What are crack withdrawal symptoms?

Crack withdrawal symptoms include extreme craving, anxiety, depression, and restlessness. Learn what to expect during crack withdrawal and how to address symptoms here.

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Psychological compulsion and physical dependence are responsible for many of the symptoms of crack withdrawal. Extreme craving, the anxiety, depression, the restlessness, that peculiar inability to feel pleasure, the shakes, muscle pain, nausea – these are just some many typical crack withdrawal symptoms. But what else can you expect during crack withdrawal? And how can you find help with crack addiction?

Were we take a look at what happens during crack withdrawal, why it happens, what is withdrawal from crack like, and how you can ease the process. If you have any further questions how you can withdraw from crack, you can always use our comment form below.

Why do crack withdrawal symptoms occur?

A drug that produces a near instantaneous high, crack is a stimulant that alters the brain chemistry of the user. Specifically, cocaine changes the production of the brain’s neurotransmitters during crack use. This change in levels of dopamine and serotonin are responsible for the change in behavior, thought process, perception and emotions of crack addicts. So what happens during withdrawal exactly?

When a crack user keeps using the drug, the body adjusts to the presence of the cocaine in the system. The normal production of neurotransmitters is modified and the drug no longer produces as intense a high as it used to. This is the dangerous phase of developed tolerance when a user is likely to increase their intake of crack to achieve euphoric effect and could end up overdosing. And when cocaine is removed, the body reacts to the abrupt chemical changes.

When an addict stops using crack, the central nervous system reacts to the absence to cocaine in the system. An array of symptoms will typically manifest, clinically called “Crack Withdrawal Syndrome”. In fact,a crack addict will typically feel a number of symptoms (both physical and psychological) manifest in the hours after last use. Long term withdrawal symptoms – also known as sub-acute withdrawal or protracted withdrawal symptoms – could occur weeks, months or even years after the initial detox phase.

What are symptoms of crack withdrawal?

Since crack is a strong stimulant drug that engenders feelings of euphoria, lowering of inhibitions, delusions of grandeur and lowered anxiety… the crash afterwards can be particularly harrowing. Also crack is one of the most addictive forms of cocaine; another reason why the following withdrawal symptoms can occur in a particularly acute form. Symptoms of crack withdrawal include:

  • aggression and violent incidents
  • agitation
  • anhedonia (the inability to feel pleasure)
  • anxiety
  • craving for the drug
  • depression and lack of motivation
  • exhaustion and fatigue
  • feelings of paranoia
  • flu like symptoms
  • irritability and restlessness
  • mood swings
  • musculoskeletal pain
  • psychosis, hallucinations and other mental disturbances
  • sleep disturbances and vivid nightmares
  • suicidal feelings

Crack withdrawal symptoms: How long?

Crack withdrawal symptoms can start hours after the last hit and could carry on for days, weeks or even months and can be very severe. Since users develop a psychological attachment to crack, the urge to use may resurface even after years of sobriety.

Crack cocaine relapse is very dangerous because the possibility of overdosing is very high, particularly when the body has re-established normalcy and has reverted to functioning without the drug. This is because the body will perceive what was a ‘normal’ dose during heavy use as an extremely high dose after having been sober for a significant length of time.

Crack withdrawal symptoms treatment

The aims of crack withdrawal symptoms treatment or recovery, are

(a) staying sober (abstinence)

(b) prevention of relapse and

(c) rehabilitation of the addict

The following aspects are important the treatment of during crack withdrawal symptoms.

Detox – This stage of treatment may require help from a hospital or outpatient setting. The user can undergo medical assessments and abstain from using in a supervised, phased manner. Heavy users may need to taper off their drug in a safe manner or as prescribed by the addiction specialist or physician.

Medications – Prescription drugs may also help manage difficult withdrawal symptoms or could be an effective means to help the user go off their drug gradually. Anti seizure medication, muscle relaxants, anti psychotic drugs, pain relievers and wakefulness promoting drugs could be beneficial during this phase. Medications prescribed should be such that the user doesn’t end up swapping one addiction for another.

