Medically Reviewed

Crack Withdrawal Symptoms & How to Quit

2 min read · 4 sections

Crack cocaine is a highly addictive substance that can cause numerous problems and health effects, including crack withdrawal when someone quits or reduces their use.1

Crack is the street name given to a form of cocaine that’s made by processing cocaine into small white or off-white rock crystals that are then smoked. Crack cocaine, a solid substance, gets its name from the crackling sound the rock makes when it’s heated.

This article will go over what to expect with crack withdrawal and how to get help for crack addiction.

What Is Crack Cocaine Withdrawal?

Crack withdrawal is a syndrome someone may experience when they cut back or quit crack use after developing physical dependence to the substance. Dependence may develop after chronic use over time.1

Dependence is a physiological adaptation of the body to a substance, wherein the body becomes so used to the drug being present in the system that when the individual cuts back on their use or quits, withdrawal symptoms emerge. 

People that have developed physiological dependence to crack cocaine may feel like they need crack in order to feel and function normally. These people may continue to compulsively use crack as a way of avoiding unwanted withdrawal symptoms.1

Symptoms of Withdrawal

People that quit crack may experience mental and physical symptoms, known as cocaine withdrawal syndrome.1 Symptoms of crack withdrawal include:1,2

  • Dysphoria (low mood).
  • Fatigue.
  • Anxiety.
  • Agitation.
  • Increased appetite.
  • Intense cravings for the drug.
  • Depression.
  • An intense desire for sleep, followed by insomnia.
  • Poor concentration.
  • Psychomotor retardation (slowed movements).
  • Paranoia.
  • Psychotic symptoms.

Crack withdrawal symptoms are not typically life threatening, but they can be very distressing and uncomfortable; in some cases, withdrawal can lead to serious complications like profound depression accompanied by suicidality.1

Duration of Withdrawal

The crack cocaine withdrawal timeline can vary from person to person, and symptoms can wax and wane. Acute withdrawal symptoms often start within a short time after the last crack use.1

Generally speaking, acute symptoms can last several days, and less severe symptoms, can persist for around 2 weeks or longer, with a person’s mood usually returning to normal in approximately 1 month.1

What Are the Challenges When Quitting Crack?

Crack addiction is a medical condition characterized by compulsive, uncontrollable use of a substance despite the harmful effects and harm it causes.1 As such, someone may not be able to quit using on their own even if they want to. 

Addiction can involve physiological changes, such as tolerance and dependence, and it can also result in harmful behavioral changes that negatively impact every area of a person’s life. Addiction development is accompanied by functional changes within the brain that can impact an individual’s drive, motivation, thought processes, and behaviors so much that drug use becomes prioritized over everything else.1

Crack cocaine is particularly addictive because of the way it increases dopamine activity in the brain. Dopamine is an important neurotransmitter, or chemical messenger, that is associated with positive reinforcement and motivation. After a person stops using crack, their dopamine levels may be depleted, resulting in withdrawal symptoms and intense cravings.1

Furthermore, researchers believe that chronic use of drugs like crack can cause structural changes in the brain, making someone suffer cravings long after they quit using. Triggers, such as stress, contact with certain people, places, or moods, may trigger uncontrollable cravings, even after years of sobriety.3

Despite this, crack addiction is a highly treatable condition; there are evidence-based treatment methods developed through years of research that have helped many people quit crack cocaine and lead fulfilling lives in recovery.4

Treatment for Crack Cocaine Addiction

Treatment for stimulant addiction can involve behavioral therapies, peer support, and psychoeducation. There are currently no FDA-approved medications to treat crack addiction.4

Behavioral therapies can include:4,5

  • Contingency management (CM), which provides positive reinforcement and rewards to people who achieve their treatment goals.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which encourages people to examine unhelpful or negative thoughts, behaviors, and feelings associated with crack use and helps them develop skills that are necessary to remain substance-free.
  • Motivational interviewing (MI), which helps people overcome ambivalence toward recover, strengthen their motivation, and develop goals and a plan for change.

Quitting crack is not easy, but we’re here to help. If you’re struggling with crack addiction, or you know someone who is, please call us at to speak to an admissions navigator and learn more about your withdrawal management and rehab options.

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