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Crack, commonly called crack cocaine, is an addictive and powerful stimulant derived from cocaine. It is made from powdered cocaine, which has similar effects but is snorted. Crack is more potent, and is thought to be more dangerous and addictive. It is smoked, and smoking substances lets them reach the brain more quickly than snorting, which can cause compulsive use to also develop quickly.
Powder cocaine is mixed with water and ammonia or baking soda, and then dried to for crack cocaine. It gets its name from the crackling sound that is made when users smoke the drug through a crack pipe. It is sometimes injected, but much more commonly smoked.
Street Names for Crack
Knowing the street names for crack cocaine is important, as the drug is not often referred to by users in its proper name. Slang names vary from region to region, and they often change. Some common crack street names include:
- Hard rock
- Sugar block
- Snow coke
- Electric Kool-aid
Effects of Crack Cocaine
As a stimulant, crack cocaine creates euphoric effects and produces energy in users. According to the University of Maryland Center for Substance Abuse Research, crack causes excess amounts of dopamine to be released in the brain. This important neurotransmitter helps to regulate pleasure and movement. The effects of crack can be reinforcing, and the brain gets easily used to the excess dopamine it creates, which leads to strong drug cravings.
Crack’s effects are both short and long-term. While people seek the short-term high, there are side effects associated with it that are unwanted. As well, crack has some serious long term effects, which a user is more likely to experience if they use the drug more frequently.
Short Term Effects of Crack:
These short term effects occur while someone is under the influence of crack. Of course, as with most drugs, these effects vary depending on the person, the amount of the drug, and its composition. Crack is delivered to the brain very quickly, and the high is felt soon after smoking the drug. The high from crack lasts anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes, and after the rush subsides many users report intense cravings for more.
- Increased energy and alertness
- Elevated mood, a feeling of supremacy
- Increased blood pressure and heart rate
- Constricted blood vessels
- Increased rate of breathing
- Dilated pupils
- Intense euphoria
- Decreased appetite
- Anxiety and paranoia
- Aggressive, paranoid behavior
Long-term Effects of Crack Cocaine:
Users of crack are at risk for a number of long-term effects, and it is thought that the risk of experiencing these effects grows as the person continues to use the drug. Crack’s long-term effects can include:
- Severe depression
- Irritability and mood disturbances
- Aggressive, paranoid behavior
- Delirium or psychosis
- Tolerance and addiction
- Auditory and/or tactile hallucinations
- Heart attack and heart disease
- Respiratory failure
- Brain seizures
- Sexual dysfunction
- Reproductive damage or infertility
Crack cocaine abuse has serious implications for a person’s psychological and mental health, as well. According to a study in the US National Library of Medicine, crack use is associated with paranoia, psychosis, hallucinations, and violent behavior. Co-morbid psychiatric conditions are frequent in users of crack, and crack use can worsen them. These conditions exist for users of cocaine, as well, but are more frequent and more intense in crack users.
Signs of Crack Addiction and Abuse
If you believe that someone you love may be using crack cocaine it is important to get help as soon as possible. Crack can be addictive very early on, and some say it can even cause addiction from the first try. Addiction is a chronic, relapsing condition in which people lose control of their drug use, compulsively seek out the drug, take it despite knowledge of or experience of negative consequences because of it, and have trouble stopping using it on their own.
These are some symptoms of crack addiction:
- Sudden changes in friends, hangouts, or activities
- Irritability, moodiness, anxious
- Socially withdrawing, acting ‘shady’
- Unexplained financial loss, always needing money
- Sudden drop in weight
- Trouble in school or at work
- Compulsive drug-seeking
- Spending long periods of time awake
- Disturbed sleep or insomnia
It is important to keep in mind that everyone’s experience with addiction is different, and that one person may exhibit different signs than another. Some people are better able to hide their addiction than others. As well, people affected by addiction tend to lie in order to hide their crack use from others, and it can be hard to discern the truth from the lies, making identifying these symptoms more difficult as well.
Signs of a Crack High
The signs of addiction show what can happen when someone is addicted to crack, but it’s important to be able to identify a crack high, as well. The crack high doesn’t last very long, but there are also some ‘crash’ effects that may be noted.
These are signs someone is using crack:
- High energy
- Heightened sense of smell, touch, sight
- Increased heart rate
- Dilated pupils
- Increased blood pressure and body temperature
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle twitches
- Anxious, irritable, aggressive
- Nausea, vomiting (especially after initial high)
Consequences of Crack Addiction
In addition to the long-term effects of crack abuse, which those who are addicted are at a higher risk of experiencing, there are other consequences of crack addiction. The loss of control associated with it can cause big problems in a person’s life. These may include:
- Financial problems
- Loss of job or failing out of school
- Problems in personal relationships
- Inability to care for children
- Health problems
As a person’s addiction worsens, they tend to lose interest in much else. As a result, previous interests and responsibilities are set to the side and suffer because of it. As well, a person’s health can greatly decline as a direct result of the drug and for indirect effects. These often include the effects of poor nutrition and of poor hygiene.
Treatment for Crack Addiction
It is possible to overcome and recover from an addiction to crack cocaine. At this point in time, there are no medication treatments for crack addiction, and treatment is largely based on counseling. Cognitive-behavioral approaches and contingency management are among the most widely used and effective treatments.
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT helps people to recognize the patterns of thought, belief, and behavior that lead to crack use, and help them to remedy these. In changing these patterns, patients are taught skills for abstaining from drug use.
- Contingency Management: In contingency management, patients are provided incentives for reaching treatment goals, such as one week without crack. Goals are set by the counselor and patient together, and vouchers may be coupons for seeing a movie or for any other drug-free, productive reward. Drug testing is used to help determine if goals have been met.
According to the UK National Health Service, these methods can be administered in either a group or individual setting with similar outcomes for both.
Treatment settings vary, and it is up to you to choose a treatment center that you believe is best for yourself or your loved one. Different treatment types include:
- Inpatient/residential rehabilitation
- Outpatient treatment
- Support groups (such as Cocaine Anonymous)
- Sober Living
Deciding which treatment center is best for you is an important part of recovery. People who have tried outpatient treatment but have relapsed may be better off in inpatient care, as are people with co-occurring medical or mental health conditions. Outpatient care is recommended for people who have a large support system at home, who haven’t been engaging in crack abuse for long, and who do not have co-existing conditions. Other considerations to make when choosing a treatment center include cost, location, and quality of care.