Crack Addiction: Use and Abuse Effects & Symptoms

by | Jul 16, 2019 | Crack | 0 comments

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Home » Crack » Crack Addiction: Use and Abuse Effects & Symptoms

Crack, what is it?


Crack cocaine, also just referred to as crack, is a type of cocaine that is smoked most often, although it can also be snorted. Crack creates a short, but very intense high in users. It’s often described as the most addictive type of cocaine available, and it was widely used in urban and inner-city areas in the 1980s.

Crack is still recreationally abused, and it can cause serious, harmful effects on users and crack cocaine addicts. Crack is dangerous on its own, and it’s also often mixed or “cut” with other substances which can range from other drugs to household products or chemicals. Crack use is correlated with trauma such as childhood abuse.

One study found that, even controlling for demographic factors, childhood abuse was a contributing factor in nearly 60% of crack cocaine use,” according to the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation.

What’s it like using crack?

When someone uses crack, it creates a euphoric high, and other symptoms including a false sense of self-confidence, loss of appetite, increased alertness and energy, and intense cravings for more of the drug.

Many people who use crack experience severe psychological side effects including paranoia or psychosis. Crack creates its effects by triggering a surge of dopamine into the brain. Dopamine is a brain chemical that causes feelings of happiness or euphoria. Drugs like crack flood so much of it into the brain that it’s far beyond what would normally be released, thus the high.

An addiction to crack cocaine can form after using the drug only once, and it’s such a dangerous form of cocaine. While crack abuse rates have gone down, it’s still a high-risk substance. Crack addiction rehab and treatment centers have to be specifically experienced in dealing with this type of addiction.

Crack abuse and crack addiction are unique from many other forms of substance abuse.

Symptoms of crack addiction can include:

  • Unexplained disappearances
  • Spending excessive amounts of money or stealing
  • Changes in behavior
  • A great deal of time is spent trying to obtain more crack
  • Dishonesty
  • Lapses in responsibility
  • Problems with relationships
  • Criminal problems

Over time, there are long-term effects of crack abuse that can occur if someone doesn’t seek rehab or addiction treatment.

How can you tell a loved one is addicted to crack

Some of the physical and outward signs that someone could have a problem with crack that might require inpatient rehab include:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Aggressive or violent behavior
  • High energy levels
  • Blistered fingertips or lips
  • Increased breathing
  • Wakefulness including at odd times
  • Seeming to have a false or inflated sense of confidence or well-being
  • Nervousness
  • Paranoia
  • Anxiety

Long-term effects of crack abuse can include:

  • Depression
  • Infertility
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Paranoia or hallucinations
  • Kidney and organ failure
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Respiratory complications

Signs You Need Treatment for a Crack Addiction


Crack is a powerful stimulant drug, and while it was more popular among recreational drug users in the 1980s, it still remains a problem. Crack is an especially potent form of the drug cocaine. When someone uses crack, they can become addicted very quickly.

The drug achieves its main immediate psychological effect—the high—by causing a buildup of the neurochemical dopamine,” according to research from Dr. Eric J. Nestler, published in the Addiction Science & Clinical Practice journal.

According to this publication, one hit of a drug like crack can rewire the brain and give rise to addiction.

It’s almost unheard of for a person to use crack casually. It tends to be a drug that’s all or nothing in terms of addiction. Becoming addicted to crack very quickly is possible and even likely. To stop using it without professional addiction treatment can be difficult.

Signs someone may require professional crack treatment for an addiction problem include:

  • The person is out-of-control regarding their use of crack—essentially it’s a compulsion that they have no control over
  • The person continues using crack even when there are negative physical, social or psychological side effects
  • Someone who needs professional addiction treatment will often try to quit using crack on their own and find that they aren’t successful
  • Crack is a top priority in the life of the person
  • People with addictions to crack and other drugs will often put themselves in dangerous situations to obtain more or to use the drug
Many think that crack addiction is relegated to the lower classes, but this is not true. Many professionals use it. Some even break it down using lemon juice or vinegar and inject it directly into their veins, much as you would do with regular cocaine. (Razvan Raz/Shutterstock)

So, where do you turn if you think you require professional crack drug treatment? There are many options available.

