Treatment for crack addiction parallels that of cocaine addiction. The first step is a period of detox (drug detoxification). Detox is best done in an in-patient facility where the patient can be monitored. Although withdrawal from crack isn’t life threatening, some of the symptoms of crack addiction can be treated as they occur. For instance, there are medications that can help with insomnia, anxiety and depression. Monitoring is also important to make sure addicts do not cheat and obtain crack or other drugs while undergoing rehabilitation.
Clonidine (a blood pressure medication) is thought to help with the cravings that develop during detox, but there is no drug available that specifically treats the addiction. For most patients, cravings will continue long after the detox period (usually a week). After initial detox, patients are then exposed to a program of individual and group therapy.
Therapy is directed at two goals. The first is helping the addict understand their addiction and learn techniques to fight urges to use. This will also address environmental and social triggers. The second is to help with other problems that might lead to relapse.
Part of an overall program of treatment will include groups of other addicts meeting and sharing stories. It is a powerful experience to hear what others have gone through and to hear about recovery successes.
Unfortunately, the relapse rate for crack addiction is quite high. This is discouraging, but some users will require several rounds of treatment before clear progress is seen. One of the difficulties is that a return to crack seems like such an easy answer to problems with depression and anhedonia (an inability to feel pleasure). The drug seems like an instant cure. Patients have to accept that sobriety will take a great deal of time and effort – but is ultimately worth the work.
photo by Anton Malan