Crack Addiction

Any addiction – be it to drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling or anything else – is consuming. It takes over your life and has the potential to cause serious problems for you and for those around you. Crack addiction is not exempt in any way from this statement. Crack is a stimulant drug that is smoked for its euphoric, high-producing effects. Crack, also called crack cocaine, is a dangerous substance. It is highly addictive, and even one time smoking it has been known to lead to addiction. The consequences of crack addiction are many, and it important to seek help if you cannot stop using crack on your own.

What is Crack Cocaine?

Crack cocaine is derived from cocaine, which is derived from the leaves of the coca plant that’s native to South America. Cocaine is a powder which is processed to make a rock crystal called crack. According to the US Department of Justice, when cocaine is dissolved into a mixture of water and ammonia or baking soda, it becomes a solid that is broken into crack rocks. These rocks are smoked, and when this happens it produces a crackling sound, hence the name.

Crack is a stimulant drug that produces a high, euphoric effect and gives people energy. It has many other negative effects, but those are the effects desired by users. The drug is highly addictive, and its abuse is very dangerous.

Street Names for Crack Cocaine

Due to the fact that crack is an illegal drug and is known to be so, most users will not call it by the names ‘crack’ or ‘crack cocaine’ while talking to each other or on the streets. It is important for loved ones of crack users and people who think someone they know may be using crack to know the names it may be called. Your loved one could be talking about it right in front of you, and if you don’t know the slang names for crack you may miss an opportunity to find them help. This list is certainly non-exhaustive, as it can be difficult to learn the names and to keep up with the ever-changing illegal drug landscape.

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Here are some crack street names:

  • 24-7
  • Rock
  • Hard rock
  • Base
  • Kryptonite
  • Sugar block
  • Topo
  • Tornado
  • Apple jacks
  • Candy
  • Gravel
  • Electric kool-aid
  • Ice cube
  • Snow coke
  • Nuggets
  • Jelly beans
  • Crumbs

How Crack is Used

Crack rocks are almost always smoked, and are white or off-white in color. Smoking crack causes the drug to be delivered rapidly to the blood stream and to the brain, which makes the user experience the effects rapidly. The high is strong, but it lasts only 5 to 10 minutes, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Using the drug in this way is said to be the riskiest form of using cocaine. Because of its rapid but not long-lasting effects, compulsive crack use develops quickly.

Effects of Crack Cocaine Use

Crack produces a number of effects that cause a user to desire more and more of the drug. It is the effects of crack that keep people coming back, despite the side effects and consequences, according to the UMD Center for Substance Abuse Research. A discussion of crack’s effects requires a look at both short and long term effects as well as possible side effects.

Short-term effects of crack include:

Crack Addiction

Crack is a stimulant drug used for its euphoric and energizing effects.

  • Intense “rush” of euphoria
  • Increased energy level
  • Talking more
  • Hyper-stimulation
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased breathing rate
  • Constriction of peripheral blood vessels
  • Dilated pupils
  • Decreased appetite
  • Anxiety and paranoia
  • Aggressive, paranoid behavior
  • Depression
  • Intense drug cravings
  • Sudden death – even one use of crack can cause overdose and death

Long-term effects of crack cocaine use:

Prolonged use of crack can have a number of problems for one’s physical and mental health. It can lead to addiction, and it often does, which is a chronic, relapsing disease that can take over many aspects of your life. The longer you use crack, the higher the potential for crack addiction becomes and the worse the long-term effects become, too.

Here are some potential long-term effects:

  • Severe depression
  • Irritability, mood disturbances
  • Aggressive, paranoid behavior
  • Delirium or psychosis
  • Tolerance, addiction
  • Auditory and/or tactile hallucinations
  • Heart attack and heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Respiratory failure
  • Brain seizures
  • Sexual dysfunction (for men and women alike)
  • Reproductive damage, infertility (men and women)
  • Increased frequency of risky behavior
  • Death

Signs of Crack Use

Knowing whether someone is on crack or not can be difficult if you do not know them well, but if you do it may be easier. Crack causes people to act in strange and abnormal ways. At the same time, however, its effects do not last long so if you do not see someone while they are high it may be hard to tell whether they use crack or not until their crack abuse problem has grown quite large.

Some things to look out for include:

  • Talking rapidly
  • Feeling nervous or agitated
  • Erratic behavior
  • Large, dilated pupils
  • Glassy eyes
  • Sweating
  • Lack of sleep
  • Dramatic mood changes

If someone has been using crack for a long time, they may also display:

  • Dramatic loss of weight
  • Always feeling either very tired or very awake
  • Intense arguing, more often than normal
  • Extreme self confidence that is out of the ordinary
  • Difficulties financially
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How Crack Addiction Develops

Prolonged use of crack can lead to a crack addiction. Once a person has a crack addiction, they will engage in frequent and impulsive drug-seeking behavior and will feel that they need crack to function. Crack addiction develops quickly, especially because of the fact that the drug’s effects are not long lasting. Crack is very addictive, and smoking it even once can produce cravings to do so again. It is not uncommon for people to smoke crack multiple times a day, and for that habit to develop rapidly.

In addition to the strong and rapidly diminishing effects, crack’s interaction with the brain’s pleasure center is highly implicated in the development of cravings and addiction.

Crack Cocaine and the Brain

Crack addiction is the result of many things, one big factor being the interaction of the drug and the brain, particularly with the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is an important chemical in the regulation of many things in the brain, including emotions, and feelings of pleasure and pain. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a normal interaction with dopamine would allow dopamine to be released into a brain synapse where it would bind with the receptors on neighboring neurons. Afterwards, dopamine is normally recycled back into the neuron with the help of a dopamine transporter. When cocaine is present, however, the drug binds to the dopamine transporter, effectively blocking the recycling process and causing the dopamine to build up in the brain – hence the intense euphoria.

