Dependence on crack

Dependence on crack cocaine occurs after regular, daily use and can manifest in a series of symptoms when you stop using crack. More on the signs of crack dependence and its treatment here.

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Crack cocaine is considered to be a worldwide public health problem. While the initiation of crack use continues, more than 8.5 million people admitted to have used crack in one point of their lives. However, crack has high abuse and dependence liabilities and has been linked to a multiple cardiovascular, respiratory, neurological, and psychiatric problems.

So, how do you know you’re dependent on crack and how is physical dependence treated? Is dependence on crack a sign of crack addiction? We review here, and invite your questions about crack or finding help with crack addiction at the end.

Crack dependence vs. addiction

Crack dependence is a medical disorder of the brain which trigger numerous changes in the brain’s complex neurochemistry. Dependence on crack can develop quickly. However, it is important to establish the clinical difference between dependence and addiction. Dependence on a drug is defined by the appearance of a set of withdrawal symptoms when you stop using a drug, or significantly lower doses. On the other hand, addiction is characterized by the psychological compulsion to use crack and manifests as cravings and obsessive thinking.

While it is possible that a person can be physically dependent on crack without being addicted to the drug, addiction is commonly present in people who develop physical dependence on crack cocaine. In fact, studies have shown that over 30% of people who have smoked crack experience dependence symptoms within 2 years of initial use. What makes crack so difficult to quit is the physical and psychological dependence that it creates.

Cocaine addiction can develop in only a few months of binge use. In most cases, addiction develops more rapidly when a drug is smoked (the way crack is commonly used). This is why it only takes several days for addiction to crack to develop. So, smoking crack only a few times has the potential to develop to addiction.

Crack dependence time: How long to be dependent on crack?

When smoked, crack it is rapidly absorbed into the pulmonary-circulatory system and is transmitted to the brain in less than 10 seconds, offering a high that lasts about 5 minutes. Crack provides the user with a rapid and intense drug experience, which makes it highly addictive

Crack users can develop crack dependence, on average, about 5 months after first use. Crack causes strong psychological dependence and compulsive use, which makes mortality rates of crack addicts seven times higher than for the rest of the population. So, it is safe to say that dependence is the rule rather than the exception among people who smoke crack for long periods of time.

Physical dependence on crack

Crack is a strong central nervous system (CNS) stimulant that increases the levels of dopamine in the brain. But, retention of dopamine changes brain activity, signaling an intense craving for more of the drug. This craving causes the user to take crack obsessively just to function normally. Even though users might be aware of the adverse side effects crack, they are unable to fight the urge and if given unlimited availability and use, they can literally self-destruct.

Psychological dependence on Crack

It’s a well known fact that crack cocaine causes the strongest mental dependency of any known drug. Strong psychological dependency can occur with only one “hit” of crack, but mental dependency usually occurs within several days. Although crack causes euphoric high in only seconds, its effects last about 5 minutes. As the high-feeling quickly wears off, the user gets depressed and experiences an intense drug craving.

Dependence on crack symptoms

According to the American Psychiatric Association, only three of the following conditions must be present for a patient to be diagnosed with crack cocaine dependence:

  • becoming tolerant to the euphoric effects of crack and needing more drug to produce the desired effects
  • being occupied with obtaining and using cocaine, which leads to isolation from friends and family
  • continually using crack despite knowing the adverse mental and physical symptoms
  • discontinuing the use of crack results in withdrawal symptoms (such as fatigue, sleep disturbances, agitation, or depression), which are relieved by smoking crack again
  • engaging in unlawful activities such as shoplifting, theft, burglary, or homicide to get hold of money to buy crack
  • inability to reduce the amount of crack one smokes
  • job loss due to ineffectiveness at work, increased absenteeism, or inability to find work
  • using crack in large doses whenever it is available

Crack dependence and withdrawal

Crack magnifies the intensity of almost all normal pleasures in life and causes patterns of effects that arise with the discontinuation of crack use. These effects are officially called the crack abstinence syndrome, and often involves a “crash” and a withdrawal phase. During the withdrawal phase, nervousness, aggression, paranoia, and depression are observed. At this time, the levels of neurotransmitters norepinephrine and serotonin are radically lower due to the chronic depletion caused by crack use.

So what’s a realistic crack withdrawal timeline? Physical withdrawal from crack does not usually last longer than a week. However, psychological withdrawal symptoms of crack persist for many weeks and even months after users stop taking the drug. The duration of crack withdrawal varies in accordance with how long it has been abused and how frequently it was smoked. Heavy users usually experience PAWS (Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome) within three to six months after cessation of crack. PAWS occurs when the brain has been overly damaged by the drug and it can take a very long time for the brain to restore normal functioning.

Crack dependence questions

If you have more questions about crack dependence, please ask them in the comments section below. We will try to respond to you promptly and personally or refer you to someone who can help.

