Cocaine is a commonly known drug that many people around the world abuse. While its effects and risk factors are universally known, there is a specific form of the drug that is less known but actually induces a more intense and immediate high: crack cocaine.
Like other abused drugs, there are many potential health risks of crack cocaine; however, its potency increases these risks. This post will explore what crack cocaine is, crack cocaine abuse, addiction, and treatment options available for those with drug addiction.
What Is Crack Cocaine?
Cocaine is a stimulant drug that originates from a coca plant. Once the extract has been purified, the drug looks like white powdered crystals. These can be used for medicinal purposes, however, it is more well-known for its high potential for abuse and the effects it induces.
While cocaine has always been a matter of concern, a freebase form of the drug produces an even more intense high and increases the potential risk factors.
Crack cocaine is produced by combining the powder form of cocaine with either baking soda or ammonia. This solution is then boiled and cooled down until it forms a rock crystal. The drug is often referred to as ‘crack’ due to the crackling sound that the crystal makes once the drug is heated. Another common street name for the drug is ‘rock’, because of the small hard crystals that resemble rocks after the solution has initially been created.
Crack cocaine is typically consumed through smoking or injecting the drug. If it is smoked, people tend to heat it up in a glass pipe; however, it can also be added to tobacco and smoked as a cigarette.
Because crack cocaine has to be either smoked or injected, the drug reaches the brain more directly and quickly than other forms of ingestion, resulting in a more intense, short-lived, and powerful high that lasts for around 15 minutes. Due to the short-term effects, crack cocaine is repeatedly used in one sitting as crack users try to reach their first initial high.
Addiction to Crack Cocaine
Addiction, more widely known as substance abuse disorder, is classified as a brain disorder that, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse and Mental Health, “affects a person’s brain and behavior, leading to a person’s inability to control their use of substances.” It is therefore a medical condition that requires treatment. Luckily there is an abundance of treatment options.
Substance abuse disorders are common in the US. Research has found that around 1.3 million people over the age of 12 have a cocaine use disorder, which means that they either abuse cocaine or crack. Both are powerful substances that can cause changes within the brain after just one use, so repeated use of the drug causes many health risks.
But what makes crack cocaine so addictive and why do people continue to partake in crack cocaine abuse, despite the negative consequences?
Causes of Crack Addiction
Cocaine and crack cocaine are both very powerful stimulants that induce feelings of increased energy and euphoria. However, crack cocaine is more potent and increases the risk of developing an addiction. In fact, some people have been found to develop a crack addiction just after their first hit of the drug.
The intense high that is caused by crack cocaine is desirable for many drug users, but the problem is that it doesn’t last for very long, causing intense cravings where users want to take more of the drug to reach their desired high. This eventually leads to a crack addiction where users need more of the drug to feel the effects.
Crack cocaine works by increasing the amount of dopamine that is found within the brain. This is a natural chemical that is associated with our reward and pleasure systems. Therefore, if a person has a crack addiction, their brains become used to the abnormal amount of dopamine that is present after drug use, and the natural production of the dopamine is reduced massively.
Smoking crack causes the drug to reach the brain at a much faster rate than snorting the drug, and this results in a more intense high that lasts for around five to ten minutes. Eventually, an intense rush is experienced and a hard crash quickly follows. This is associated with feelings of depression and anxiety, increasing the risk of intense cravings and addiction.
Repeated drug use can also cause changes within the brain’s reward system as over time it becomes less sensitive to the effects of the drug. This results in people using crack cocaine compulsively despite the negative consequences as they need more of the drug at more frequent times in order to feel the desired high and prevent any withdrawal symptoms.
Effects of Crack Cocaine Drug Abuse
Crack cocaine is an illicit substance which means that any use of the drug is considered to be drug abuse. Due to ignorance of what is in the drug’s content, the effects of smoking crack cocaine can be different for each individual. As discussed, crack cocaine induces a series of short-lived effects, both psychological and physical, and the intensity of them is dependent on the amount that has been consumed. Some side effects are:
- Extreme happiness
- Sensitivity to senses
- Out-of-character behavior, e.g., violent behavior
- Dilated pupils
- Increased blood pressure
- Increased body temperature
- Rapid heartbeat
Long term effects
The long-term effects of crack cocaine addiction can be detrimental; the effects of abuse can cause harm to a lot of the body’s vital organs, including the kidneys, liver, and heart. Crack cocaine can negatively affect the immune system, resulting in users being at a higher risk of contracting infections. Other long-term effects of crack addiction and abuse include:
- Lung damage
- High blood pressure
- Heart attack
If someone who has developed a crack addiction and, therefore being psychologically and physically dependent, decides to stop taking the drug, they will experience withdrawal symptoms. Due to the potency of the drug, withdrawal symptoms experienced are often intense.
