Crack Addiction

Dr Matthew N. Parker
Calendar icon Last Updated: 01/25/2024

Reading Time: 5 minutes

What is Crack Addiction?

Crack cocaine is a highly potent and addictive stimulant processed from powdered cocaine and made to look like a rock crystal. Crack produces effects similar to that of powdered cocaine but comes with a higher number of health risks including lung trauma and bleeding. People who use crack are often more talkative, can stay awake for long periods of time, and complete tasks more quickly.

Crack is known to be highly addictive due to the way it produces an immediate, intense high that lasts between five and 10 minutes. After the drug’s effects wear off, people use more crack to maintain their euphoria, which causes them to build a tolerance. As people continue to use crack regularly in higher amounts, they become physically dependent and require a certain amount of crack to ward off withdrawal symptoms. The intense crash after use can be marked by mood swings, extreme fatigue, aggression, and other negative effects.

What are the Risks of Crack Addiction?

There are roughly 913,000 people in the U.S. who are diagnosed with cocaine use disorder, which includes crack addiction. Last year over 10,600 people in the U.S. died from a crack-related overdose. Crack is highly addictive, and even one time smoking it has been known to lead to addiction.

Crack became more widely used in the U.S. during the 1980s on account of the drug being relatively easy and inexpensive to produce. Crack is made by dissolving powdered cocaine into water combined with ammonia or baking soda and boiling until the drug forms into a solid substance that is dried and broken into rock crystals.

Today, an estimated 1.5 million Americans over the age of 12 are regular cocaine users. Crack addiction can be safely and effectively treated using drug detox and other therapies aimed at helping people overcome psychological symptoms and causes of addiction.

What are the Symptoms of Crack Addiction?

Crack cocaine use offers many of the same risks as powdered cocaine, along with additional risks caused by smoking the substance. Short-term effects of crack include:

  • 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

Prolonged use of crack can cause a number of problems for one’s physical and mental health. Crack use can lead to addiction, 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 more severe the long-term effects become, too.

Here are some potential long-term effects of crack abuse:

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

What are the Signs of Crack Addiction?

The short-term effects of crack cocaine often appeal to users who enjoy feeling more energetic, confident, and social. Crack can make people feel extremely happy, motivated, and stimulated, but it can lead to aggression, irritability, and anxiety when used in high amounts.

Crack dependence can then quickly turn into an addiction, which is when a person continues using crack frequently and impulsively despite knowing it can lead to negative consequences. Crack addiction is often marked by changes in behavior as the user becomes preoccupied with obtaining and using crack.

If you suspect someone is abusing crack, look for the signs of addiction.

Physical health-related warning signs of crack addiction:

  • Bloodshot eyes dilated pupils
  • Changes in appetite
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Seizures without a 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:

  • Increased absence from work, school, or 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
  • Becoming withdrawn, secretive, or suspicious
  • A sudden change in relationships, friends, places to hang out, and hobbies
  • Getting into trouble often (arguments, fights, accidents, illegal activities)

Psychological crack addiction signs:

  • 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

What to do if Someone You Love is Abusing Crack

Over time with repeated, regular crack use, the brain comes to rely solely on crack for dopamine and stops producing this chemical on its own. People who become dependent on crack will continue using the drug to experience pleasure, and face a higher risk for addiction as a result. A person is addicted to crack when their body becomes physically dependent on the drug, and they continue using crack despite knowing drug use will result in negative consequences, including health risks.

If you want to help someone through their addiction, try and open the lines of communication to them, but be prepared for them to be in denial about their habit. Working with a doctor or addiction specialist, you can set up an intervention for their crack addiction, to help get them into a treatment facility. Professional treatment is the best course of action to help someone suffering from crack addiction.

Which Treatment Options are Available for Crack Addiction?

Long-term users of crack should seek out inpatient treatment facilities. These provide the best opportunities for overcoming your crack addiction and sustaining a healthy, drug-free lifestyle. Inpatient programs start with a drug detox, and include medical oversight, as well as behavioral therapy. Programs can range anywhere from 30 days to 90 days, with longer stays recommended for more severe addictions.

If you or someone you love is struggling with crack cocaine addiction, seek help right away. Crack is a dangerous drug that can cause serious problems with one’s physical and mental health and can lead to a fatal overdose. But crack addiction treatment can help you or a loved one safely and fully overcome addiction.

Medical Reviewer
Dr Matthew N. Parker, MD
General Practitioner Physician
Read Bio
Dr. Matthew N. Parker is a native of Lubbock, Texas and now lives in deep East Texas. He was trained at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and the Conroe Family Medicine Residency in Conroe, Texas. He's spent 20 years as a practicing physician, 15 of which have been spent treating patients with substance use disorders.