Crack first came into existence in the 1970s when a huge shipment of powder cocaine arrived in the United States. The massive influx of cocaine caused its value to decrease by as much as 80 percent, and drug dealers had to improvise. They began to convert the powder to crack, a solid form of cocaine that was smokeable. Crack cocaine became popular in Los Angeles, San Diego, Houston, and the Caribbean in early 1980.
The “crack epidemic” occurred between 1984 and 1990 when the cheap yet effective drug began to spread across major American cities. The poorer areas of New York, Miami, Los Angeles, and other relatively impoverished communities at the time all saw a huge rise in crack use. In 1985, 5.8 million people admitted using crack cocaine daily, and by the end of 1986, crack was readily available in 28 states. Only one year later, it would be available in 46.
As crack becomes more and more easily obtainable, the number of people dependent on it steadily increases, and as more people struggle with crack addiction, the need for recovery plans and centers also increases. Before diving straight into a recovery center, there is a lot of information one must know. Our staff is available to answer all your questions one-on-one about crack addiction signs, treatment, and help.
What is Crack?
The first step in treating crack addiction is to know what you are dealing with. Crack (also known as crack cocaine), is a powerful stimulant that is a solid block or crystal form of cocaine, which can be smoked.
Cocaine is a powder, and once it is dissolved in a mixture of water and either ammonia or sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), it is then boiled to separate the solid. Once cooled, the solid is cut up into small nuggets or blocks that are commonly known as crack. Crack rocks can be yellow, pale rose, or white, though white or tan is the most common.
Once smoked, crack offers users a short but intense high that generally lasts between five to 15 minutes. During the high, the user experiences every feeling as more intense, and the person gains a sudden burst of energy and focus.
This short-lived high is immediately followed by the exact opposite: depression, tiredness, and confusion. The real questions are why is there such a difficult comedown, and why is it so addictive?
Initially, when entering the body, crack releases a significant amount of dopamine, which results in euphoria, confidence, and increased energy. However, as soon as the high is over, dopamine levels plummet.
This makes the user feel depressed and worse than before, and this is the root of addiction. The user will continue to smoke crack and may even increase doses in an attempt to get a high similar to the first time.
Crack goes by many different names and terms. Snow coke, rocks, grit, hail, and sleet are some of the more common (in reference to crack cocaine’s appearance). Sold on the streets, crack cocaine can be even more dangerous, as many sellers will attempt to “cut” with other substances to increase bulk and profit.
Be careful, as many of these substances can prove harmful, and even fatal.
What are the Signs of Crack Addiction?
Crack is a powerful drug and a very dangerous substance. Due to its naturally powerful ability to be addictive, it is challenging for someone to “recreationally” or “casually” smoke crack for a significant duration. Symptoms of crack use and addiction range from short-term to long-term and psychologically to physically.
First, let’s take a look at the short-term effects of crack cocaine and how someone under the influence of crack behaves. Some easily noticeable signs include:
- A burst of energy
- Appearing highly focused
- Dilated pupils
- Muscle spasms
- Insomnia (followed by an episode of extreme fatigue right after the high or sleeping for a long period afterward)
Sometimes it is difficult to know if someone is a longtime user of other drugs. Thankfully, there are various ways to tell if someone is addicted to crack. Some apparent symptoms of crack addiction include:
- Cognitive decline
- Low appetite/weight loss
- Hoarse voice/sore throat
- Damaged mouth, lips, and teeth
- Severe depression and anxiety
Although the listed symptoms may seem obvious, not all people who are addicted will show these signs. You may have to pay close attention to behaviors such as aggression, mood swings, and hallucinations (“Ekbom’s syndrome,” a psychological symptom, makes the afflicted believe there are parasites crawling on them, commonly known as “coke bugs”).
If the long-term effects listed above have not convinced you that crack is deadly, how about considering the fact that long-term users are much more susceptible to infectious diseases?
Severe damage to the heart, liver, and kidneys are common as well, and there are even some reports of bleeding lungs. Crack addiction help is valuable and much needed, and the treatment process for users is much more doable and straightforward than you may think.
Crack Withdrawal Symptoms
Crack cocaine can cause chemical dependence that can lead to uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when you try to quit. Crack is a psychostimulant that can have both physical and psychological effects. Its biggest effect in the central nervous system is to affect dopamine, a chemical that’s closely tied to reward, motivation, and positive feelings. When you stop using the drug, the most severe symptoms will be psychological.
However, you may feel some physical symptoms like extreme fatigue and general discomfort. If you went through crack binges where you were awake for days without stopping to sleep, you might become exhausted when you stop using the drug.
