Crack Cocaine Addiction: How to Get off the Drug

2 min read · 3 sections
Evidence-Based Care
Expert Staff

Crack cocaine is a freebase form of the stimulant powder, processed into crystalline rocks using baking soda or ammonia. The rocks can be smoked, causing a faster, more potent high. In fact, crack is often considered the most potent form of cocaine on the market. The high from crack only lasts for about 15 minutes, so people who smoke the drug immediately want to consume it again. It is very addictive, and it can easily lead to binges.

Crack Cocaine

The crack form of cocaine was developed in the 1970s as a cheaper, more potent version of the drug. The substance’s popularity peaked in the 1980s, and although it is less popular now, crack addiction is still believed to be an epidemic.

When a person smokes crack, the chemical enters the brain and forces the release of dopamine. This leads to excited energy and a powerful euphoria as well as cravings when the sensation wears off. Although long-term use of crack cocaine causes serious health damage, it is very difficult to stop taking the drug without the right help.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) found, in 2013, that 6 percent of people who entered rehabilitation programs did so due to a cocaine addiction; the majority of those people, at 68 percent, smoked crack cocaine.

Withdrawal from Crack Cocaine

Medical oversight during detox is the best way to prevent relapse to crack cocaine abuse. Withdrawal symptoms are not dangerous, but they can feel very uncomfortable. A person going through withdrawal on their own is at greater risk of bingeing on the drug because of their discomfort than someone who has help managing withdrawal symptoms.

What are the Withdrawal Symptoms of Crack/Cocaine:

Extreme withdrawal symptoms may feel like intense depression, which can lead to suicidal thoughts.

This, in part, is why working with counselors and doctors to detox safely is important. The social support provided gives the person encouragement to persevere when they experience intense mood swings. It is also important because a doctor can use small doses of medicines like acetaminophen to manage aches and pains. Without these forms of support, the person is more likely to give in to their intense cravings and relapse. Relapse is also more likely to lead to bingeing, which can cause an overdose.

What Are the Challenges When Quitting Crack?

What Are the Challenges When Quitting Crack?

Opioid drugs have medicines, like buprenorphine, that are used as replacement therapies to taper people off the drugs. For people struggling with crack cocaine addiction, however, there are no replacement medications to ease the person off the substance. The person just has to stop taking the drug.

Fortunately, people who want to overcome crack cocaine addiction can benefit from both inpatient and outpatient programs. Research suggests that both styles of rehabilitation offer equal benefits, so the choice largely depends on whether a person wants to enter a facility full time or if they prefer to remain at home. The decision should be made by the individual in conjunction with their treatment team.

The Process of Overcoming Crack Cocaine Addiction

Medical researchers are working to find medicines that can ease crack cocaine withdrawal symptoms. There are no drugs approved by the FDA for this part of the process, but some medicines, like naltrexone or disulfiram, may help to ease cravings and prevent relapse in the long-term. Those overcoming crack cocaine addiction may also benefit from small, controlled doses of antidepressants or anti-anxiety medicines to ease psychological symptoms and mood swings. Over-the-counter pain relief can help with physical aches and pains.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is also a common method for overcoming addiction, and this style of therapy works well for people ending an addiction to crack cocaine.

Some people may choose to enter therapeutic communities, like sober living homes. These communities are free from all substances of abuse, and residents support each other in remaining abstinent from substance use. A therapeutic community can be entered during treatment, as part of the rehabilitation plan, or after the rehabilitation program is completed. Regardless of the timing, these environments help many people maintain sobriety and avoid relapse because of the encouragement provided by people who are dealing with similar problems. Therapeutic communities keep people away from triggers that are found in their original environment, like former friends, traumatic memories, or specific items and places that remind them of drug use; avoiding these while working to establish a sober lifestyle in the vulnerable stage of early recovery is very important.

Ultimately, overcoming an addiction to potent drugs like crack cocaine requires assistance. Medical professionals, ranging from doctors to therapists, along with friends, family, and peers can offer those in recovery the emotional support needed to find firm footing in recovery. With the right help, individuals can go on to embrace healthy, sober lives.

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