Crack Abuse

Crack is a particularly dangerous form of cocaine that is smoked instead of snorted or injected. Unfortunately, many individuals abuse crack for its fast acting and intense effects, and addiction sets in extremely quickly. If you or someone you love has been abusing crack and needs help, now is the time to find it.

Understanding Crack Addiction

According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, “Crack cocaine is a highly addictive and powerful stimulant that is derived from powdered cocaine using a simple conversion process.” The drug is transformed into solid chunks or rocks and then smoked. Because of the way the drug is abused, it reaches the brain much more quickly than regular cocaine and all at once.

This makes its effects extremely intense but short-lived. The average crack high only lasts for about fifteen minutes, but the individual will almost immediately begin to crave the effects afterward. As stated by the Center for Substance Abuse Research, addiction can set in after the first time someone tries crack cocaine.

Signs and Symptoms of Crack Abuse

The signs and symptoms of crack abuse are very clear, and a person who is high on this drug will experience a number of strong side effects. These can include

  • Dilated pupils
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased body temperature
  • Increased heart rate
  • Strong euphoria
  • Hyperstimulation
  • Increased talkativeness
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Aggression
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite

The individual will experience an intense rush of effects and emotions followed by a very quick crash. Once this crash occurs, cravings for the drug will set in immediately. This is why people who smoke crack will often binge on the drug, continuing to smoke it for long periods of time in order to prolong the effects. Then, when they crash, they will experience fatigue, depression, and strong cravings.

Dangers of Crack Abuse

There are many dangers associated with the abuse of crack cocaine. For one, many individuals experience severe depression as a result of taking the drug. When they are on it, they will feel good, but the after effects can lead to complete desolation and even suicidal thoughts. Patients who seek treatment for cocaine abuse should always be screened for co-occurring mental disorders like depression because at least half of the individuals with this substance use disorder suffer from another mental illness (National Library of Medicine).

Other serious risks of crack abuse include

  • Dependence and withdrawal symptoms
    • These can set in very quickly, as stated above. And, according to the US Department of Veteran Affairs, even when someone stops abusing crack and attends treatment, the cravings, depression, and other issues associated with withdrawal can resurface months or even years later with no warning.
  • Overdose
    • A person can easily overdose on crack because of the tendency for users to smoke nonstop in order to prolong their high. Respiratory failure, stroke, and cardiac arrest are all likely to occur during an overdose, and death is extremely common. If you believe someone has overdosed on crack, call 911 immediately.
  • Toxic Psychosis
    • Many individuals who abuse crack cocaine experience severe psychological and behavioral changes as a result of the drug’s effects. A full-blown psychosis can form, causing
      • Hallucinations
      • Delirium
      • Severe paranoia
      • Aggressive and violent behavior
      • Suicidal and homicidal thoughts
    • Unfortunately, these symptoms can also resurface suddenly like those associated with withdrawal years after crack abuse has stopped.
  • Sexual dysfunction and infertility
  • Seizures
  • Malnutrition
    • People who binge on crack are often extremely underweight because the drug causes them to experience no appetite. This can be extremely dangerous and lead to a weakened immune system as well as malnutrition.
  • Risky behavior
    • Individuals on crack are likely to hurt themselves in accidents because of their dangerous behavior. In addition, a person on the drug is also more likely to participate in dangerous sexual activities, which can lead to them contracting diseases like HIV and hepatitis.
  • The faster progression of HIV to AIDS (National Institute on Drug Abuse)
  • Constricted blood vessels
  • Respiratory problems
    • Because the drug is smoked, it can cause
      • Coughing
      • Shortness of breath
      • Bleeding of the lungs

Crack is one of the most dangerous drugs a person can abuse because it causes compulsive use extremely quickly. Many deadly symptoms can also occur with its abuse. Someone who is using this drug should seek professional treatment immediately.

Who Abuses Crack?

According to the NDIC, “Individuals of all ages use crack cocaine,” as an estimated 6,222,000 people in the US aged 12 and older have used the drug at least once in their lifetimes. Though not all of these individuals became addicted, people with certain risk factors like a family history of addiction or childhood trauma are more vulnerable to this outcome. In addition, young people are one of the largest groups of crack abusers, and the younger one is when they begin smoking the drug, the more likely it is to affect their development and cause addiction.

  • 4 percent of US high school seniors have admitted to trying the drug at least once.
  • Results of a 1985 survey from the NIDA show that of “the individuals who had ‘ever used’ cocaine,” 21 percent had abused crack specifically by smoking (US Government Accountability Office). Unfortunately, these numbers have likely risen considerably over the years.

Crack Addiction

Crack addiction is extremely dangerous. Most individuals who become dependent on this drug will do anything to obtain more because the cravings can be unbearable, along with the withdrawal symptoms. Because these symptoms are mostly psychological, others cannot always detect how severe they are, but cocaine withdrawal in general is now understood to be one of the most intense and long-lasting withdrawal syndromes.

This is why crack addicts will continue to abuse the drug, even if they no longer experience a high because of tolerance, just to avoid the severe alternative. And without treatment, it can be nearly impossible––as well as extremely dangerous––to try and put an end to one’s crack addiction.

Am I a Crack Addict?

If you use crack consistently and often, it is probably likely that you have become addicted to it. However, it is still important to consider the signs of addiction and to ask yourself if it is time to seek help.

  • Do I smoke constantly until I’m exhausted or have nothing left?
  • Do I smoke crack every day?
  • Have the things that used to matter to me (school, work, hobbies, family) fallen by the wayside?
  • Do I experience severe cravings when I cannot use?
  • Have my loved ones expressed concern for me and my substance abuse?
  • Do I use crack with other drugs now in order to experience the high I once did?
  • Have I always tried to hide my substance abuse from others and am finding it difficult now?
  • Do I sometimes hear or feel things that aren’t real?
  • Have I experienced severe depression, aggression, or paranoia?
  • Has my substance abuse begun to negatively affect my life?
  • Have I tried to cut back and been unsuccessful?
  • Do I feel that I wouldn’t be able to stop smoking crack, even if I wanted to?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, it is time to seek help. Crack is one of the most potent drugs available, and those who abuse it often cannot stop without some form of professional help.

Crack Addiction Treatment

According to the NIDA, there are currently no pharmacological treatments for cocaine addiction, although certain drugs like antipsychotics and antidepressants may be used to treat withdrawal. However, the crux of crack addiction treatment is behavioral therapy.

  • Behavioral therapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), contingency management, and the Matrix Model are all particularly suited to crack cocaine addiction treatment.
  • In behavioral therapy, patients are able to explore the reasons why they began abusing the drug in the first place and to work on these issues in order to gain control over their lives. Co-occurring disorders like depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder can be treated simultaneously with addiction during therapy.
  • Patients also learn how to
    • Recognize and avoid triggers
    • Cope with cravings
    • Cope with stress
    • Identify positive and negative behaviors
    • Accept rewards contingent with a drug-free life
    • Rebuild their self-esteem and sense of self-worth
    • Avoid negative consequences of substance abuse like crime and sexually transmitted diseases

Support groups can also be a beneficial part of recovery, and programs like SMART Recovery and Cocaine Anonymous can be helpful tools in addition to professional treatment. Without medical care, though, it is extremely difficult to stop abusing crack, which is why it is necessary to seek help as soon as possible for this disorder.