Crack is Hard to Quit
Yes, it’s extremely difficult to quit crack, especially on your own.
Crack causes both physical and psychological dependence. When you stop using, your body goes through an adjustment period. In fact, the chemicals in the brain need time to adapt and relearn how to function without cocaine again. This period can provoke extreme depression, suicidal thinking, and manic behavior.
Because of the intense and dangerous withdrawal symptoms, it is highly recommended that anyone who’s quitting crack go through detox in a supervised program. In this article, we discuss the safety concerns around quitting crack in detail. Then, we invite your comments and/or experiences in the section at the end.
If you have a question, please let us know! We try to respond personally to your real life questions.
Crack is one of the most addictive psychoactive drugs on the market. Officially, cocaine crack is considered a Schedule II drug under the Controlled Substance Act (CSA), which describes this drug as:
- A substance with high potential for abuse.
- A substance with no current accepted medical use in treatment in the U.S.
- A substance which can lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.
In fact, the metabolic effects of cocaine are not to be underrated. Cocaine is efficient and works quickly to produce an extreme sense of well-being, the feeling of being high. When smoked in the form of crystalized rock crack…cocaine becomes even more effective. This is why crack is considered a drug with high potential for relapse.
What Makes Stopping Crack So Hard?
In short, crack is difficult to quit because of its effects on the brain. Cocaine stimulates key pleasure centers within the brain and causes an intensified euphoria. Crack stimulates the production of large dopamine amounts. This results in a short but pleasurable high.
When crack is smoked, it travels rapidly through the bloodstream. And it’s super effective. The desire to reach extreme pleasure every time you smoke can lead you to increase the amounts with each dose. This is why after only several uses, compulsion and a loss of control occur very quickly.
Because the body develops physical tolerance to crack quickly, users fail to achieve the same high experienced earlier. This means that they need to constantly increase doses, frequency of use, or potency of the cocaine. Therefore, any attempts to quit after prolonged use will be followed by intensified withdrawal symptoms. As you lose your ability to experience any pleasure from crack, you might attempt to stop, but unfortunately, you’ll experience strong cravings which will make quitting difficult.
If withdrawal symptoms are not properly managed, they can lead you to relapse during the first 30 DAYS of abstinence. Additionally, risk of suicidal or manic thinking is high.
Additionally, crack withdrawal symptoms tend to change as your progress, making you experience new symptoms each week. More here on the withdrawal timeline for cocaine.
Quitting crack on your own or tapering down your doses without medical supervision are not recommended methods of going through cocaine detox. Treatment centers and detox clinics offer a structured program of quitting crack that includes close monitoring and management of withdrawal, psychological, and emotional symptoms. Feelings of isolation and mourning at the loss of this stimulant, as well as dealing with stress can be real problems which could trigger relapse into crack use.
Chronic crack users also develop dependence, which makes it difficult to quit due to the following withdrawal symptoms:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Manic episodes
- Rapid mood changes
- Unpleasant dreams or insomnia
Additional Health Risks
Crack cocaine also affects the body in ways that most people don’t expect. People with lung problems may face additional risks of developing an acute injury to their lungs recognized as “crack lung.” The crack cocaine smoke constricts blood vessels in the lungs, preventing proper circulation in these organs. Due to anxiety and panic attracts, quitting crack may result in difficulty breathing and chest pain.
Other long term effects of cocaine include ongoing depression and changes in behavior. For example, hyper-manic sexual behaviors and other manic pursuits of pleasurable activity can start after you quit using cocaine, such as overeating or addictive types of pleasure seeking. These activities seem to try to compensate for the dulling of certain systems in the brain.
Although crack doesn’t directly affect the kidneys, it can cause long-term damage to them because of the effect on blood vessels. Damaged muscles release a pigment which is toxic to the kidneys. That’s why you should drink lots of fluids in order to flush toxins faster while detox, if not you may be at risk of further damage to the kidneys since they cannot process fluids as fast.
Crack’s effects on the gastrointestinal (GI) tract are also due to indirect effects on blood vessels. Cocaine users get more ulcers, but for different reasons than the usual ulcer patient. Withdrawal effects such as vomiting may exaggerate the inflammation of the stomach lining.
The Safer Way
Because it’s hard to quit on your own, treatment centers and detox clinics are available to help you manage quitting crack. You’l have someone to talk you down from a craving. You can join a support group meeting. Or, a detox clinic can offer you medications to help during your period of adjustment. The main benefits of seeking medical detox can include:
- Building a sober support network.
- Providing relapse prevention tools.
- Treating mental health issues that may be related to your use.
Medical Supervision & Medications
Crack is NOT tapered down during detox. Instead, crack is quit cold turkey under medical supervision. Some examples of medications that can help you counteract uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms include
- Baclofen prescribed to ease pain.
- Desipramine prescribed for the moderation of depression.
- Gabapentin prescribed to reduce withdrawal symptoms like anxiety and insomnia. This medication acts as a neutralizer of the neurological effects of an extended crack addiction until you are able to fully recover.
- Haloperidol prescribed to reduce symptoms such as: nausea and vomiting, delirium, agitation, acute psychosis, and hallucinations.
- Vigabatrin prescribed to control and reduce feelings of anxiety, which may help prevent relapse.
Detox clinic staff are trained to help ease withdrawal symptoms and provide you with psychological and emotional support. You can use the SAMHSA online treatment locator to find the closest one in your area or ask for a referral from your physician refer you to one if needed.
Then, after you go through detox…what next?
Inpatient treatment can be your gateway for maintaining long term sobriety!
If you’re addicted to crack, checking in a residential treatment center might be one of your best recovery options. Sometimes longer stays of at least 90 days are recommended. This is due to the high addiction liability of crack…and the potential of relapse. Inpatient treatment facilities have structured programs designed to help you quit crack, remain sober, and succeed in maintaining your health and well-being.
Rehab centers for crack addiction and its treatment offer medical expertise and counseling that you might find extremely beneficial during treatment. Their experts will give you the proper nutrition and medications you need to detox, and allow you the time to rest and get healthy. There is not a precise length of residential stay, but programs usually last from 30 to 90 days, or for the more severe cases you can stay at the facility even for a year.
Do you still have questions about the difficulties and risks when quitting crack? Please leave your questions, comments, or feedback here. We are happy to help answer your questions personally and promptly. And if we do not know the answer to your particular question, we will refer you to someone who does.