Crack Cocaine Abuse And Addiction

Crack cocaine is an intensely powerful stimulant drug that can cause addiction or fatal overdose after only one use. Comprehensive treatment can help protect a person’s life and guide them towards sobriety.

Recovery from crack cocaine addiction is best treated in an evidence-based drug rehab program. This research-based approach uses science-backed therapies to help a person develop positive habits that support sobriety.

The best drug rehab programs for crack cocaine focus on treating both the psychological and physical components of addiction.

By receiving individualized care, a person has a greater likelihood of achieving mind-body-spirit healing and long-term recovery from crack cocaine addiction.

About Crack Cocaine

Crack cocaine is the most potent and addictive form of cocaine. As such, abuse of this drug can cause addiction or overdose the very first time a person abuses it.

Crack is the freebase version of cocaine that results when cocaine is processed with certain chemicals. This yellowish-white drug takes the form of large rocks, small nuggets or small pieces that look like soap shavings. As it’s heated, crack makes a crackling sound, an effect that gives crack its name.

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Like cocaine, crack is a stimulant drug. For this reason, crack is sometimes referred to as an upper. While the high from crack is relatively short-lived, the effects of this drug can be very powerful.

To overcome crack’s brief high, this drug is commonly consumed in binges. During a binge, a person takes back-to-back doses of crack, a behavior that may occur over hours or even days.

While using this drug in any capacity can lead to addiction, a person may develop the compulsive patterns of addiction more quickly if the drug is smoked. Though most commonly smoked, the drug may also be snorted or injected intravenously.

Crack Cocaine Abuse Signs And Symptoms

When a person becomes tolerant to and dependent on crack they will likely begin to take the drug more often and/or in greater doses. At this time, cravings can become so intense that a person spends large amounts of time, energy and money on finding and taking the drug.

Abuse of crack typically requires certain equipment or paraphernalia. In certain cases, a person may alter a common household item to serve as a vessel for smoking crack.

When the drug is smoked, crack cocaine paraphernalia may include:

  • a butane or torch lighter
  • a glass handpipe, stem or waterpipe
  • faucet aerators or steel wool to be used as filters
  • a burnt or empty lightbulb
  • aluminum cans with small holes punched in it
  • straws and burnt tinfoil

Finding these items in an individual’s personal space, such as in a bedroom, car or purse, could point to addiction. While some of these items may be used for other drugs, finding them could be a red flag for crack abuse. Regardless of the drug, paraphernalia and signs of abuse are causes for concern.

Crack Cocaine Abuse Short-Term Effects

Crack exerts a powerful stimulating force on a person’s central nervous system. This vital system is tasked with regulating a person’s blood pressure, breathing, heart and temperature, rates that may increase with abuse.

When abused, this drug also causes an excess of dopamine to flood the brain, an action that can create intense feelings of euphoria.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, or chemical messenger, that is responsible for overseeing the brain’s reward system. In abundance, dopamine can cause a person’s reward and pleasure center to go into overdrive. This action reinforces using crack, an effect that is experienced as a craving.

This high may be accompanied by the following short-term physical and mental side effects of crack cocaine abuse:

  • alertness
  • anxiety
  • dilated pupils
  • energy surges
  • excitability
  • extreme happiness
  • hyperstimulation
  • insomnia
  • irritability
  • mood shifts
  • poor appetite
  • talkativeness
  • tremors

When crack is smoked, a person feels the effects almost immediately. However, this brief yet intense rush only lasts from five to 15 minutes. Once it fades, a person will likely have an overwhelming urge or craving to use the drug again.

Crack Cocaine Abuse Long-Term Effects

In the long-term, abuse of crack can lead to bouts of aggression, unpredictable behaviors, and violence, states that can be even more severe when high doses of this drug are used.

Other psychological problems can result, such as delirium, paranoia, psychosis, and hallucinations. If a person develops tactile hallucinations, they may feel things that don’t exist, such as bugs crawling beneath their skin. This sensation is commonly referred to as “coke bugs.”

Chronic appetite suppression due to crack can cause extreme weight loss and malnourishment as well.

Though crack cocaine abuse is harmful at any point, the longer the drug is abused, the greater the risks and dangers.

Crack Cocaine Abuse Risks And Dangers

From the first time a person takes crack, to long-term use of this drug, crack cocaine abuse can cause a range of physical and mental health issues, including serious medical problems.

