Crack is an illicit stimulant drug that is the freebase form of cocaine, which means that it can be inhaled or smoked. It presents as white chunks of various sizes. Although the drug itself doesn’t have a distinctive smell, the method in which it is used typically produces a burning or smokey odor.
Crack’s popularity is primarily due to its appeal for drug users seeking an inexpensive, potent, fast-acting high. The term “crack” was coined based on the sound that it makes when the rock-shaped chunks are burnt.
Other names for the crack include the following:
- Jelly beans
As a powerful stimulant, crack can invoke a rapid, intense, and euphoric high. It accelerates various mental and physical processes, boosts energy, and makes the user feel like he or she has a sense of control. As a form of cocaine, crack use results in nearly immediate effects because the drug is breathed into the lungs (bypassing the gastrointestinal system), where it is then readily absorbed into the bloodstream.
The effects peak rapidly and wane after less than 20 minutes. Because the high is so brief, people often use crack in a binge and crash cycle that increases the risk of tolerance, dependence, and addiction.
Why Do People Abuse Crack?
Those who abuse crack typically do so to achieve the following effects:
- Intense feelings of euphoria
- An exaggerated sense of self and self-importance
- Increased alertness and hyperactivity
- Decreased appetite
As with other psychoactive substances, with regular use, the sought-after effects are quickly taken over by unwanted symptoms.
Signs and Symptoms
Crack is a very hazardous and potentially life-threatening drug. Due to its highly addictive nature, it’s unlikely that an individual can use crack cocaine recreationally for any significant length of time. Moreover, any use of crack cocaine should be taken quite seriously.
Crack is so addictive due to the intense euphoric high it produces but subsides quickly, leaving the user forever wanting more. When the high wanes, the user feels a strong urge to smoke more crack because he or she begins experiencing withdrawal and becomes agitated, restless, anxious, or paranoid.
Physical signs of crack use include:
- Dilated pupils
- Reduced sleep or insomnia
- Elevated heart rate
- Itching or skin picking
- High blood pressure
- Suppressed appetite
- Weight loss
- Muscle twitching
Psycho-emotional signs may also onset, including the following:
- Mood swings
- Psychotic symptoms, including hallucinations and paranoia
- Persistent thoughts about obtaining and using crack
- Inability to quit using despite the desire to do so
- Smoking crack at the expense of relationships and other important aspects of life
Tolerance, Dependence, and Withdrawal
A person who regularly engages in crack use can rapidly build a tolerance to the drug. Tolerance occurs when the body becomes used to the presence of crack in the system and requires an increasing amount to achieve the desired effect. If a person is no longer satisfied with the usual amount of crack and feels a need to consume increasingly larger amounts, he or she has developed a tolerance.
Once tolerance is established, addiction may follow soon after, and the individual may begin to engage in dangerous, problematic, and risky behaviors to obtain and use the substance. During the throes of an addiction, the person may become much less rational and more and more obsessed with drug use.
The presence of withdrawal symptoms is another sign of crack use. As tolerance develops, physical or chemical dependence may also develop, meaning the brain has come to rely on the drug and adjusted to its presence. In fact, it can no longer function properly without it.
Withdrawal symptoms may include the following:
- Increased anxiety
- Irritability and agitation
- Strong cravings for more crack
Risks of Crack Abuse
Those who use crack tend to put themselves and others in harm’s way due to risky and dangerous drug-seeking behaviors. Crack users may engage in the following:
Risky Sexual Behaviors
Crack use boosts libido and lowers inhibitions. Those high on crack may be more likely to engage in sex with multiple partners and have unprotected sex, increasing the risk of contracting STDs, such as HIV. Also, some people may exchange sex for the drug or prostitute themselves to obtain money.
Crack cocaine use intensifies emotions, including agitation, irritation, and anger. Individuals who are high on crack may be more aggressive and may harm themselves or others deliberately or unintentionally.
Engaging in Dangerous Behavior
Crack users often go to unsafe areas or agree to do risky things to attain the drug. Crack addiction can be a powerful motivator, and many people entrapped by it are willing to do almost anything to obtain more of it.
Neglect of Responsibilities
People in active crack addiction tend to prioritize drug use over personal obligations such as paying bills, attending work or school, maintaining relationships, or even child-rearing.
Many addicted to crack will steal money or items to help support their habit. They may also commit robberies or participate in other illegal activities to obtain the funds needed to buy crack. Crack possession itself is also unlawful, so some face legal consequences for possessing it even if they don’t engage in other illicit activities.
Effects of Crack Use
In both the short- and long-term, crack use can lead to many side effects that can compromise a person’s mental and physical health.
Short-term risks of crack use include the following:
- Cardiovascular risks, including increased blood pressure and heart rate
- Higher breathing rates
- Odd, bizarre, delusional behavior and paranoia
- Anxiety and panic attacks
Long-Term Effects of Crack
Long-term effects can occur after an extended period of consistent use. These include the following:
- Chronic cardiovascular issues that can include heart disease, cardiac arrest, and stroke
- Malnutrition and significant weight loss
- Marked cognitive decline
- Confusion and delirium
- Psychosis and hallucinations
- Damage to the lips, mouth, and teeth
- Major depression, anxiety, and irritability
Crack Abuse Treatment
Treatment for crack abuse typically begins with a medical detox—a supervised, controlled withdrawal process usually conducted at a hospital or detox center, such as Just Believe Detox. Medical staff monitor patients for physical symptoms of withdrawal and help mitigate intense psychological effects, such as agitation, anxiety, and depression.
After medical detox is complete, many patients transition to an addiction treatment center. Treatment then primarily focuses on the emotional aspects of addiction, and patients receive individual and group therapy and may attend ongoing peer support groups. Just Believe Recovery offers these evidence-based services in both residential and partial hospitalization programs.
An inpatient rehab stay may also be followed by outpatient treatment and a long period of continuous aftercare, in which individuals begin to return to their everyday lives but also continue to visit the center regularly to continue therapy and other needed treatments. Some people choose to reside in a halfway or sober living home as they transition back to their regular lives.
If you or someone you love is struggling with cocaine abuse, we urge you to contact us today! We aim to ensure that each individual we treat receives the very best, most effective, state-of-the-art comprehensive care! Are you ready to reclaim your life, free from substance use indefinitely? If so, call us today and find out how we can help!