The brain can become dependent on those interactions, and become used to having cocaine in the brain. As a person continues to abuse crack cocaine, the brain first develops a crack tolerance. At this time the user must take higher crack doses and smoke it more frequently to register the same level of pleasure experienced previously. With tolerance comes dependence, and a person’s brain craves the feelings of pleasure that the crack creates. Addiction happens when those cravings take control, and a person cannot help but compulsively seek out crack cocaine.

Signs of Crack Addiction

Crack Addiction

Suspicious or secretive behavior is a sign of crack addiction.

As discussed earlier, identifying crack addiction may be difficult depending on who you are dealing with. First of all, a common behavior of addicts is that they tend to lie about their drug use. In these conditions, they may hide the symptoms and do their best to keep their outward appearance as normal as possible. Eventually, however, as addiction worsens it becomes harder and harder to hide the symptoms.

Crack addiction symptoms manifest in three main areas: a person’s physical health, their behavior, and their mental health. Here are some common symptoms in those areas according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence:

Physical health-related warning signs of crack addiction:

  • Bloodshot eyes, dilated pupils
  • Changes in appetite
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Seizures without history of epilepsy
  • Deterioration of physical appearance, lack of hygiene and grooming
  • Unexplained injuries or accidents
  • Shakes, tremors, incoherent speech, impaired coordination

Behavioral symptoms of crack cocaine addiction may include:

  • Increased absence from work or school, other responsibilities
  • Loss of interest in activities that were previously found enjoyable
  • Decreased motivation in general
  • Unexplained and uncharacteristic need for money/financial problems; borrowing or stealing
  • Withdrawn, secretive, or suspicious
  • Sudden change in relationships, friends, places to hang out, and hobbies
  • Getting into trouble often (arguments, fights, accidents, illegal activities)

Psychological crack addiction signs may include:

  • Change in personality or attitude
  • Sudden mood changes
  • Irritability, angry outbursts, or laughing at nothing
  • Periods of unusual hyperactivity or agitation
  • Inability to focus, acting lethargic or ‘spacing out’
  • Appearing fearful, withdrawn, anxious or paranoid without explanation

Consequences of Crack Addiction

Crack abuse and addiction is linked to a number of physical and psychological ailments. In addition to those direct effects, crack addiction can cause you to lose your job, to end up in financial trouble, to interfere with and potentially ruin your personal relationships, and to get you in trouble with the law. Crack is a serious drug, and law enforcement does not take it lightly. As well, actions you take while under the influence of crack itself and of the addiction can cause you significant trouble in your life. Crack overdose is also possible, which can cause death.

Physical effects of crack addiction include:

  • Constricted blood vessels
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Seizure
  • Respiratory problems, including coughing, shortness of breath, lung trauma, and bleeding

Psychological consequences of crack addiction:

Crack addiction is associated with very serious psychiatric problems. According to the US National Library of Medicine, agitation, paranoia, hallucinations, delusions, violence, and suicidal and homicidal thinking are potential effects of cocaine and crack cocaine use. These symptoms may be caused by the drug, or be an exacerbation of comorbid psychiatric disorders. Crack is associated with more frequent and intense symptoms.

Prevalence of Crack Abuse and Addiction

Crack abuse is fairly common, though it isn’t heard about too much in the media. Crack and cocaine had a particularly popular period in the 1980s and 1990s, at which point they received a lot of attention. However, crack cocaine appears to be fairly prevalent in today’s society.

5 alarming crack use statistics:

  1. According to the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, an estimated 6,222,000 US residents over 12 years of age have used crack at least once in their lifetime.
  2. The same survey found that 150,000 individuals from 12 to 17 have also used crack in their lifetimes, and 1,003,000 people aged 18 to 25.
  3. The National Survey of Drug Use and Health found that in 2008 nearly 1.4 million Americans met criteria for dependence on or abuse of cocaine (in any form) in the past 12 months.
  4. According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network’s 2008 report, cocaine was involved in 492,188 of the almost 2 million drug abuse and misuse related emergency room visits. This equates to almost 1 in 4 of the visits having involved some form of cocaine.
  5. The University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future survey found that nearly 4% of high school seniors had used crack cocaine at least once in their lifetime, and 1% had used it within the past month.

Getting Help for Crack Addiction

If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction to crack cocaine, it is important that you seek help now. Crack is a dangerous drug that can cause physical and mental health problems, problems with the law, relationships, and even death by overdose. Crack addiction causes people to act in ways that they would not otherwise, and can lead to serious accidents and risky behavior.

Crack addiction treatment can help you overcome addiction. At crack rehab centers, the main line of treatment at this time is behavioral therapy. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, researchers are trying to find medications that may be able to help treat crack addiction, and are even working on a vaccine, but at this time there are no approved pharmacological treatments.

Behavioral treatment for crack addiction:

There are a couple different kinds of behavioral and motivational therapies that are used most often to treat an addiction to crack. These are contingency management and cognitive-behavioral therapy.

  • Contingency Management: Contingency management is a motivational technique that uses vouchers and incentives to reward people for abstinence from crack. Motivational incentives may include coupons, movie tickets, points that accumulate toward some prize like a gym membership, and other healthy rewards. Incentives are given for clean drug tests and other goals that are set by treatment professionals.
  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy: CBT helps patients recognize the ‘triggers’, or situations, states, and places that would lead them to use crack. Once these are recognized, treatment professionals help patients learn to avoid these places, and to cope effectively with triggers and other situations that normally would lead to drug use.

Treating crack addiction is possible, and if you or someone you love is struggling you should seek help now.

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