Crack cocaine is an extremely addictive and potent drug. Yet, it is one of the most commonly used drugs in the United States, with around five million people reporting to have used it in the past year.
Derived from the coca plant, crack cocaine is the crystal form of cocaine, which is formed when powder cocaine, baking soda, and water are combined and cooked into small rocks. As crack is extremely concentrated, it is highly addictive.
Typically ingested via methods of smoking, crack cocaine reaches the brain rapidly, giving users a more intense high than they would experience if snorting cocaine. Although various factors determine how long the high of smoking crack lasts, it usually reduces five or 10 minutes after consumption. The National Drug Intelligence Center has suggested that the popularity of crack cocaine could be due to the fact that it is relatively easy to make.
What Is Crack Cocaine?
Cocaine is an extremely addictive and dangerous drug. Although there are some situations where cocaine may be used for medical purposes, such as local anesthesia for some surgeries, recreational use of cocaine is illegal.
Powdered cocaine and crack cocaine are derived from the same plant; however, crack cocaine produces a much more extreme effect and has stronger short-term physical and mental health side effects. It is thought that the effects of smoking crack are similar to that of injecting cocaine.
Crack cocaine varies significantly in its purity, affecting how it is experienced. It is also often combined with other substances, which changes the effects on the user. In addition, there is a dangerous culture of crack cocaine being mixed with other drugs such as stimulant amphetamines or synthetic opioids, including fentanyl - a highly addictive and dangerous substance. This can pose an extreme risk to users as they often don't know what the drug they are taking has been mixed with and therefore can't regulate it.
As noted above, crack cocaine has a relatively short but intense high. Once the high wears off, users are at risk of experiencing adverse effects. Like many other addictive substances, these negative side effects can include mental health problems such as paranoia and depression.
Crack cocaine-induced paranoia is said to have profound effects, with some users reporting hearing voices or feeling as though they are being followed. It can also cause unpredictable and violent behavior leading to dangerous situations for both the user and those around them.
How Addictive Is Crack Cocaine?
Crack is extremely addictive, even for individuals who have used it for a short period of time. Some signs that a person may have a crack cocaine addiction include:
- An increased tolerance, meaning a higher dosage is needed to feel the same effects.
- A preoccupation with thinking about using and obtaining crack cocaine.
- Spending a significant amount of time and resources on drug abuse, leaving little time for anything else.
- Continuing to smoke crack cocaine despite the negative impact it has.
A national survey looking into the prevalence of drug and alcohol abuse found that 4.1% of American adults aged 26 and older have used crack in their lifetime. When it comes to cocaine use, research suggests that the numbers for snorting cocaine are higher than for smoking it.
There is a common misconception that snorting cocaine is somehow less risky for our health than smoking crack. However, this is not the case. Regardless of how cocaine is consumed, it can have the same dangerous and addictive side effects.
However, the good news is that people who have a drug addiction can and do stop smoking crack with the right support and addiction treatment.
Side Effects of a Crack Addiction
Generally, people use crack cocaine to alter their state of mind. This is because the effects of crack can give people a feeling of escapism and cloud out any bad feelings. However, these intense effects wear off and often leave the individual feeling worse than they did before using.
Unfortunately, cocaine addiction can cause an individual to lose their sense of self. To someone observing the situation, it may feel like their friend or family member is a completely different person.
For crack cocaine users, there are immediate side effects as well as more long-term effects. Some of the impacts of smoking crack cocaine include:
- Constricted blood vessels
- Increased heart rate
- Feelings of euphoria
- Muscle tremors and twitches
- Increased energy
- Erratic behaviors
- Heart palpitations
In addition to the above, frequent crack use is likely to lead to substance abuse and cocaine addiction, which can be very difficult to control.
Long-Term Health Impacts of Drug Abuse
Prolonged crack cocaine use can induce various long-term implications. Smoking crack puts the body under strain in part due to the harsh chemicals and other drugs it is combined with. Over time, these chemicals build up in the body, causing extreme physical and psychological reactions.
The long-term physical effects of smoking crack include:
- Tooth decay
- Chest pains
- Heart attack
- Lung damage
- Respiratory failure
- Liver damage
- Kidney damage
- Sexual dysfunction
- Fertility problems
The long-term psychological effects of smoking crack include:
- Erratic or risky behavior
- Mental health problems including depression and anxiety
For somebody experiencing a crack addiction, the drug typically becomes the most important part of their life. This leaves little time or energy for them to focus on their work or education, causing their finances and career to suffer.
Some signs of financial trouble due to crack addiction include:
- Loss of job
- Declaring bankruptcy
- Selling household items
- Repeatedly asking friends or family members for money
- Stealing money
Signs of a Crack Overdose
One danger of smoking crack is experiencing an overdose, which transpires when somebody consumes too much of the substance and poisons their system. As the body is unable to cope with the large quantity of substance, it causes very harmful, often fatal effects.
The risk of overdosing on crack increases when someone uses it alongside another substance, such as alcohol. In these cases, the body is under immense pressure to expel two drugs at once and cannot get rid of them quickly enough to avoid harmful effects.
Signs of a crack overdose could include:
- Slowed pulse
- Slowed breathing
- Excessive perspiration
- Loss of consciousness
- Excessive itching
Addiction Treatment for Drug Abuse
At Cornerstone, we know how easy it is for crack addiction to consume a person's life. With over 21 million people in the United States living with substance abuse, the problem is widespread. The physical and emotional implications of substance use can lead to everything from health problems and emotional issues to relationship breakdowns and financial problems.
If you or someone you love is struggling with a crack addiction, help is available at Cornerstone. We understand the challenges and pain of drug abuse, and we aim to support each person through the difficult days of recovery.
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Nobody should have to live in the grips of an addiction, and it's our mission to help clients find the path to sobriety. Accepting that you or a loved one is living with a problem is often the hardest step, but we know the way forward.
At Cornerstone Orange County, we offer flexible addiction treatment options for everybody who walks through our doors. Contact us today to access our confidential help and support line and learn about our addiction treatment program.