Crack cocaine is a very strong central nervous stimulant that comes from cocaine. It’s the crystalized form of powder cocaine. Users heat crack and then smoke it, usually from a glass pipe. It’s more powerful than cocaine, and it’s also riskier. This is so because it is at least 75 percent pure. In fact, the risk is high for overdose when it comes to crack, as even first-time users can overdose.
Crack, an illegal Schedule II drug, has a very high potential for abuse that can quickly lead to physical and psychological dependence.
What Happens When You Use Crack?
Most people smoke crack although there are some who inject it. Regardless, when you use crack, it reaches the brain very quickly, which results in an intense rush of euphoria. The thing about crack is that the “high” lasts only between 5 to 15 minutes. While that time may feel amazing, you’re quickly left suffering a “crash” that is marked by severe depression and intense, horrifying cravings for more crack.
We’ll get into the biological effects of crack soon, but first, let’s look at the short and long-term effects of the drug.
The short-term effects of crack include:
- Increased heart-rate
- Decreased appetite
- Rapid breathing
- Dilated pupils
- Feeling disconnected from reality
- Intense euphoria
- Feeling like bugs are crawling under the skin
- Not feeling like sleeping
- Bizarre behavior
- Possible seizures, convulsions, or death when taking high dose
The long-term effects of crack include:
- Lung damage
- Liver or kidney failure
- Can lead to high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, or death
- Tooth decay
Overdose ought to be a huge concern for anyone thinking of or using crack. Because the drug is so potent, overdose can occur at any time, regardless of how long you’ve been using, your tolerance level, or if it’s your first time. Someone who overdoses on crack may exhibit signs of very fast heart rate, chest pain, seizures, aggression, stroke, hallucinations, or death. It is a very dangerous drug.
How Many People Use Crack Cocaine?
In 2014, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported its findings on how many people were using crack cocaine. It discovered that:
- For those 18 to 25 years old, about 30,000 were using crack
- For those 26 years old and older, about 320,000 were using crack
- For those 12 to 17 years old, about 8,000 were using crack
Another survey from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, completed in 2012, reported that about 55 percent of people who used crack within the last 30 days were Caucasian. African Americans came in at 37 percent and Asians at 4 percent.
How Crack Affects the Brain
Crack users enjoy the intense rush of euphoria they feel when they smoke it. When someone heats the crack, the smoke that is released can be inhaled. When its inhaled, the active components in cocaine passes from the lungs to the bloodstream almost immediately. From there, it immediately travels to the brain, causing a series of reactions that bring on an intense rush of euphoria that lasts anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes.
Biologically, when the crack hits the brain, it will block the uptake of the neurotransmitter dopamine. This neurotransmitter is a chemical that helps you to experience really good feelings. Because crack blocks the uptake of dopamine, there’s an abundance of dopamine in the brain, which creates that intense euphoric feeling. This is the feeling that crack users come to love and crave so much. In fact, the cravings are oftentimes unbearable, causing a crack user to keep using the drug despite negative consequences.
Just as with other drugs, you can build a tolerance to the effects of crack. The more often you use, the more likely your tolerance will increase. This means you’ll need more of the drug to experience the same effects. This certainly can cause negative consequences, as addiction can occur very quickly when it comes to crack.
How Can I Tell if I’m Addicted to Crack?
Drug researchers and crack users will tell you that you can become very addicted to crack the very first time you try it.
Crack is so addictive that many people experience negative consequences and continue to use the drug. In fact, there have been plenty of crack users whose drug use caused them to lose everything – their jobs, house, health, relationships, and sometimes their children to the foster care system.
The following are signs of crack addiction:
- Continued crack use even though you don’t want to use
- Spending all your money to obtain more crack
- Going without sleep or food to use crack
- Abandoning relationships; isolating yourself
- Losing interest in things you were once interested in
- Doing things you thought you’d never do to buy or use crack
- Experiencing legal trouble
- Withdrawal symptoms when you aren’t using the drug
Crack Withdrawal Symptoms
When you become addicted to crack cocaine, you’ll likely experience a range of withdrawal symptoms when you run out of the drug. The symptoms can come on very soon, perhaps even minutes after your last use. For some, these symptoms will be quite uncomfortable and daunting. The level of intensity or duration of symptoms may differ depending on your level of addiction. Symptoms include:
- Intense cravings for more
- Inability to feel emotions
- Sleep disruptions
- Increased anxiety
Former and current crack users state that the worst withdrawal symptom they experience is the intensity of the cravings for more crack. They say cravings are so strong that they feel as if they will die without another hit. This is one reason a medically supervised detox in a residential treatment center can benefit those wanting to stop using crack, as they are monitored 24/7 in a safe and secure atmosphere while the drug and other toxins are removed from the body safely.