Crack addiction has been a major issue plaguing humanity for quite some time, as crack emerged in the 1980s and immediately began to ruin the lives of its new advocates. It wasn’t long before crack cocaine became something of a pandemic, spreading across the United States and finding new addicts in every alleyway and drug den in which it was sold. It is known as one of the more dangerous drugs to consume, alongside opiates such as heroin. Even the word “crack” has become synonymous with any experience to which a person has become addicted. If someone were to tell you they ate candies as if they were crack, you would immediately grasp the image that person was trying to portray.

The Experience of Crack Addiction

Many smoke crack cocaine with other people, and it is not uncommon for crack addicts to use other drugs as well. (Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock)

Before explaining the effects of crack addiction, we should spend some time discussing the experience itself. Aside from the euphoric effects often associated with crack in general, there are some who enjoy crack for the sound that it makes. In fact, the popping sound that crack rocks produce when smoked was an influence on the very name of the drug. Originally known as simply a crystallized form of cocaine, the name “crack” brought the drug into its own. This helped lead to its popularity on the streets of big cities such as New York in the 1980s, a period of time in which cocaine was already quite popular.

The high that users experience when smoking crack is known to be rather intense. Users often describe it as an out-of-body experience, one that is short-lived but sometimes generates negative effects such as paranoia and a general lack of inhibitions. Writer Adam Tod Brown, writing for the adult comedy website Cracked, describes it thus:

“I don’t know if I can describe the feeling other than to say it is the single greatest feeling I’ve ever felt in my life. It was absolute euphoria. That said, it’s a weird kind of euphoria. It’s a good feeling you don’t want to share with other people.”

This may sound like a rave review, but it is not. Brown continues to describe the experience as one which left him extremely dissatisfied and craving more drugs. This is largely because crack addiction is essentially a mixture of highs and lows. Since the high itself is short-lived, the lows experienced during the detoxification process do not take long to set in. And when they do, the user will soon find themselves wanting more.

The danger of this is that crack is pretty much everywhere. Crack addiction would never have become a widespread problem if not for this very fact. Most people with a bit of knowledge regarding the somewhat shadier parts of town can probably find it. Not to say that crack addiction is relegated to the lower classes, because nothing could be farther from the truth. Doctors and lawyers have had their fair share, as have people from all walks of life. And every single one of them has learned the dangerous lesson that every high will leave you wanting more. Brown himself managed to avoid becoming a full-blown addict, largely because he made the conscious decision to avoid doing it again. He had already learned that crack addiction tends to result in a somewhat chaotic lifestyle, as many who are addicted to the drug have a tendency to act as magnets to all sorts of legal issues. But not everyone learns the same lesson that Brown managed to learn, and the result is that many users will suffer from numerous physical and mental effects of crack addiction that will change the course of their very lives.

Physical Effects of Crack Addiction

Crack addiction isn’t exactly healthy on its own, but it can become doubly fatal when accompanied by alcoholism. (Axel Bueckert/Shutterstock)

Since we have already noted that crack results in a somewhat short-lived high, you might be under the impression that the physical effects are short-lived as well. Unfortunately, this is not the case. There may be no physical withdrawal symptoms (the need to use again is mostly due to the emotional/mental lows of “coming down”), but crack still affects the body in a rather significant way.

Remember that crack is essentially just a form of cocaine. As such, crack addiction has many of the same effects. Both drugs are stimulants, so one of the first effects that users will notice is an increase in their heart rate. They will also experience a rise in body temperature, along with raising blood pressure and contracted blood vessels. Over time, the circulatory system will be the site of many major side effects, not the least of which is an increased risk of heart attack. Other physical side effects may include stroke, respiratory failure, digestive problems, and seizures. Milder side effects will include loss of appetite, nausea, and pain in the abdomen.

The risks of crack addiction are worsened when taking the drug with alcohol. If alcohol and crack combine in the liver, the result is a chemical known as cocaethylene. Many who suffer from crack addiction may enjoy the combination of these substances, as the high is much more intense. Unfortunately, cocaethylene also has much stronger effects on the circulatory system. Not only does this raise the likelihood that the user may suffer from one of the above side effects, but it also raises the likelihood that those who suffer from the dual disorders of crack addiction and alcoholism will meet a fatal end at the hands of their chosen substances.

