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Understanding Crack Addiction

Crack cocaine is sourced from cocaine in powder form and is combined with baking soda and water before being boiled to create a solid that looks like a rock. Once the solid cools and is broken up, the pieces are sold as Crack Cocaine. Crack takes its name from the sound that is made when the drug is heated up before being smoked. Crack is much more highly concentrated than powdered Cocaine and is therefore much more addictive. A person can become addicted to Crack after just a single-use. 

Crack looks like rocks that are either white, cream or light brown in colour. Unlike Cocaine, which is snorted, Crack is smoked. When Crack is either injected or smoked, it takes effect in the body more quickly and the user experiences a more intense high over a shorter period of time. This is in comparison to Cocaine, which is snorted but gives the user a high that lasts much longer.

Crack produces very different effects in the body in comparison to Cocaine. When ingested, Crack begins to take effect in the body almost immediately, peaking after around five minutes. The high generally lasts only up to an hour. Users who want a more intense high take Crack rather than Cocaine. Crack is also much cheaper and more widely available. Many people begin abusing Cocaine before transitioning to Crack once they have run out of money to fuel their Cocaine addiction.

Street names for Crack include Black Rock, Candy, Cookies, Dice, Gravel, Grit, Hail, Hard Rock, Nuggets, Rocks, and Scrabble.

What Are Effects and Abuse of Crack?

How Crack takes effect in the body and causes the user to feel can never be exactly determined, as it all depends on how ‘pure’ the substance is. The Cocaine used to form Crack may have been mixed with other drugs, which only makes Crack all the more dangerous and unpredictable.

Common signs of Crack abuse include:

  • A euphoric feeling
  • Increased alertness and hyperactivity
  • Dilated pupils
  • Lack of appetite
  • Increased heartbeat
  • Strong cravings to use more Crack

Crack is absorbed within the lung membranes when smoked, which is how it enters the bloodstream so quickly. It can affect the brain within just 15 seconds. The chances of overdosing on Crack are very high, and an overdose can lead to fitting, respiratory failure, heart attack, stroke, coma, and in extreme cases, death.

What are the Warning Signs of Crack Addiction

Crack is highly addictive, and addiction can begin to take hold from the very first time a user takes the drug. A user is often consumed and overwhelmed by the intensity and short duration of the high that Crack produces, compelling them to take more straight after the first hit. Crack addiction can lead to major mental and physical health problems, as it is the strongest form of Cocaine and is usually at least 75% more concentrated. As an addiction develops, a user will require more Crack to experience a high, and may experience withdrawal symptoms if they try and stop taking it. Withdrawal symptoms occur because Crack creates excess amounts of dopamine, otherwise known as the ‘happiness hormone’, within the brain. As the body becomes dependent on Crack, natural levels of dopamine are diminished, to the point where the body is reliant on Crack to produce any dopamine at all. Cravings for the drug can be overwhelming, which is why users continue to take Crack despite suffering withdrawal symptoms.

Those who use Crack often use Cocaine first. Cocaine is considered a ‘rich person’s drug’, as it is sold for very high prices, while Crack is much cheaper. As addicts need more Crack to get their high, Crack addiction can quickly turn into a highly expensive habit with costs of hundreds of pounds a week. Warning signs of Crack addiction include:

  • Sweating profusely
  • Erratic and compulsive actions and behaviour
  • Talking very quickly
  • Irritability and aggression/anger
  • Dilated pupils
  • Muscular spasms
  • Feeling giggly
  • Insomnia
  • Weight loss
  • Lack of appetite

When a user comes down from the high experienced when abusing Crack, the low and depression they feel afterwards can feel unbearable, giving them strong cravings to use again. During this low point, a person may exhibit delirium, hallucinations, violent changes in behaviour and mood, and they may even become aggressive and violent, even towards people they love.

Strong Crack addiction can cause psychosis on a permanent basis, and can also cause permanent changes in character because of the way the drug creates chemical and physical changes within the brain. Cognitive processes and reason/intelligence can also appear greatly reduced following long-term abuse.

What Are Crack Withdrawal Symptoms?

As Crack is more concentrated than Cocaine, withdrawal symptoms are more intense and difficult to overcome when a user suddenly stops taking the drug.

Common withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Depression and low mood
  • Paranoia
  • Anxiety and panic
  • Anger and aggression
  • Nightmares
  • Fatigue
  • Inability to feel pleasure
  • Emotional outbursts

The severity of a person’s withdrawal symptoms will depend on their weight, build and whether they have any underlying mental health conditions, as well as the severity of their addiction and metabolism.

What Support for Crack Addiction

If you or someone you love is struggling with a Crack addiction, you should try to get help as soon as possible. Crack is so addictive that many users put their drug taking above all of their other priorities, including their health, loved ones and job. If you have noticed the above withdrawal symptoms either in yourself or another person, the next step is to get help as soon as possible via a rehabilitation facility.

When you speak to an addict about their drug addiction, be prepared for any response, including aggressive or defensive behaviour. Remember that their brain has been programmed to abuse Crack, and that it will not be easy to convince them to stop taking the drug. If you are struggling to speak to an addict, you can use an intervention to try and persuade them to seek help and begin treatment. An intervention is a process in which family and friends of an addict approach them to discuss their drug-taking behaviours, encouraging them to get help. This can be done with or without the help of a professional interventionist. Sometimes, hiring an interventionist can be worthwhile, as they are trained in handling clients who experience violent or aggressive behaviour (both of which are common behaviours in Crack addiction).

Treatment of Crack Addiction

Someone in treatment for Crack addiction will typically start to experience withdrawal symptoms as soon as their last dose of the drug wears off. The withdrawal symptoms occur because the user’s brain doesn’t know how to properly function without Crack, as it has established a strong tolerance to it. Unlike other drugs such as Heroin, which requires a gradual tapered detox programme in which opiate dosage is removed gradually and slowly, Crack detox involves simply quitting the drug straight away, with the support and medical expertise of physicians and rehab staff. Staff may give the user medications to ease withdrawal symptoms after going cold turkey, and offer counselling to help them with any mental health problems they are experiencing. Treatment is usually given while the user stays in a rehabilitation facility on a residential basis.

Many symptoms of Crack withdrawal are psychological rather than physical. Treatment programmes such as those offered by East Coast Recovery specialise in helping clients overcome strong psychological symptoms with a personalised recovery plan based on their requirements. Treatment methods used include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), hypnotherapy, art therapy, meditation and mindfulness, Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) and group therapy. A detox usually takes 28 days. Following successful completion of therapy, ongoing support programmes are given to recovering addicts, including 12-step courses, Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings and family/group therapy.