- What Is Crack Cocaine?
- Crack Addiction and Cravings
- Short- and Long-Term Side Effects of Crack
- Detox, Therapy & Support for Crack Addiction Recovery
- How Does Crack Addiction Treatment Work?
- What Methods Are Used in Crack Addiction Treatment?
- Inpatient vs. Outpatient Care
- Do I Need Crack Rehab?
- Recovery Is Possible; Seek Treatment Today
- The Consequences of Cocaine Use
- Withdrawal Symptoms
- Cross Addiction
- Recovery and Relapse Prevention Strategies
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Fast Facts: Crack
What Is Crack Cocaine?
Crack cocaine is a powerful central nervous system stimulant produced by dissolving powdered cocaine in a mixture of water and ammonia or baking soda. Several differences exist between crack and cocaine. The former is usually cheaper and more available than powdered cocaine.
Crack looks like an off-white rock.
Crack is the most dangerous form of cocaine. When users smoke crack, the drug enters the bloodstream through the lungs. Smoking crack brings a quicker and more powerful sense of euphoria than snorting cocaine, but the high from crack doesn’t last long.
The pleasurable effects of smoking crack last for only five to 10 minutes, causing users to smoke more to maintain the effects. When the pleasurable effects of crack wear off, it results in a debilitating crash. The effects are short-lived, but crack can stay in your system for several days.
Our medication-assisted detox and recovery programs are designed to deliver treatment that really works.
Crack Addiction and Cravings
Once it reaches the brain, crack cocaine works by increasing levels of dopamine, the neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward. Under normal circumstances, neurons release dopamine as a response to potential rewards. The dopamine is then recycled back into its original cell.
Under the influence of crack cocaine, the cell is unable to reabsorb the dopamine, causing an influx of the neurotransmitter in the brain. This alters brain chemistry, leading crack users to develop intense cravings for the drug.
The brain also develops tolerance to crack, causing individuals to use higher doses of the drug to feel positive effects and prevent crashing. Repeated use of crack cocaine changes the functioning of the brain, causing it to become dependent on the drug.
Increased tolerance and dependence are common precursors of drug addiction. Addiction develops when people continue to compulsively use crack despite negative consequences to their health and well-being.
Chasing a ‘Bell Ringer’
People addicted to crack cocaine often talk about how it took only one hit for the drug to take over their lives. First-time crack users experience euphoria so intense that many spend the rest of their lives chasing that feeling. Richard Preston, who was an executive in corporate America when he started using crack, understands these powerful cravings.
“I started smoking crack, and that’s when things took a big turn for the worse,” Preston told DrugRehab.com.
Preston had used cocaine for 20 years by the time he started smoking crack. He says the first hit of crack was enough to make him fall in love with the drug and derail his life. He lost everything — his house, his job, his family and his daughter — because of his crack addiction.
“The first hit of it is like nothing else,” said Preston. “When you take the first hit of crack, this is before the paranoia and all that sets in, but the first hit, the world sort of just stops. It’s got this sweet taste to it. It’s very hard to describe, but the world stops, and it’s like you’re in suspended animation.”
Preston said that first really good hit of crack is known as a “bell ringer” because your ears ring as the euphoria sets in. He said that the high is instant and fantastic, but it is short-lasting and followed by a miserable crash.
Signs of crack addiction include:
- Dry mouth and nose
- Bad breath
- Frequent lip licking
- Being irritable and argumentative
- Erratic and violent behavior
- Having trouble remaining still
- Having paraphernalia such as small spoons, razor blades or metal straws
- Lack of interest in food or sleep
- Conversations lack continuity
After the crash, people want to feel that bell ringer again. You never experience the same feeling again after the first bell ringer, according to Preston.
“You can try a million times to get that, but you’ll never get it again,” he said. “That’s what keeps people chasing after it.”
Chasing the bell ringer is enough to keep many people addicted to crack for the rest of their lives. But after seeing the damage he had done to the people he loves, Preston decided to change. He went to rehab and has been sober for 11 years.
Today, he is a substance abuse advocate in Jacksonville, Florida, and the author of two books about his recovery. He has rebuilt the relationships with his loved ones and works every day to inspire others to seek help for their substance use disorders.
An Epidemic with Devastating Results
Crack use became so common in the 1980s that Congress mandated a five-year minimum sentence for possession of five grams of crack when it passed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986. Future studies revealed that the sentencing guidelines disproportionately affected black people, and the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 led to drastic reductions in mandatory minimum sentences for crack possession.
Mark Ilgen, director of the University of Michigan’s Addiction Treatment Services
Today, more than 9 million Americans ages 12 and older have used crack during their lifetime. In 2015, about 833,000 people used crack, and 394,000 said they used it in the past month, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health .