Reference Sources: NCBI: Among long-term crack smokers, who avoids and who succumbs to cocaine addiction?
NCBI: Cocaine and Psychiatric Symptoms
Clinical Trials: Contingency Management Treatment for Crack Addiction
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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  1. i am two years in four months off of is the worst drug to withdraw from in the mental aspaect. i used to do hundreds of dollarsd worth every night.then i hit rock bottom,lost my son,my license and am dirt poor.noone except God forgives or gives you another chance.i was on opiods and my family?,puut me in a psych hosp. for 72 hrs. and i kicked the pills cold. the pysical sick was horrendous!! but crack is a real mind tangler that just keeps screaming,more,more,more.!!! almost every day it seems my mother has to remind me of something sttupid i did when i was on the pipe,crack. i have a very addictive personality and have gained 56 pounds since i quit crack. i compensence with food.junk sugar,carbs.i was so slim and now heavy and depressed.sober but hate myself for the past. i have been on and off drugs for most of my life.with Gods help i am determined to stay clean this time i have done and tried every drug out there and crack is the dragon that really tears you apart mentally and every which way.if my mother would quit reminding my sons of all my mistakes it would help. my mother and her friens have tried everything to get me committed.i rent off her and since i am on ssi there is no where else i can go as i have two dogs plus i live right next door to her and my 17 yr.old lives with her. i will never be free it seems.she has destroyed my psychie

  2. I’ve recently had a relapse with heroin after 16 year abstinence. However my relapse also involved use of crack which is a mainly new thing to me although I have tried it in the past. I’ve entered a managed heroin detox which seems fairly straightforward and a lot easier to cope with than I expected. I have, However, continued to use crack and feel I’m becoming controlled by the compulsions that it triggers. I think I’ve always had an “addictive personality” (bad cliché I know).I’ve managed fairly easily to hold down a job but I’m worried that crack is beginning to have a bit too much unwelcome influence in my life Any help or advise would be greatly appreciated Jim Uk

  3. I just smoked crack cocaine yesterday. It was in person and we smoked a gram and a half over 12 hour tomorrow me frame. I know that I made you switch the laundry for me to paint do you think I will be psychologically dependent. I don’t want to do it anymore because I’m really afraid of becoming addicted. Smokin yesterday I never experience the so-called euphoric rush. It has been six hours since my last haircut and rather than thinking about doing it again I don’t want to do it again soon we can get back to me a soon as possible because I don’t want to get Addicted to this garbage. Thank you very much

  4. Me and my gf use crack daily . We are losing everything we have. Ive left my job due to irrational thinking. We owe almost every family member money. I dont kno what to do. How do we detox to get the drug out the system ?? What should we take? Any advise would be appreciated

    1. Hi Chris. Call the Cocaine Helpline on 1-888-497-6879 to get in touch with dependable hotline professionals available 24/7. You will be talking to someone knowledgeable about cocaine abuse, rehab and recovery centers who can help you find a cocaine recovery program.

  5. I have been recovering from heroin and crack and have been successful with the heroin I’m over a year clean but I just can’t kick the crack please can u give Mr any advice..what pills might make withdrawals milder

    1. Hi Jimmy. I’d suggest that you call the helpline on the website to speak with a trusted treatment consultant.

  6. I am very concerned I have been smoking crack daily for about six months very worried about the withdraws if I stop can I just stop? Please if someone can give an idea what to expect and how long will it last

  7. This is for Loon ,
    Something made you come here, so keep coming back. It works , if you work it and YOU are worth it

  8. I read some of the recent comments and I never knew people were experiencing the same type of crack addiction I have! I’ve been smoking for ten years, and I even remember the first few days of use, the people who I was smoking with tried to stop me but I thought I could “kick” anytime, nothing could be that addictive, I was wrong! Ten years later after countless jobs, failed relationships and low self esteem: I don’t know what to do. I read a few suggestions that I liked but the addiction is always there, whispering in my ear. I can say all the right things, try and do the right things, but something either triggers me or I hear the voice and I cannot say “No” for long. I’ll do what comes natural, watching porn and smoking crack. In-patient help sounds good, but I do have a job and a daughter and I just don’t know what will work for me.

  9. crack becomes a bestest friend when family and all thier peoples let u down u can stroke that stem and they dont matter! my so calledmother is a beast and hyprocritical she used to work as an operator/dishpatch for the local sherriff and they believe every lie she spews she stole my car keys a few months ago and no police will help me! and yes i have the clear title in my name but shows the doctored up one ml has doctoredup hewlp is just another hit the answer or what ml lives close has stole my money car kid my very sanity she got pregnant at 16 and makes me pay wasnt my pants off back then can someone help before i die how about losing weight bacuse of no food noy the crack

