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Crack is a highly addictive substance that comes with high physical risk. Its use has varied short and long-term effects, as well as immediate effects that hijack the brain, making the person feel like the only way to survive is to keep using it. 

There are several million people that use crack globally. The highest concentration of those is in the Americas. While there is limited research on treatment for crack use, recovery is possible. It requires the oversight of a medical professional. Early intervention is important with crack use. This article will review the effects of crack use as well as the symptoms associated with crack addiction.

What Is Crack?

Crack is a concentrated form of the powerfully addictive drug cocaine, derived from the coca plant. It has been used by South Americans for centuries by chewing or ingesting the plant’s leaves. In the 1900s, cocaine was often included in tonics and seltzers and used to treat a variety of ailments. Today, cocaine can still be administered by a medical professional for anesthetic purposes for ear, eye, and throat procedures. 

Crack is created by dissolving and reconstituting cocaine. It exists in a crystal form that “is heated and smoked to achieve a faster, more intense high than standard cocaine powder” explains the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Crack’s name is derived from the cracking sound that is made when the drug is heated. Its use is high risk as it is the most powerful form of cocaine, causing intense and rapid feelings of euphoria quickly followed by depression. It is possible to become addicted to crack after a single use. 

Unlike cocaine, which is snorted, crack is heated and dissolved. This produces vapors that are inhaled into the lungs, also referred to as freebasing. Crack can also be ingested by being sprinkled on marijuana or cigarettes and smoked. In order to maintain a high, individuals often use it in larger doses and with greater frequency.

Signs and Symptoms of Crack Addiction

According to Drug and Alcohol Dependence, crack is most highly prevalent among communities that are socioeconomically marginalized. Its use comes with several tells that include scratching or picking at the skin, loss of interest in regular activities of people — like being consumed by the desire to use the drug — as well as burned lips or fingers due to smoking a hot pipe. 

If you suspect someone you love of crack use, knowing the other signs and symptoms is important. Warning signs exhibited by someone struggling with crack addiction may include:

  • Exhibiting paranoid thoughts and behaviors
  • Drug paraphernalia, such as pipes and small plastic bags with white residue
  • Uncontrollable cravings and compulsions to use the drug
  • Lying and stealing to obtain money to purchase crack
  • Feelings of anxiety and depression
  • Withdrawal symptoms when not using

Effects of Crack Addiction

The effects of crack use and addiction are both long and short-term. Crack use alters the brain, permanently lowering its response to positive input. In addition to the immediate effect of euphoria, crack causes high energy, alertness, and a heightened sex drive. These last only five to 10 minutes, resulting in a depressed “crash” that makes the individual want to use it again. 

Short-Term Effects

  • Increased heart rate
  • Heightened sensitivity to lights, sound, and touch
  • Irritability
  • Pupil dilation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased respiration
  • Insomnia
  • Increased blood pressure

Long-Term Effects

  • Respiratory damage
  • Internal damage to other organs
  • Paranoia or aggression
  • Malnutrition from loss of appetite
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Delirium and hallucinations

Treatment for Crack Addiction

Those dealing with crack addiction experience more than physical symptoms. Crack has an impact on every area of life, including social and financial stability. Seeking treatment as early as possible can halt the lingering effects of addiction as well as worsening consequences.

Since crack is so addictive, it may not seem like recovery is possible, but treatment for crack addiction does exist. The recovery process is not easy. A good facility will be ready to help ease the painful symptoms of withdrawal. Treatment includes psychotherapy to deal with the life impact of crack use as well as the root causes of using crack. It may also include facilitated group therapy and creative therapies, such as music or art therapy.

West Coast Recovery Centers is prepared to aid in the treatment of crack addiction. Our treatment plans are comprehensive. They are based on a holistic model, meaning the whole person is treated. This takes into account financial, social, and physical needs in order to get you through withdrawal and into recovery. 

We offer medication-assisted treatment (MAT) alongside the behavioral therapies listed above. Whether you are working one-on-one with a therapist, undergoing therapy in a group setting, or engaging in creative or art therapy, you will be making progress toward a sustainable recovery from substance use disorder (SUD). WCRC is staffed with medical and mental health professionals whose goal is to support your recovery.

Crack is the crystallized form of cocaine. It is highly addictive, sometimes resulting in addiction after using the drug just once. It is accompanied by an often immediate high that includes euphoria, alertness, heightened sex drive, and high energy. The euphoria is replaced by feelings of depression which can increase the desire to use. In addition to these immediate effects, crack has multiple short and long-term effects that can be dangerous. Crack use can be spotted in a number of ways including burns on the hands and lips. It is possible to treat crack addiction. If you or someone you know is using crack, contact West Coast Recovery Centers at (760) 492-6509 to find out more about addiction recovery.

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