Teen crack use has been decreasing since the new millennium, according to the Monitoring the Future Survey . An estimated 3.9 percent of 12th graders said they had tried crack at least once during their life in 2000. Only 1.4 percent of high school seniors reported lifetime crack use in 2016.
Short- and Long-Term Side Effects of Crack
Crack produces an immediate sense of euphoria and alertness. However, these effects quickly dissipate into unpleasant side effects. After the initial rush of smoking the drug, crack users start craving more.
Other short-term side effects of crack cocaine include:
- Enlarged pupils
- Abdominal pain
- Erratic and violent behavior
- Increased body temperature
- Heart problems and heart attack
Repeated use of crack causes lasting changes in the brain.
Long-term side effects of crack include:
- Sexual dysfunction
- Parkinson’s disease
- Heart disease
Paranoia is the most common side effect crack users report. Many first-time crack users think the effects will be similar to cocaine. Preston said he thought he would be able to handle crack because he regularly used powder cocaine.
He could not have been more wrong.
“Crack makes you more paranoid than anything I’ve ever seen in my life,” said Preston. It makes you anti-social. You don’t want to talk to anybody; you resort to cowering in a corner and being paranoid.”
The life-changing side effects caused by crack use during pregnancy led to the popularization of the stigmatized term “crack baby.”
Crack use has a high risk of overdose because the purity of the drug is usually unknown to people who smoke it. They may use the drug in combination with other substances of abuse, but consuming crack with alcohol or other drugs increases the risk of a cocaine overdose.
Detox, Therapy & Support for Crack Addiction Recovery
Crack causes physical changes to the brain, making it difficult to quit using. When a person stops using the drug, he or she experiences cocaine withdrawal.
Symptoms of crack withdrawal include:
- Increased appetite
- Vivid, unpleasant dreams
- Slowed thinking and movement
Supervised detox at a drug rehab facility can help patients overcome withdrawal. No approved medications can decrease cravings or the symptoms of crack cocaine withdrawal, but researchers are investigating drugs such as modafinil and disulfiram to treat the withdrawal symptoms.
Once people recover from physical dependency on crack, they can learn to overcome psychological causes of addiction. Studies indicate that a type of therapy called contingency management decreases the likelihood of relapse in participants in recovery from cocaine addiction.
Other forms of counseling, such a cognitive behavioral therapy, can be used independently or alongside contingency management to boost recovery outcomes. Twelve-step programs such as Narcotics Anonymous or Cocaine Anonymous provide peer support for individuals in recovery from crack addiction.
Crack addiction is serious, and unfortunately, even using the drug just once can cause this issue to occur. Therefore, professional treatment is extremely necessary for those who have been abusing this dangerous drug. If you or your loved one has been using crack and needs help, call 800-654-0987 immediately.
How Does Crack Addiction Treatment Work?
As stated by the Center for Substance Abuse Research, a person can become addicted after their first time trying crack cocaine, so one should seek out treatment as soon as possible for this issue. In rehab for crack abuse, withdrawal is usually the first part of recovery, and a patient will often be given medications to help them work through their symptoms. Once these begin to subside, the real treatment for addiction can begin.
Crack abuse can lead to a number of serious medical and psychological issues, all of which must be addressed in treatment. You will be able to learn positive life skills for the future and ways to cope with stress and cravings as well as how to avoid relapse. Without this kind of treatment and training, it can be incredibly difficult––and often impossible––to stop abusing a drug as addictive as crack cocaine.
What Methods Are Used in Crack Addiction Treatment?
According to Harvard Medical School, “Psychotherapy remains a foundation for treatment of addiction to cocaine or other stimulants.” Cognitive-behavioral therapy, contingency management, and group therapy have all been used effectively to minimize relapse potential and change patients’ unhealthy attitudes toward substance abuse. The Matrix Model is another effective program that was specifically created for stimulant abusers; over the course of 16 weeks, individuals learn to promote feelings of dignity and self-worth as well as to avoid issues that could lead to relapse.
In general, there are no medications approved for the treatment of stimulant addictions. However, you may receive certain medications as treatments for different symptoms associated with your substance abuse. Antidepressants can be used to treat the depressive effects associated with stimulant withdrawal, and antipsychotics may be used early on to reduce issues with psychosis, which often occur after the cessation of crack abuse.
There are a number of other methods that might be beneficial to your needs, including certain holistic options that have been found to be extremely useful. You can learn more about the treatment methods offered by specific rehab facilities by calling 800-654-0987 and be matched with the best program for your needs.
Inpatient vs. Outpatient Care
Crack is an extremely addictive drug that also causes severe psychological and physical issues in most abusers, especially when it is smoked (National Drug Intelligence Center). If you have been using this drug for a long period of time, it may be necessary for you to seek inpatient care in order to be certain that your rehab center will be able to provide you with the most comprehensive recovery program. In addition, many crack abusers misuse other drugs as well, and if you are suffering from multiple addictions, it will be much safer for you to be in a controlled environment, especially early in your recovery.