Rehab – The physical dependence on crack is far simpler to resolve than the psychological addiction to the drug. Therapy and counseling are the most effective means to ensure lasting recovery. The addict typically needs guidance, structure and monitoring to help them remain sober.

Psychotherapy – Behavioral and psychological treatments can help a crack addict identify triggering behaviors and people and so the user can avoid them in favor or more sober environments and communities. It will also help the user develop coping mechanisms for stressful situations and triggering events.

Family therapy – Another important aspect of rehabilitation of the addict is to involve family and close friends in the recovery. Those around the addict need to understand how to alter enabling behaviors that may be fueling the addicts’ habit. Enabling behaviors could include financial support, inability or refusal to recognize signs of use, finding excuses for the addict’s behavior, etc. Such codependent behaviors can be addressed via family therapy settings.

Support systems – Joining a support group such as Cocaine Anonymous or even online support forums can help recovery and reduce feelings of isolation. Learning healthy behaviors that include regular physical exercise and a nutritious diet can also help support recovery.

Questions about crack withdrawal

Do you still have questions about crack withdrawal? Please leave your questions in the comments section below. We do our best to respond to you personally and promptly.

Reference Sources: NCBI: Cocaine and Psychiatric Symptoms
NCBI: Pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of methylecgonidine, a crack cocaine pyrolyzate
ICJI: Crack and Cocaine
NIDA: Drug for Cocaine Addiction
GAO: Health consequence and treatment for crack cocaine
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. Hi,
    Days ago I discovered that my brother is addicted to crack. Since our Mum passed away some weeks ago suddenly at the age of 65, he has struggled to cope. He lived with my Mum so he also lost his home too. He has been sofa surfing since with friends who are also crack users therefore is readily available to him. I have intervened by removing him from the village we grew up in as I moved away a long time ago and he is now staying with me for the time being. He is now receiving support from his GP and a local Drug Support group. My concern is, he hasn’t been prescribed anything to help him cope with the withdraw of crack. He’s been given an anti anxiety medication to help with his mental health, however, I don’t know if he needs anything else. He’s begging for help and hasn’t used since Sunday.

    Is there anything you can suggest that I can look into to help him have the best possible chance at handling this now?

  2. Hi,

    I was recently in an appartment (for work) that a person has been smoking crack cocaine / possibly meth inside. The appartment wreaked like drugs, making it hard to breathe and i had to gasp for air. Is it possible this could affect me? I have been feeling sick the past few days, and i am wondering if i am going through withdrawal. I have never touched drugs in my life and i have severe hypochondria so i am extremely worried.

    Thank you

    1. Hi Sara. It may have affected you somehow, but the risks to your health are probably negligible. Also, only people depended on crack cocaine can go through withdrawal symptoms. However, if you don’t feel well I suggest you visit a doctor.

  3. I started crack in March and have already lost so much. Everything seems pointless between my last fix and the next. I worry for my mum as this situation has made it so glaring she is all I have, and I feel worthless which can be a trigger as I feel worthless often before I started crack which was initially to loose weight (imagine) and now. Ive tried to talk to a professional, as those around me may either judge or feel pity for me, case in point; I told two people I considered friends seeking help and they cut all contact so I just withdrew from everyone else. I don’t know what to do anymore, I am killing my mum with worry and I can’t seem to help myself.

    1. Hi Annabel. Call the helpline you see on the website to get in touch with a trusted treatment consultant who can help you find the best rehab for you.

  4. My husband denies he was using crack seen him in March he was still Skittle chunky but he returned home he has lost a lot of weight maybe to days ago he was having bad stomach cramping all over his body but the good thing I guess is that when he’s home he eats

  5. If after 25 years of sobriety from crack. One uses again for a year or more. Do you think that person needs to return to a program or detox?

    1. Hi Carolyn. If someone is start using again for a year or more, maybe the best think for them is to return to the program and detox.

    1. Hi Jennifer. Call the Cocaine Helpline listed here 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 her find a cocaine recovery program.

