How Long Does a Crack High Last?

The Lowdown On the Crack High

What exactly is crack, how long does a crack high last? Why is it so dangerous? Crack is one of the most notorious illicit substances on the street today. In the 1980’s crack became a widely abused substance due to its easy availability and quick high. Authorities quickly identified crack use as an epidemic, and passed harsh laws to crack down. In spite of this, over six million Americans over 12 years of age have used crack at least once.Here, we will explore the following:

  • What is crack?
  • How does crack affect the body?
  • How is crack addiction treated?
  • Where can I turn for help?

What Is Crack?

Crack is derived from cocaine, a powerful stimulant. When producers combine cocaine and baking soda, a rock-like substance results. This “crack rock” is smoked to produce the desired effect on the user. Smoking crack delivers a large amount of the substance to the lungs rapidly. This produces an almost immediate euphoria, or “high.” Because of its extremely addictive nature, crack is classified as an illegal substance by the federal government.

How Does Crack Affect The Body?

Since crack is a byproduct of cocaine, it is a powerful stimulant that can form an immediate addiction. When cocaine enters the bloodstream, it immediately hijacks the brain’s pleasure/reward functions. The brain will send out pleasure signals from the first use in the form of dopamine. This is the euphoric “high” many users describe. However, the high from smoking crack generally lasts only 5-10 minutes. At the same time, cocaine blocks the brain’s neurotransmitters from absorbing all of the dopamine produced. This impairs the brain’s ability to process information, and over time rewires the brain to “need” higher amounts of substance. Short term effects include:

  • Extreme happiness or euphoria
  • Hyper-sensitivity to sense inputs (touch, sounds, etc.)
  • Irritability
  • Paranoia

As the brain adapts to the new substance, it develops a dependence. This condition is known as Substance Use Disorder (SUD). Instead of sending out pleasure signals for use, the brain sends out distress signals when the patient is not using. These distress signals are known as withdrawal. Common symptoms of cocaine withdrawal include:

  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Disruption in appetite
  • Trouble sleeping/unpleasant dreams
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Impaired mental function

Longer periods of use result in even more severe health problems. Because cocaine is a powerful stimulant, users can develop severe heart trouble. Other long term problems caused by smoking cocaine in crack form can include:

  • Restlessness
  • Involuntary twitching
  • Nausea
  • Dilated pupils
  • Damaged lungs
  • Severe asthma
  • Higher risk of pneumonia and other respiratory infections

How Is Crack Addiction Treated?

SUD from crack use is a serious medical condition. However, there are treatment options available. The safest and most effective treatment is a medically supervised detox followed by comprehensive treatment. Every patient is different, so every treatment plan is unique to the patient’s needs. Our team will help you plan the treatment program that is best for you. In general, here is what you can expect the process to look like.


The first step in treatment is a complete intake exam. You will meet with your care team for a full physical examination, including vital signs and bloodwork. Be sure to let your coordinator know about any medications you are taking, as well as any other substances. You may also be asked about your family history, as well as your current living situation. Your care team will use this information to create a care plan that best suits your needs.

Medically Supervised Detox

Before you begin treatment, you will need to let your body rid itself of the substance. This process is known as detoxification, or detox. Unlike some substances, crack withdrawal is generally not deadly. Without medical supervision, though, it can be unpleasant. Your care team will take measures to keep you comfortable and safe as your body cleans itself. Depending on your needs, this process may be done at a detox center. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids and follow your care team’s nutritional guidelines. This process generally lasts 1-2 weeks.


After detox, you will likely be transferred to either a partial hospitalization program (PHP) or intensive outpatient treatment (IOP.) During the day, you will meet with your medical team as needed, and attend therapy sessions. In therapy, you will learn to identify triggers for use, and learn coping strategies for sober living. Therapists are also trained to help you recover from past traumas and other life issues that may have lead to use. Depending on your needs, treatment can last anywhere from a few months to a year.

Where Can I Turn For Help?

Addiction is a medical condition, not a moral failure. If you are living with a SUD, it is not your fault. Contact our team today to begin your journey to recovery!