What is Crack?

Crack cocaine is a solid, mineral-like substance. Crack is made by mixing powdered cocaine with baking soda or ammonia to form a smokable substance. Crack is often smoked by vaporizing the drug in a glass pipe. Crack got its name from the crackling sound it makes when heated.

The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies crack cocaine as a Schedule II drug, meaning that it has a high potential for abuse and can lead to physical dependency and severe psychological effects.

Crack was developed in the 1970s and emerged as a cheaper alternative to cocaine. Since it was cheaper than cocaine to produce, crack became more accessible to the lower-income communities. By the 1980s, the use of crack surged in what became known as the crack epidemic.

What is Crack Addiction?

Crack cocaine is more powerful and addictive than powdered cocaine. The effects of crack begin just one minute after inhaling the smoke and the high can last from 30 minutes up to one hour. Inhaling the smoke from crack delivers large quantities into the lungs and produces an immediate and intense euphoric feeling. The high from crack is nearly instant, and the potency of the drug makes it highly addictive.

Crack produces an excess of dopamine in the brain to produce a euphoric effect. Excessive crack use will diminish the body’s natural dopamine chemicals as the body becomes dependent. This leads to crack cocaine addiction as the cravings for the substance become stronger.

Data collected from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) indicated that an estimated 6.2 million United States residents ages 12 and older have tried crack cocaine at least once in their lives.

Signs & Symptoms of Crack Addiction

Extended use of crack leads to addiction. There are several signs and physical symptoms

to look out for if you suspect someone has a crack addiction. These signs include:

  • Bursts of energy. Because crack is a stimulant, it can cause users to talk rapidly, become anxious, seem erratic, or act aggressively.
  • Extreme fatigue. Once the effects of the substance wear off, it can lead to extreme exhaustion, as the dopamine has been depleted. Crack cocaine abuse halts regular sleeping patterns.
  • Changes in appetite. Those struggling with a crack addiction may experience changes in appetite and the inability to eat.
  • Aggressive behavior. Once the high from crack wears off, it may cause agitation and lead to aggression.
  • Blistered lips. If a crack addict is smoking from a glass pipe, you may notice their lips are burned or blistered.

The Effects of Crack Abuse

Crack abuse can have several short-term and long-term effects on the body and brain. The physical dependence and psychological effects of crack addiction are immediate and long- term use have serious side effects.

Some short-term and immediate effects of the drug addiction include:

  • Increased heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Paranoia
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Contracted blood vessels
  • Nausea
  • Dilated eyes

Serious long-term effects of crack addiction include:

  • Depression
  • Damage to blood vessels
  • Liver damage
  • Lung damage
  • Seizures
  • Psychosis
  • Kidney failure
  • Stroke

The effects of crack addiction are devastating and can lead to death. Long-term crack abuse can damage organs and users may become more susceptible to infections.

Risks of Crack Overdose

A serious outcome of crack addiction is an overdose. Because of its potent properties, someone can overdose on crack on the first use of the drug. When crack cocaine is inhaled into the lungs, large amounts of the drug enter the body instantaneously. The risk of a crack cocaine overdose is high because users develop strong cravings for the drug and in an attempt to avoid withdrawal symptoms, they may use an excessive amount.

Signs of a crack overdose may include:

  • Weak pulse
  • Labored breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Chest pain
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Seizure
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack

It is important to be aware of the signs of a crack overdose. An overdose is a medical emergency. If you or a loved one experiences any signs of a crack overdose, call 911 immediately.