We’ve previously covered the prenatal effects of substance abuse on the unborn child. While the notion of the “crack baby” is still highly debated among modern medical scientists, there is little doubt that those who succumb to crack addiction during childbirth are putting their children at risk. This can often lead to premature birth, as well as developmental and cognitive disorders. And while no one should need to be told that crack addiction does not go well with pregnancy, children still suffer from these effects every single day.

These are the worst of the physical effects that one might suffer as a result of crack addiction. But if a person does not manage to hit rock bottom as a result of their increased health risk, they just might get there as a result of the numerous psychological effects that crack addiction can have on the unfortunate substance abuser.

Mental Effects of Crack Addiction

Those who suffer from crack addiction may not always suffer the physical effects, but there is no telling what may be going on beneath the surface. (Aleksandr Hunta/Shutterstock)

Believe it or not, many do not consider crack to be physically addictive. But even if physical dependence is not the sole factor in the development of crack addiction, it is indisputable that many addicts appear quite dependent on the substance. This is because, as noted above, crack promotes psychological dependence through its numerous highs and lows. In fact, a 2010 study by the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs in the UK depicted crack cocaine as the most addictive substance when noting “the extent to which a drug creates a propensity or urge to continue to use despite adverse consequences,” a definition which does not account for physical dependence at all.

This puts crack addiction in an interesting category. It does not necessarily hit all of the marks when looking at the disease model of addiction, and many who smoke it on a regular basis may not be addicts according to the technical definition of the word. And while it may have been considered something of an epidemic in the 1980s, rates of crack addiction today have lowered quite greatly. The reason that crack addiction is more common among the economically impaired is largely that many of the people in impoverished neighborhoods cannot afford other means of self-medication. Crack is generally cheaper than traditional forms of cocaine, even if it can still empty out the user’s pocketbook with relative efficiency.

A lack of physically addictive qualities might be good for easing the detoxification process (unlike opiates, which have virtually unbearable withdrawal symptoms), but it can be awful for circadian rhythms. Those who quit smoking crack will often sleep for long periods of time, as they are unable to cope with the waking hours now that they are without their choice stimulant. And since crack addiction often leads to binges of substance abuse, smoking begins to feel routine. As a result, relapse prevention is highly important for those who suffer from crack addiction. Without a strong relapse prevention plan, many will be tempted to use again.

Long-term abuse of crack cocaine can lead to a number of psychological issues. After frequent use of this powerful stimulant, some will experience various mood disturbances and other co-occurring disorders that will cause them to be much more emotionally unstable than the average person. There are also those who may experience hallucinations, or even psychosis after long-term crack addiction.

While many like to focus on physical effects such as tooth decay or sexual impotency, the fact of the matter is that the psychological effects of crack addiction are what make this drug truly dangerous. And since the addict often does not feel the same onset of physical dependency as they would with other drugs, it is much easier for crack addicts to enter a stage of denial in which they do not feel as if they have a problem. But anyone who finds themselves seeking out crack dens in search of this dangerous rock is truly in the midst of a serious problem. They are in grave need of help.

Getting Help at Amethyst Recovery

Sobriety will allow those who suffer from addiction to experience a new sense of freedom. All you have to do is make the call. (PathDoc/Shutterstock)

There are some who may think that they can lick this thing on their own. And to be fair, there are certainly people out there who have done it. But as we mentioned before, these people were not addicts in the truest sense. For every person who neglects to enter treatment and succeeds on overcoming their substance abuse on their own, there is another who perishes due to overdose. It is better to be safe than sorry, especially when the worst-case scenario is that a future is snuffed out and a family is left in mourning.

For those who are unable to afford treatment, we offer a free verification and referral program. We are also able to help prospective patients assess their various insurance options, in the hopes that this will enable them to enter our doors and begin a new life in sobriety. In the rare case that no clear option presents itself, remember that groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are absolutely free. There may be some AA groups who turn away users of drugs such as crack—although this isn’t completely in the spirit of the program—so NA might be the best bet for those who suffer from crack addiction.

Crack addiction is a treacherous foe, but recovery is still possible. Through the combined powers of honesty, open-mindedness, and sheer willingness, you can find the help you need. Do not hesitate to make the call. If you or a loved one is struggling with the abuse of crack cocaine, please contact us today. You never know when it might be too late.


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