Crack Cocaine Abuse, Addiction And Treatment Options
Crack cocaine, the rock form of powder cocaine, is very potent and addictive. A person can become addicted to crack cocaine after taking only one hit, and will likely experience intense drug cravings as soon as the high wears off. Withdrawal can be especially harsh and may require a medically-supervised detox program to ensure the person doesn’t use more drugs. Once clean and safe, a person can begin treatment which will likely involve a variety of behavioral therapies.
What Is Crack Cocaine?
Crack cocaine is a powerful and highly addictive stimulant derived from cocaine. Producing crack cocaine is achieved through a simple conversion process, which involves dissolving powdered cocaine in a mixture of water and baking soda. The mixture is then boiled until it produces a solid substance. The substance is dried and broken into chunks, or rocks.
The name “crack” refers to the crackling sound the rock makes when it’s heated up and smoked. Although usually smoked, crack cocaine can also be snorted or injected.
Crack cocaine is the most potent form of cocaine available. Because crack cocaine is smoked, it reaches the brain almost instantly. Smoking crack produces an intense high, but the high is short-lived, lasting on average around 5-10 minutes. Due to the intensity of the high and the short-lived effects, a person can become addicted to crack cocaine after trying it for the first time.
Far cheaper than powder cocaine, crack cocaine is often bought and sold illegally on the streets. Some street names for crack include:
- apple jacks
- hard rock
- sugar block
- topo (Spanish)
- Crack cocaine is an illegal, schedule II controlled substance with a high potential for abuse and dependence.
Signs And Symptoms Of Crack Cocaine Abuse
Smoking crack cocaine results in a strong, short-lived high that is likely to produce intense drug cravings for more. When a person is high on crack cocaine they may show the following signs:
- extreme energy
- increased sensitivity to light, sound, and touch
- mental alertness
- paranoia (irrational distrust of others/environment)
- unusual happiness or euphoria
Because the high is brief and intense, a person may spend the majority of their time searching and obtaining more crack cocaine. Smoking crack can become the top priority, and they may neglect responsibilities, relationships, and other obligations. Their behavior and mood can flip on a dime, becoming aggressive or hostile in an instant.
People who abuse crack cocaine may combine it with other drugs, like marijuana and heroin, to intensify the effects.
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The Dangers Of Crack Cocaine Addiction
Smoking crack cocaine is associated with the usual risks of cocaine use: increased body temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate. Constricted blood vessels, seizure and the risk of cardiac arrest are possible dangers associated with use.
Long-term addiction to crack cocaine can also cause:
- brain seizures
- hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t there)
- heart disease
- lung trauma and bleeding
- psychosis (losing touch with reality)
- respiratory depression (breathing problems)
- risky behaviors
- sexual dysfunction and reproductive damage in men and women
Due to the addictiveness and short duration of a crack cocaine high, a person’s behavior can quickly become unpredictable and dangerous. They may engage in criminal activities, or do whatever needs to be done to find more crack.
Overdose can occur when a person smokes too much crack cocaine or mixes it with other drugs like heroin. Crack cocaine addiction can cause an overdose after just one hit, but mixing it with other substances increases the risk of overdose. Any sign of an overdose should be treated as a medical emergency and 9-1-1 should be contacted immediately.
Crack Cocaine Withdrawal And Detox
The short-lasting and potent high of crack cocaine cause tolerance to develop quickly. This means a person will need more and more of the drug to achieve the desired effects. Because the high comes and goes quickly, they may smoke crack repeatedly to maintain the effects. Dependence is likely, which means a person will experience uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal when they stop use.
Because crack cocaine use directly affects areas of the brain related to reward and pleasure, withdrawal symptoms can onset almost immediately following the high. Symptoms of crack cocaine withdrawal can include:
- extreme fatigue
- insomnia (trouble falling or staying asleep)
- intense drug cravings
- trouble thinking
- unpleasant dreams
Because drug cravings can be intense, many people turn back to crack cocaine or other drugs to self-medicate unpleasant symptoms.When symptoms are severe, a medically-supervised detox program can help a person remain drug-free during withdrawal and detox. The goal of a medically-supervised detox program is to provide maximum safety and comfort during the worst of withdrawal, while also preparing the person for further treatment.
Treatment Options For Crack Cocaine Abuse And Addiction
Those addicted to crack cocaine are likely struggling with polydrug use, meaning they abuse more than one substance. Because addiction is a complex brain disease with environmental and biological factors, effective treatment must address all the issues a person faces. This includes co-occurring disorders and other mental illnesses.
Addiction treatment usually involves a combination of medications and behavioral therapy. Currently, there are no government-approved medications to treat crack cocaine addiction. However, researchers are constantly exploring new medications to help combat crack cocaine addiction and dependence.
Meanwhile, behavioral therapy is the most common form of addiction treatment. Therapy can be effective in both inpatient and outpatient settings and aims to change a person’s thinking and attitudes towards drugs. By promoting healthy lifestyles and honing in on important life skills, therapy can help people understand they don’t need drugs to live a fulfilling life.
Call now for more information on treatment options for crack cocaine abuse and addiction.
Center for Substance Abuse Research—Crack Cocaine
National Drug Intelligence Center—Crack Cocaine Fast Facts
National Institute on Drug Abuse—DrugFacts: Cocaine
National Institute on Drug Abuse—How Is Cocaine Addiction Treated?