Crack Withdrawal Symptoms Can Include:
- Drug cravings
- Sleep disturbances
- Mood swings
- Difficulty sleeping
- Lack of motivation
- Anhedonia (Inability to feel pleasure)
- Suicidal thoughts
A craving for crack is among the most common symptoms of withdrawal and may be characterized as a powerful compulsion to use. Cravings can continue even after you’ve gone through detox, and you may need addiction treatment to learn how to deal with them without using.
Depression is another potentially serious symptom of crack withdrawal. The drug causes a rush of dopamine, and without it, you may feel the effects of a dopamine deficiency. That can mean feeling a lack of motivation, apathy, and deep depression.
In some cases, depression can lead to suicidal thoughts or actions. If you start to experience suicidal thoughts after you stop using crack or another psychostimulant, speak to a professional as soon as possible.
Psychological symptoms can linger for months or even years after detox if they remain unaddressed. However, with treatment, even psychological symptoms can be managed or remedied.
Crack Overdose Symptoms
Cocaine and crack can cause deadly overdose symptoms with high doses. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), there were 13,942 overdose deaths related to cocaine in 2017. The most deadly symptoms of a crack overdose are heart-related complications. Powerful stimulants can increase your heart rate, raise your blood pressure, and constrict your blood vessels. In high doses, that can put too much strain on your heart, and that can lead to heart failure and death.
Other Crack Overdose Symptoms Include:
- Fast heartbeat
- Dilated pupils
- Shortness of breath
- Hypothermia (high temperature)
- Muscle twitching
Crack produces a euphoria that comes on quickly and disappears suddenly. This encourages some users to binge, taking multiple hits in a row. Crack binges can last for days and lead to a phenomenon referred to as tweaking. Tweaking is a combination of sleep deprivation and crack intoxication that can lead to stimulant psychosis. Binging can also cause deadly heart-related symptoms.
What is Involved in Crack Addiction Treatment?
Addiction treatment is centered on physically breaking the need for crack. Stopping crack intake immediately can be dangerous and counterproductive, so professional help is almost always the best course of action.
Most people grappling with crack addiction are longtime users, so their body struggles to function without the drug. Fever, muscle pain, depression, and sometimes even suicidal tendencies are present, so treatment in a controlled environment with expert help is almost always necessary.
Professionals at a detox center can monitor your chance of relapse, medications, and vital signs, which are some of the most important things while going through recovery. Doctors working with people who are recovering from addiction commonly use a muscle relaxant called “baclofen” to treat the involuntary twitching and spasms throughout the detoxification process. Any other medical issues (diabetes, hypertension, or any other conditions) will be addressed as well.
The first step in entering an addiction rehab facility is detox. While in detox, you are treated by 24-hour nursing staff, who are always ready to help in the detox process (five days to seven days). From simple questions to withdrawals and relapse, our staff is more than happy to help.
Detox is arguably the most important step, especially if other substances have been used simultaneously, and the first step is always the most difficult. Long-term or heavy use of a drug such as crack cocaine can lead to dependency, which is why detox is so useful and much needed.
The next step in crack addiction rehab is our residential treatment, our highest level of treatment. While in the residential program, you are supervised 24/7 in a comfortable environment, where you will be equipped with the mental tools you need to battle relapse in the future.
For those who have completed residential treatment or cannot put their lives on hold to live at the facility, outpatient programs are great options that allow you to take full advantage of addiction therapy while having the flexibility of living at home.
Our mission is to help you get back on your feet, and we understand that your life does not just pause while in recovery. Our addiction professionals are experienced with any and every concern you may have, and treating your addiction is the No. 1 priority.
How to Help Someone Suffering from Crack Addiction
Although self-help is an effective strategy, sometimes you may have to help a friend or loved one in the process of recovery; you cannot depend on treatment centers or doctors entirely. Addiction cannot be cured solely by medications, so knowing how to help a loved one not only greatly increases the chance of recovery but also eases the process of it as well.
The most important thing you can do to help someone suffering from crack addiction is to show them support. If they know that you love them, and you’re here to support them and help them through recovery, it could be the difference between a successful recovery period and a relapse.
If the client is in an outpatient program, and only visits the recovery center and/or expert a few times a week, living in a comfortable and positive environment back at home is crucial. If the client is in an inpatient program, make sure you show that you still love and support them. A simple phone call can make a significant difference in someone suffering from crack addiction withdrawals.
While talking to a loved one about possible treatment and their addiction in general, try your hardest not to point fingers or play the blame game. A key part in creating a positive living environment is making sure that it does not seem like a “you vs. me” situation, but more of an “us vs. addiction” situation. Use first person pronouns like “I,” “we,” and “us” to solidify the fact that you’re with them, not against them.
Crack Abuse Statistics
- Only 0.4% of 12th-graders in the U.S. used crack in 2012.
- The cocaine market is valued at an estimated $143 billion.
- 23% of the 6 million Americans who have tried crack would be classified as dependent.