Long Does Crack Withdrawal Last?” Addiction Blog, AddictionBlog.org, 18 June 2013, drug.addictionblog.org/how-long-does-crack-withdrawal-last/. Accessed 15 Mar. 2017.
Australian Government Department of Health. “The Cocaine Withdrawal Syndrome.” Department of Health, Australian Government, Apr. 2004, www.health.gov.au/internet/publications/publishing.nsf/Content/drugtreat-pubs-modpsy-toc~drugtreat-pubs-modpsy-3~drugtreat-pubs-modpsy-3-7~drugtreat-pubs-modpsy-3-7-cws. Accessed 15 Mar. 2017.
Kampman, Kyle M. “New Medications for the Treatment of Cocaine Dependence.” PubMed Central (PMC), National Institutes of Health, Dec. 2005, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2994240/. Accessed 15 Mar. 2017.
MedlinePlus. “Cocaine Withdrawal.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 13 Apr. 2015, medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000947.htm. Accessed 15 Mar. 2017.
Crack Detox & Withdrawal
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Crack Detox & Withdrawal was last modified: July 7th, 2017 by The Recovery Village