  10. I married my husband in February 2015, only to find out that he is a crack addict he has sold everything we had that was worth any money I have never did drugs in my life I am 49 he is 36 and spent 14 years of his life in prison he will do okay for 3 or 4 days and then it’s like he turns into a demon she has to have crack please help me to understand I have left him again probably for the 30th time in 8 months he has probably spit in my face at least 50 times degraded me verbally abused me so bad that I can barely look in the mirror I feel like I am scarred for life yet I keep taking him back and believing him when he says he’ll never do it again I’m home for 3 days and he turns into a monster I have bought him two cell phones and he has sold them both anything he can get his hands on he even will rob cars and still from anyone he took my ATM card took all the money off of it and threw it down the sewer he sold his wedding band and anything else that he could please help me I don’t understand I don’t know how to help him I have never been this depressed and sad being away from him is hard but I have to admit it feels so peaceful I feel like I am free yet I always go back. he does not work he will not work I pay all of his fines child support phone bill and groceries everything. he even has brought bed bugs into my beautiful home I won’t even go there to get my stuff he has anyone stay in our house a heroin addict woman told me he asked her to stay the night with him in my home which he denied I don’t know what’s true and what isn’t he says that he cannot get an erection when he is high and says that his hi is so good that he can’t breathe. I am absolutely disgusted with him and myself for allowing this to go on I’ve always been very confident about myself and who I am I am NOT an ugly woman I am very beautiful inside and out as I feel everyone is so why have I allowed him to destroy my world around me I am from the suburbs he is from the ghetto he was raised a lot different than me but I had major struggle in my life which I have overcame I have never struggled with drugs As I am allergic to all narcotics opiates I have fear but that’s going to be in my house one day and I’m not going to know it and somehow it’s going to get in my system and kill so tell me why my mind is so weak that knowing this I go back to him. I am his wife I read the Bible and so does he he struggles between his life of crack and his life with me I am afraid I feel alone and I feel very sad like I have let him down in a way but I cannot continue to live in that environment.I guess I’m just looking for help opinions support I’m so tired of crying everyday I’m wondering if I’m going to get a call that I have to go identify my husband’s body at the morgue due to the fact he either overdosed on crack or was killed while trying to rob someone I don’t even feel safe when I am in our home.

    1. Hello, Teresa. You’re living a tough life. No one deserves that! Remember that you should always be on the first place of your life. So, stop crying, and take control over you life again. Have you considered counseling sessions? I suggest you should. Sharing your problems with a professional might help you a lot. Hope everything will be okay!

  11. My boyfriend is very addicted to crack and I tried it with him one time. Let me first say I used cocaine for about 2 years but have been clean as of this writing for 14 months since 7/11/14. I do not have a very addictive personality, except for cigarettes which I have smoked for 33 years, only quitting for 3 months with the promise of free dental implants which didn’t happen so I quickly picked up a cigarette again. It had been a $70,000 incentive. I just cannot quit. My point is, giving up cocaine was not difficult for me really. I had a strong incentive, and that was my family. So I stopped. I do not suffer from daily cravings and do not think about doing cocaine anymore. That part of my life is over, as much as I loved doing it. And I did it big. 6g’s a night out by myself sometimes.
    When I tried the crack with my boyfriend, I felt nothing. I took about 6 hits over the course of 15 minutes. The crack was from his regular source. One that others used in his crowd. He was strongly affected by it, as usual. I asked if I was doing it right, he said yes. I certainly know how to inhale.
    One other thing to note. I take various opioids on a daily basis due to a brain disease that causes severe pain. I feel no euphoria from them. Never have. They either take away the pain, or they don’t.
    My question is, why did I feel absolutely nothing? Could any of these factors I named have something to do with this? I realize I was taking I risk because I’ve heard so many times that some people get addicted after the first hit, but I somehow knew that wouldn’t happen to me. Let me also say that in my mind I wanted him to see that crack was a mental “thing” and that I was stronger than that.
    Please help me explain why I got no feeling from it.
    By the way…we broke up yesterday and he is supposedly going into long term rehab tomorrow. He has abused me for about 3 months now, hitting me with his car twice causing permanent nerve damage to my leg and punching me in the lower abdomen 2 weeks ago after just having surgery there though he had just moved in to take care of me. Stole thousands of $ to where I have $0 till Wed to figure out how to smoke, get gas and take care of 2 children. I told my family today and they have cut me off because they think I lost the money sitting around doing crack with him. I am far away in a new city with no one. Why I allowed this to happen until yesterday is another story, but at least I am free now I pray. I am a 47 year old woman who has certainly learned her lesson. He was 35. I never dated a younger man. I have watched crack turn a decent guy into a monster. He is truly remorseful when sober. Hates himself and is a demon like animal when out of money and crack.
    I know I ended up telling a story and venting, but I do hope you have an answer for me. I am very curious. Thank you.

  12. I’ve been struggling with crack addiction again. I’m currently back in support group meetings and just got a job that’s desperately needed. Problem is to start job need to pass a urine test. How long will it stay in my urine. Last smoked about 40 dollars worth 3 days ago

    1. Hello Sheryl. The half life of crack is very short – as low as 15 minutes. Despite creating such a short high, crack can be detected in the body for a very long time, depending on the testing method used. Cocaine can be detected in urine for 1-4 days after use, while after a chronic, high-dose use it can be detectable for weeks.

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