Crack is a crystal or solid form of cocaine. It is made by boiling cocaine with water and baking soda, which results in solid crystals or “rocks” of varying colors from white to pale rose to yellow. This process makes crack even more potent than cocaine. These crystals are heated and smoked, which produces a popping or cracking sound when heated. This is what gives crack its name. The process of making crack means that it can vary in potency, with some crack being much stronger than others. It can also sometimes be contaminated with other substances, either accidentally or intentionally, that can pose an increased danger to a person’s health.

The Dangers of Crack Addiction

Crack is one of the most addictive illegal drugs used today, both because of how addictive it is and how unpredictable its potency is. For some people, using crack just once can leave them addicted. This is because of how crack affects your brain. Like other drugs, crack affects how your brain releases a chemical called dopamine, which is responsible for making you feel happy and relaxed. Crack gives users an instant high, which immediately releases a flood of dopamine into your system. Your brain gets hooked on this flood of good feelings and makes you crave more in order to keep releasing dopamine. And the more a person uses crack, the more negative physical and mental symptoms they will experience.

The Effects of Crack Abuse

The effects of smoking or snorting crack are different for every person, due to how unpredictable its strength and contents can be. The more a person uses crack, the worse the effects will become. Some of the short-term side effects of crack abuse can include:

  • Irritability, aggression, restlessness, anxiety, nervousness, and paranoia
  • Dilated pupils
  • Extreme energy or excitability
  • Nausea
  • Stroke
  • Heart failure
  • Seizures
  • Breathing problems
  • Hallucinations, most often a phenomenon called “coke bugs,” where a user believes that bugs are burrowing under their skin

There are other, more long-term risks of crack abuse as well. This can include permanent damage to the kidneys, liver, heart, lungs, and nasal passages, depression, tooth decay, and more. Another big risk is that of developing psychosis, a serious mental health condition where a person has a hard time telling what is real and what isn’t.

Signs of Crack Addiction

While many people who are addicted to drugs can be good at hiding their problems, most crack addicts cannot. Crack’s instant high lasts for just five to fifteen minutes, which makes it extremely addictive. People who are addicted to crack often obsess over when their next “hit” will be, making it all but impossible for them to focus on anything else. They are also likely to exhibit a few different signs of addiction, which can include:

  • Disappearing often in order to go get high
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Restlessness or tremors in their limbs
  • Heavy breathing
  • Burns on their fingers
  • Cracked or blistered lips from smoking out of a hot pipe
  • Frequent runny or bleeding nose
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Increased heart rate or blood pressure

The Symptoms of Crack Withdrawal

The most difficult thing about stopping crack abuse is the withdrawal process. This refers to the negative symptoms a person experiences when they stop smoking crack. These symptoms can include fatigue, insomnia, vivid nightmares, irritability, extreme depression, mood swings, and intense drug cravings. These cravings can often be impossible for a person to ignore if they are trying to stop using crack on their own. This is especially true for people with very severe or long-term addictions, as withdrawal symptoms can last for upwards of three months. Instead, the best option for people with a crack addiction is to go to a rehab facility with a crack detox program. Here you will receive around-the-clock support from a medical staff that can help to treat your withdrawal symptoms. And because you will not be able to access crack while in the facility, you are far more likely to be successful in completing detox and overcoming your cravings to keep using crack.

Treating Crack Addiction

Simply detoxing from crack cocaine is not enough to ensure that you stop using for good. This is because it does not treat any underlying mental health issues, nor does it teach you how to avoid future drug use. At a rehab facility, once you are done detoxing your next step will be participating in behavioral therapy treatment. These treatments are run by physicians and therapists who treat each person based on their needs. Most programs offer a range of behavioral therapy options in order to meet their client’s needs. These can include individual therapy, group therapy, support groups, cognitive-behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, and motivational enhancement therapy. Therapy helps people by finding and treating underlying mental health issues, giving advice for healthy ways to deal with stress, and arming you with tactics to avoid drug use triggers.

What to Expect During Treatment

Patients should expect both individual therapy and a lot of group work, including education and counseling. By connecting with other people working to overcome their crack addiction, you will be able to build a community of supportive allies that will help keep you accountable for your recovery. Treatment for a crack addiction can be lengthy, but at the end of your rehab journey you can be confident that you will be able to reenter the world as a sober person once again.