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Addiction and Substance Abuse

Constant Cravings after Quitting Crack?

05/29/2009

Question:

Is it true that after quitting crack, you feel depressed for 6-8 months, because the pleasure center of the brain is all used up? What can I do about my constant cravings and depression? I’m 5 months sober and clean!!

Answer:

Treatment does not end with a successful detox from any mood-altering drug. It is normal for symptoms of depression, anxiety, restlessness and drug cravings to get worse in the months following cessation of crack use. The brain needs time to heal.

Research shows that there is persistent brain activity related to drug use long after you stop using the drug. It is very important that you avoid what are called "conditioned cues" or reinforcers of crack use.

This would be anything that reminds you of the drug, including avoidance of drug-connected people, places and things. In addition, you need to find a sponsor and attend a Cocaine Anonymous group every day. Research has shown that exercise, a vitamin supplement, and a nutritious diet will also help you.

Many individuals struggle with feelings of depression when they stop using crack. If you have suffered from depression in the past or your mood symptoms do not improve as you begin to include the treatment strategies discussed above, I would encourage you to see a mental health professional for evaluation of your symptoms of depression. Relapse rates are significantly reduced when depression is treated appropriately.

Talk with your family physician about your addiction. All prescription medications should be carefully monitored for anyone with a history of addiction. There are many prescribed and over-the-counter preparations which can "wake up" a craving.

Best wishes.

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Response by:

Deborah L Hoy, CNS Deborah L Hoy, CNS
Clinical Instructor at the College of Nursing
College of Nursing
The Ohio State University