The high from crack cocaine is potent and short-lived, prompting compulsive use to maintain the high. Even after trying crack cocaine once, a person is likely to experience intense drug cravings.
Crack Cocaine Abuse & Addiction
Crack cocaine is the most potent form of cocaine to appear on the streets. The name crack comes from the crackling or popping sound the drug makes when it’s smoked. Snorting cocaine is risky on its own, but smoking crack cocaine is even riskier. Because it’s smoked and produces an instantaneous high, crack cocaine is likely to lead to compulsive use.
What is Crack Cocaine?
Crack cocaine is an illegal stimulant with powerful addictive qualities. Cocaine is the fine white powder derived from the coca plant of South America, and crack cocaine is the rock or crystallized form. Crack cocaine is heated up and smoked to produce an intense fast-acting and short-lived high, lasting around 15 minutes.
Crack cocaine is made from a relatively simple conversion process when cocaine is mixed with water and baking soda or ammonia. A solid eventually forms from the mixture, is removed from the liquid and dried, and then broken into pieces or chunks, which is where the name “rock” comes from. In the mid-1980s, crack cocaine emerged as a cheap and powerful substance, making it affordable and readily available for abuse.
Some street names for crack cocaine include:
- apple jacks
- crack rock
- devil drug
- hard rock
- ice cube
- snow coke
While cocaine is expensive, crack cocaine is cheap. Crack cocaine is abused because of its affordability and addictiveness. Because of the short-lived and intense high, people are likely to smoke crack, again and again, furthering the cycle of addiction and abuse.
Crack cocaine is powerful and addictive, and as little as one hit from a crack pipe can lead to addiction. Once a person begins smoking crack cocaine, they’ll likely show various signs and symptoms of abuse.
Signs And Symptoms Of Crack Cocaine Abuse
Although the high from crack cocaine lasts a brief 15 minutes, smoking the drug produces powerful effects. The short-term effects of crack cocaine abuse may include:
- extreme happiness
- increased sensitivity to light and sound
- paranoia (unreasonable distrust of others)
- unusual energy
People abusing crack cocaine are likely to make smoking crack their top priority. They may neglect responsibilities like work or school, and disregard personal hygiene and other matters of health. They may compulsively smoke crack cocaine, constantly crave it, and continue to smoke it despite harm to themselves or others. A person suffering from crack cocaine abuse may show a lack of judgment relating to drug use and may isolate themselves from friends or families.
Because the high from crack cocaine is so intense, it’s usually followed by extreme feelings of depression and anxiety. A person abusing crack cocaine may feel angry, hostile, or aggressive when they’re not using the drug, and they may experience irregular patterns of sleep.
Long-term crack cocaine use is likely to lead to adverse health effects. A person may experience a loss of appetite, which may lead to malnutrition. Adverse health effects and other serious conditions and behaviors are suggestive of the many dangers of crack cocaine addiction.
The Dangers Of Crack Cocaine Addiction
Crack cocaine addiction comes with the same health risks as cocaine addiction, but may additionally include increased body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure, as well as the increased risk of cardiac arrest (heart attack). People suffering from crack cocaine addiction may also experience breathing problems like shortness of breath, coughing, and lung damage.
Other dangerous long-term health effects of crack cocaine addiction may include:
- brain seizures
- delirium or psychosis (losing touch with reality)
- engagement in risky behaviors
- hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t there)
- heart disease
- reproductive damage for both men and women
- respiratory failure
A person suffering from crack cocaine addiction may show an increase in the frequency of risky behaviors. Because the drug is so addicting, and the effects wear off quickly, a person may resort to criminal activity as a means to score more crack cocaine. Crack cocaine addiction may also cause a person to behave in more aggressive, paranoid, and unpredictable ways.
Overdose is possible from crack cocaine. The risk of overdose is increased when a person mixes crack cocaine with other substances like heroin or alcohol. Overdose can set in quickly, and any signs of overdose should be treated as a medical emergency, as it may lead to death.
Due to the addictiveness of crack cocaine, stopping use may be hard for a person to do on their own. Once they stop use, uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal are likely to set in.
Crack Cocaine Withdrawal And Detox
Since crack cocaine produces a powerful and short-lived high, symptoms of withdrawal may occur as soon as the effects wear off. This is because crack cocaine directly affects areas of the brain associated with reward and punishment, and once the rewarding effect or high ends, a person is likely to experience intense drug cravings for more.
Other symptoms of crack cocaine withdrawal may include:
- extreme fatigue
- insomnia (difficulty falling or staying asleep)
- trouble thinking
- unpleasant dreams
The drug cravings for crack cocaine are intense, and symptoms of withdrawal may lead people to smoke more crack cocaine to help combat the pain and discomfort.
To avoid further drug use, a medically supervised detoxification, or detox, is likely a good option for those struggling with crack cocaine addiction. Medically supervised detox ensures a person will stay drug-free during withdrawal and should take place in a hospital or inpatient treatment center where a person can be closely monitored and observed.
While a medically supervised detox is the first step in treating an addiction to crack cocaine, it’s not a cure for addiction. The goal of medical supervision during detox is to get a person ready for further treatment. If a person doesn’t receive further treatment after detox, they increase the risk of relapse.
Treatment Options For Crack Cocaine Abuse And Addiction
Most treatment for addiction involves a combination of medication and behavioral therapy. Although there are currently no government-approved medications for the treatment of crack cocaine addiction, there are several research efforts to find medications suitable for treating addiction to stimulants like crack cocaine.
In the meantime, behavioral therapy has been successful for people suffering from crack cocaine addiction. Behavioral therapy is the most common form of addiction treatment and consists of changing a person’s thinking and attitudes towards drugs. By promoting healthy lifestyles and tools to deal with potential life stressors, the goal of behavioral therapy is to help people realize they can live a balanced and fulfilling life without drugs.
One form of behavioral therapy, contingency management, has been effective for treating cocaine addiction. Also called motivational incentives, this program rewards people for not using crack cocaine. This is likely effective because it taps into the same reward centers in the brain affected by cocaine use.
Staying at an inpatient treatment center is likely a good option for treating crack cocaine addiction. Inpatient treatment centers provide structure and observation, limiting all distraction and temptation from the outside world. Crack cocaine addiction is tough to overcome, and inpatient treatment centers likely offer a calm and supportive environment conducive to healing. Inpatient treatment also likely provides around the clock attention, medical care, and access to a host of professionals trained to motivate people to engage in recovery.
Call now for more information on treating crack cocaine addiction and abuse.
Center for Substance Abuse Research—Crack Cocaine
National Drug Intelligence Center—Crack Cocaine Fast Facts
National Institute on Drug Abuse—DrugFacts: Cocaine
National Institute on Drug Abuse—How is cocaine addiction treated?