  6. My friend has been off crack for 67 days.
    He came to see me convinced that there was a gang out to get him, that blue pens and dimes were pointing him in the right direction to go, that he was being followed, including from Canada to thailand.
    He spent 5 weeks in re-hab, and returned to me.
    He is still delusional, but normal in every other way.
    He is on Remeron.
    Any thoughts on when , or if , these delusions will stop ?
    When should he start going on anti-psychotic medications ?
    Should he see a doctor or a psychiatrist ?
    Any thoughts at all would be appreciated.

  7. Whomever said that crack cocaine users do not go through true withdrawal is repeating old, outdated infornation. I know from experience that it most certainly does, and it is agonizing. There is also no such thing as purely psychological withdrawal, as the brain is a part of the human organism. I have noticed a shift in the addiction literature towards recognizing neurobiological components of addiction.

  8. My younger brother has been addicted to crack cocaine for the past 4 years. Before then, he never took alcohol or even smoked. He has lost 2 very good paying jobs and has for the past 3 months left home and living in slums with other crack users. We are worried about him as he has lost so much weight and seems to be in a very bad shape. Each time i talk to him, he weeps and says he wants to quit but i have said he should take his first step to recovery by returning home on his own but even though he promises to return home, he has continuously failed to come back. We are in Nigeria and he is a University graduate and 3 child out of 6 children. I am the first. My parents are both alive and devastated with his situation. He has been in a 6 weeks detoxification program a year ago and relapsed 3 months later. We are confused as a family and dont want to see him waste away his bright future to crack. Kindly advise.

  9. Hi Barbara,, My baby son who is now 23jrs is addicted to crack for maybe 7 jrs now. We tried several times to get him help but without his support with no avail. Our life was turned upside down during that time and still. His doings went so bad that we feared for his life,and left us with no other option as open a case against him with the help from the court which led to a sentence of 18 months. He tried two suicide attemps while in police custody and two more in prison(last dec and last week with a attemted escape as well.His behaviour now is consistent in what we read in your page.We as parents feel so sorry for this withdrawal agony that he must go throught while in prison and without the very much needed treatment that he needs. he suffered already as from child hood with disorders and biopolar. With the drug abuse. his health has worsen from very bad to very worse.We cannot afford to send him to a private rehab.Im very much concern of my wife, who already suffers from a stroke which leads to a brain operation some years ago.(Annurism on the left side of the brain}Your help or advise will be appreciated.Thanks.

    1. Hi Mr and Mrs Bester. You’re going through a lot… I first suggest that you look into our free e-book to learn everything you-need-to-know on how to choose the right rehab: https://addictionblog.org/ebooks/the-definitive-guide-to-rehab/ Then, call the helpline to speak with a trusted treatment consultant. Also, you may check out the CRAFT model for families and interventions. One NGO called Allies in Recovery has some online reading that can help: http://alliesinrecovery.net/about-craft/

    1. Hello Lisa. Tell us your problem, so we can address it properly. If you have problem with addiction, call our trusted treatment provider to learn more about your treatment options.

  10. My boyfriend is a hidden smoker . he thinks no one knows but all the signs are there . how do I help him before the occasional use becomes more

    1. Hi Nina. Thank you for being a concerned girlfriend and willing to help. I’d suggest you speak to an addiction counselor or a therapist that can help you figure out a way to approach your boyfriend in the best way. Good luck!

  11. Hi Mark, help is out there. I’d suggest that you talk honestly about your struggle with a psychotherapist and/or family doctor who can refer you to an inpatient/outpatient treatment program. You’ll need to address the psycho-emotional issues that drive addiction with a mental health professional to guide you through the process. But you are not alone!

  12. I need to over come my crack addiction I have been using it for a long time and have realised its time to let go, I cannot go to a rehab because of my work how else can I overcome it I have no support as I’ve disspaointed my partner and my family too many times and I need to win their trust back..

  13. Hi Barbara. If your husban is having suicidal thoughts and intentions, then you are in need of professional help. If he’s unwilling to get help, organise an intervention. On the other hand, if you’ve already done everything you could, he doesn’t need to be comlyant to get treated for addiction. You can seek more treatment, payment, insurance and intervention options here: https://addictionblog.org/FAQ/treatment-questions-answers/

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