In addition to the risk of overdose and sudden death, the most serious risks and dangers of crack cocaine abuse include:

  • Brain and nervous system damage from crack: When crack is abused over the long term, a person may suffer damage to their brain and nervous system. This could include brain seizures, strokes and potentially life-threatening bleeding in the brain. Movement disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, may also result.
  • Cognitive problems from crack: Abusing crack for long periods of time can greatly impact the way a person thinks. These changes can include difficulty making decisions, impaired attention, memory problems, and poor impulse control.
  • Heart problems from crack: Long-term crack cocaine abuse greatly stresses the heart and cardiac system. Chronic use of crack may lead to aortic ruptures, cardiac arrest, heart attack, heart disease and inflammation of the heart.
  • Lung problems: Individuals who frequently smoke crack may develop crack lung. This chronic lung condition is similar to pneumonia.

One of the gravest risks of crack cocaine abuse, whether it be in the short- or long-term, is overdose.

Crack Cocaine Overdose Signs

Crack cocaine overdose can happen to someone who has used crack for long periods of time or to someone who is trying the drug for the first time. When crack is used in binges, the risk of overdose can be much higher. An overdose on crack can be fatal.

Spotting the signs of overdose when it starts could help to save a life.

Signs and symptoms of a crack cocaine overdose may include:

  • agitation
  • anxiety
  • bluish skin
  • hallucinations
  • high blood pressure
  • fast or irregular heartbeat
  • loss of bladder control
  • profuse sweating
  • fast or difficult breathing

Many people who abuse crack take other drugs as well, a behavior referred to as polydrug abuse.

Alcohol and heroin, two central nervous system depressants, or downers, are frequently mixed with cocaine. Mixing an upper and a downer can be very dangerous. It can place an immense strain on a person’s body, heart, and central nervous system.

When heroin and crack are combined, the stimulating properties of crack may somewhat mask the sedative properties of heroin. Because of this, a person may consume more heroin and place themselves at risk for a heroin overdose.

Crack Cocaine Withdrawal Signs And Symptoms

As such a potent stimulant drug, crack dependence can occur quickly. In a dependent state, a person may experience withdrawal symptoms in as little as a few hours after they stop taking crack.

The timeline of crack cocaine withdrawal can somewhat vary per person, however, withdrawal symptoms can generally last up to one week.

In addition to severe urges or cravings for crack, signs and symptoms of crack withdrawal may include:

  • agitation
  • depression
  • fatigue
  • increased appetite
  • intense headaches
  • irritability
  • low energy
  • muscle tremors
  • poor concentration
  • slowed thinking
  • restlessness

A person may also feel as if they need more sleep than normal, and when sleeping, have vivid or distressing dreams.

Crack Cocaine Withdrawal And Detox Treatment Programs

Individuals who experience severe withdrawal from crack may be best treated in a live-in treatment program. An inpatient medical detox program for crack cocaine offers 24-hour support and care while a person physically withdraws from cocaine.

Though there aren’t any FDA-approved medications for crack cocaine addiction, medications may be administered to ease certain withdrawal symptoms. Counseling sessions at this time could help a person cope and prepare for rehab.

Finding A Crack Cocaine Drug Rehab Program

The best crack cocaine addiction treatment programs adapt treatment to meet each client’s specific needs and recovery goals. This individualized approach may include addressing any health, medical, relationship or career problems related to crack abuse and addiction.

While crack addiction can be treated in an outpatient program, an inpatient drug rehab program for crack may be a better option for people who are severely addicted or who have been addicted for a long period of time.

Residential treatment for crack may also be recommended for people who have relapsed multiple times, who have a co-occurring mental health disorder or who are addicted to another drug.

An inpatient addiction treatment program for crack grants a person more time to focus on healing their body, mind, and spirit. Living on site at a treatment center provides 24-hour support and increased access to the treatments and therapies that promote recovery from crack cocaine.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse notes that cognitive behavioral therapy and 12-step facilitation therapy, two evidence-based behavioral therapies, may be beneficial treatments for cocaine and stimulant drugs.

Selecting a treatment program that offers research-based treatment and individualized care can help equip a person with the skills they need to find long-term sobriety from crack cocaine.

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