Crack cocaine is an addictive stimulant drug that is the rock crystal form of powdered cocaine. Crack cocaine is a more potent form of cocaine that is processed so that it can be smoked, which provides an immediate high.The name “crack” cocaine comes from the crackling noise it makes when it is smoked.
Crack may also be referred to as rock, freebase, raw, or hard cocaine. Crack cocaine is white or off-white in color and a solid rock formation in varying sizes and shapes, while cocaine is a white or off-white powder.
Due to its addictive nature, nearly 800,000 Americans aged 12 or over had used crack in 2019, and one million Americans aged 12 or over struggled with a cocaine use (including crack cocaine) disorder.
Crack cocaine can be dangerous and in order to increase awareness, it is important to answer the following questions:
- What is crack cocaine?
- How can crack cocaine affect the brain and body?
- What are the risks of crack cocaine use?
- What are the signs and symptoms of crack cocaine addiction?
- How can I find addiction treatment for my crack cocaine use disorder?
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CRACK AND COCAINE?
While both powder cocaine and crack are similar forms of the same drug, they can affect a person differently because of how they are made and their methods of use. Cocaine and crack cocaine are both derived from the coca plant but are processed differently and come in different formations. Crack is created by processing cocaine and mixing it with baking soda into a smokable form that rapidly delivers an intense, euphoric high. Crack is an impure form of cocaine and is often sold on the streets for much cheaper than pure cocaine, while still delivering an intense high.
Some of the major differences between cocaine and crack include:
- The duration of the drug’s effects. Smoking crack cocaine causes an immediate high that is very short, often diminishing within 5-10 minutes.
- The intensity of the drug. Crack cocaine results in a near immediate high that is much more intense compared to pure cocaine in powder form.
- Addiction potential. The fast, intense, high and quick diminishing effects of crack cocaine can make a person more likely to use it repeatedly, increasing the risk of developing an addiction.
- Cost. Crack cocaine is mixed with impurities and can be made anywhere, making it a much cheaper alternative to cocaine. The low cost associated with crack cocaine is what initially made it so popular.
WHAT IS CRACK ADDICTION?
Substance use disorders (SUDs), including addiction to crack cocaine, occur when a person’s continual drug use causes changes in the brain’s chemistry. This results in the inability to discontinue drug use, despite negative life consequences that are directly linked to crack cocaine abuse.
Over time, the effects of crack cocaine can become blunted, requiring more of the drug in order to feel the same euphoric high. When an individual uses larger amounts of a drug to produce the same high, they are becoming tolerant to this drug, meaning that their brain and body have become desensitized to the drug of abuse.
Tolerance is different from addiction as addiction is an all-encompassing term that affects the brain, body, and individual’s behavior. Oftentimes individuals who have a substance use disorder will also develop a tolerance to the drug of abuse.
SIGNS OF CRACK COCAINE ADDICTION
Addiction is not always easy to detect in yourself or others so it can be helpful to know what to look for so you can seek treatment when appropriate. While it’s best for healthcare professionals to make a substance use disorder diagnosis, the following criteria can be helpful in identifying a potential substance use problem. If you or a loved one has experienced 2 or more of the following in the past 12 months, it may be time to seek help
- Needing more crack cocaine to elicit the same high, otherwise known as tolerance.
- Experiencing strong urges to use crack cocaine.
- Going through symptoms of withdrawal when crack use is stopped or dramatically reduced.
- Having arguments or strained relationships with friends or loved ones that are caused or worsened by crack use.
- Having trouble handling obligations at work, school, or home because of your use of crack.
- Cutting back or quitting enjoyable activities as a result of crack use.
- Inability to cut back or stop using crack even if you want to.
- Inability to stop using crack even after you are aware that it has caused or worsened a physical or mental health issue.
- Spending a lot of time obtaining, using, or withdrawing from crack.
- Taking crack in larger amounts or for longer lengths of time than planned.
- Using crack when it is physically dangerous to do so, such as while driving.
WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF CRACK COCAINE ADDICTION?
Stimulants such as cocaine initially cause a rush of euphoria, increased energy, an increased sense of alertness, talkativeness, and a sense of grandiosity. There are a range of physical and mental health effects associated with short-term and long-term crack cocaine use, including:
- Abnormal heart rhythms.
- Anxiety or panic attacks.
- Increased sensitivity to sensory input.
- Dilated pupils.
- Feelings of paranoia.
- Impaired judgment.
- Increased blood pressure, body temperature, and heart rate, which can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.
- Increased irritability.
- Loss of appetite, which can lead to weight loss or malnutrition.
- Muscle twitches or tremors.
- Respiratory issues such as chronic cough, damage to the lungs, the development of asthma, difficulty breathing, and a higher risk of developing lung infections such as pneumonia.
- Unpredictable or violent behavior.
CRACK COCAINE WITHDRAWAL
When you use crack cocaine regularly for a prolonged period of time, your brain and body adapt to the presence of the drug, becoming physically dependent on the drug of abuse. After crack cocaine use is stopped or reduced, the brain and body’s chemistry is drastically altered which can result in withdrawal symptoms as the brain works to rebalance its neurotransmitter levels.
While the majority of these symptoms can be very uncomfortable, they are unlikely to cause physical harm. It is important to know that you can receive professional addiction treatment to help ease withdrawal side effects and prevent future relapses.
Common crack cocaine withdrawal symptoms include:
- Muscle aches.
- Changes in sleep patterns.
- Increased appetite.
- Difficulty focusing.
- Inability to feel pleasure in things that used to be enjoyable.
- Paranoia or hallucinations if you have been using large amounts of crack.
- Strong cravings for crack cocaine.
- Slowed reflexes and thought patterns.
There are no medications approved to specifically manage crack cocaine withdrawal symptoms, and as a result detoxification is focused on promoting relaxation, hydration, and nutrition in a supportive setting. Antidepressants and antipsychotic medications may be prescribed to manage symptoms of depression and psychotic symptoms.
Credited to: Drug abuse