Continued use of crack cocaine affects the body’s nervous system and the brain, therefore creating changes. When a person with a crack addiction decides to stop taking the drug, their body must adjust to learning how to function without the drug in their system. Some symptoms of withdrawal include:
- Unpleasant dreams
The length and intensity of withdrawal are individual to each person; it varies depending on personal factors such as tolerance, duration, the severity of the addiction, and the body’s chemistry. With professional medical advice, you can learn to manage and control these symptoms effectively in order to make the beginning of your recovery process as easy as possible.
As with the abuse of any drug, there is always the risk of an overdose. An overdose is a result of the body becoming pathologically stimulated. This can result in increased or irregular heart rate and development of seizure activity, increasing the risk of heart rate abnormalities and seizures.
There are many risk factors for an overdose, the number one being the use of crack cocaine. However combing crack cocaine with other drugs can drastically increase the risk. The effects of using depressant substances, such as alcohol abuse or heroin, can alter the way a person perceives the effects of crack cocaine, therefore leading users to take more of the drug and as a result, increasing the risk of an overdose.
Despite these risks, with the right help and support, you can overcome a crack cocaine addiction and live a happy and healthy life without the fear of experiencing an overdose.
Signs and Symptoms of Crack Cocaine Addiction
There are some obvious signs and symptoms that a person will display if they have a crack addiction. The most obvious signs are intense and excessive outbursts of energy, far beyond a person’s normal response to excitement. This can cause a person to talk quickly, eat quickly, or may not eat at all. When the drug is wearing off, individuals experience great fatigue.
The quick changes between these two states can cause negative consequences to a person’s day-to-day life. As a person’s sleep routine is completely destroyed, the ability to attend school, work, or any other obligations is unachievable. When alternating between extreme stimulation and fatigue, it is not uncommon for a person to display violent behavior and unpredictable mood swings.
Crack cocaine can also cause a person to experience uncontrollable jittering or shaking which continues even after drug use.
Treatment for Crack Cocaine Addiction
There are a number of treatment facilities that offer a multitude of treatment options for crack cocaine addiction. Effective treatment for addiction involves detoxification and therapy.
The treatment process starts with a detox. This is where a person stops taking the drug and is likely to experience withdrawal symptoms. The symptoms of withdrawal typically start shortly after the last drug use and can last for up to a week. However, these can be easily controlled and managed with the right help and support that is offered by medical professionals.
There are several evidence-based therapy options that are effective in aiding the treatment of crack addiction. These include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) – This involves a mental health professional guiding patients to challenge their negative thought processes that ultimately lead to destructible and unhealthy behaviors, such as drug use.
- Contingency management / motivational interviewing – This involves therapists increasing a person’s motivation through positive psychology and enforcement. Sometimes a reward system is in place to remind clients about how far they have come and the benefits of their lives without cocaine.
It is never too late to seek help. There are many options available to guide you in having a successful recovery. If you believe you or a loved one is living with a crack cocaine addiction, then it is important to seek support.
Treatment at Alina Lodge
Alina Lodge is recognized as one of the top residential addiction treatment programs in the United States. We offer substance abuse disorder treatment delivered with the utmost quality and care. We opt to take a whole-person approach to treatment ensuring that all areas of the mental disorder are addressed to ensure a successful recovery.
We offer a range of approaches aimed at addressing and dealing with any underlying causes or effects of the addiction. These include:
- Family therapy
- EMDR therapy
- Grief therapy
- Medication management
Living with a substance abuse disorder can leave you feeling alone and isolated and often makes it difficult to seek help. It is important to remember that you’re never alone and help is always available no matter what stage of addiction you are at.
If you believe that you or a loved one is living with a crack cocaine addiction then contact us today to discuss treatment options available.