Do I Need Crack Rehab?
If you have abused crack even once, there is a strong chance that you are already addicted. It is important to consider whether your use of the drug (and others) is within your control and how severe these issues have become. But in most cases, professional rehab is necessary for one to recover from crack cocaine abuse.
Without treatment, you are putting a lot of pressure on yourself to recover safely and giving yourself little or no tools with which to achieve this change. Treatment can help you learn how to fight crack abuse as well as how to cope with the issues it has caused in your life. Rehab is almost always necessary in the case of crack cocaine abuse, especially because the drug itself is so dangerous.
Recovery Is Possible; Seek Treatment Today
You can recover from crack abuse safely and effectively, but you shouldn’t have to do it alone. Let us help you make a change by calling 800-654-0987 today. We can match you with the best treatment facility for your needs as well as answer any questions you may have about addiction and recovery.
There are two forms of cocaine: powdered form that you snort, and crack-cocaine that you smoke.
Cocaine is so addictive that if you give a mouse a hit of cocaine every time it presses a lever, it will do nothing else but press that lever. It won’t stop for a minute to take a sip of water or a bite to eat, and eventually it will die from a cocaine overdose. The only thing that prevents people from overdosing on crack is their bank account. Once people are addicted to crack, they will sell their soul for another hit.
Look at the self-test questionnaire page to see if you have an addiction.
The Consequences of Cocaine Use
Cocaine is a stimulant, therefore it causes your heart to beat faster and your blood vessels to constrict, which can lead to high blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes. Heart attacks in young patients without a history of heart disease are so frequently due to cocaine that emergency room doctors are taught to consider it as one of the first diagnoses.(1)
Cocaine is an important cause of cardiac arrest. Cocaine causes your heart to speed up, and in some cases go so fast that it actually stops. What is especially deadly about cocaine is that there is no correlation between how many times you’ve used cocaine or how much you used, and when you will suffer a cardiac arrest. Some people die after their first use. Other people have used cocaine hundreds of times, and then drop dead on the very next time. Some university athletes who suddenly drop dead are discovered to have died from a cocaine induced cardiac arrest.
As with all drugs, the most important consequences of cocaine addiction are psychological, social, and emotional. But with cocaine they happen faster and harder than with other drugs. If you are a cocaine addict, you don’t have to wonder if you’ve hurt your friends and family. You can be sure that you have.
The broader consequences of addiction. Look at the disease of addiction page to learn more about the broader consequences of addiction.
The withdrawal symptoms of cocaine are emotional.There are no physical withdrawal symptoms from cocaine, which is why people sometimes trick themselves into thinking they aren’t addicted to it. «I’m not physically addicted to cocaine.» But there’s no physical addiction and non-physical addiction – there’s just addiction. All addiction occurs in the brain.
Even though there are no physical withdrawal symptoms, cocaine still satisfies the criteria of addiction. People have difficulty controlling how much they use, and they continue to use even though it has negative consequences to their life.
The emotional withdrawal symptoms of cocaine are:
Post-acute withdrawal. Look at the post-acute withdrawal page to learn about those symptoms and how to deal with them. The post-acute withdrawal symptoms for cocaine are similar to those of other drugs:
- Mood swings
- Variable energy
- Low enthusiasm
- Poor concentration
- Sleep disturbances
Most cocaine addicts struggle with the idea of total abstinence. If you’re addicted to cocaine, you know you never want to use cocaine again. Cocaine has ruined your life, it has cost you a lot of money, but you’re not sure about stopping alcohol. Maybe alcohol has never been a problem. But because of cross addiction, if you want to stop using cocaine you must also stop all addictive drugs including alcohol and marijuana.
Alcohol is a common trigger for cocaine use. You’ll start with just a few drinks a week. Maybe you’ll drink moderately for weeks or even months without using cocaine. But then one week, you’ll have a bad week. Bad things happen. During that week, everything will go wrong. You’ll be stressed out at work. You’ll have an argument at home. And by the end of the week, you’ll really want a drink. But instead of just a few drinks, you’ll want maybe three or four drinks to take the edge off. After the first one or two drinks, your inhibitions will be lower. After two or three drinks, you’ll reach a magic number, and your brain will suddenly say «Bingo. I remember this feeling, and I remember something that feels even better.» And you’ll be off using again.
Recovery requires total abstinence. (Reference: www.AddictionsAndRecovery.org)
Recovery and Relapse Prevention Strategies
If you have decided that you are addicted, this is your opportunity to change your life. Learn more about recovery skills and relapse prevention strategies in the following pages. You can recover from addiction and be happier.
1) Schachne, J. S., Roberts, B. H., & Thompson, P. D., Coronary-artery spasm and myocardial infarction associated with cocaine use. N Engl J Med, 1984. 310(25): p. 1665-6.