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Crack Cocaine Abuse and Addiction

Crack cocaine is a potent and addictive stimulant drug that is made by mixing ammonia or baking soda with cocaine and heating it until it crystallizes into a rock or mineral-like substance. Then, the rock is broken into smaller pieces of rock or crystals. Crack is usually white or off-white, but can also be cream, tan, or light brown.

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Crack cocaine abuse users place these rocks into a glass pipe or on the tip of a cigarette, heat it up, and inhale the vapors. While the overwhelming majority of users smoke crack cocaine, some people also inject it. Although the drug is made from cocaine, the effects produced are far more intense.

Crack cocaine gets its name due to the cracking or popping noise the substance makes when it is heated. Alternate slang terms for crack include:

  • Candy
  • Cookies
  • Sleet
  • Hard
  • Rocks
  • Base
  • Kryptonite

Crack cocaine is highly addictive and drug users can get hooked after just one or two doses. The drug has no accepted medical use. It is considered a Schedule II controlled substance due to its high potential for abuse and risk for psychological and physical dependence.

Crack Cocaine Side Effects

Once inhaled, the effects of crack are instantaneous. Users feel an intense rush of euphoria and energy. The high only lasts for 5-10 minutes. Since the high is so brief, many drug users will binge on crack by using it in high doses throughout the day for days or weeks on end. They do this to avoid a “crash.” However, this type of drug abuse can quickly lead to physical dependence.

Effects produced by crack include:

  • Heightened alertness
  • Dilated pupils
  • Hyperactivity
  • Tension
  • Increased heart rate
  • Decreased appetite
  • Euphoria
  • Feelings of invincibility
  • Increased confidence

Similar to many other substances of abuse, crack targets dopamine, a feel-good chemical in the brain, that is responsible for attention, behavior, memory, emotion, and reward. Crack leads to a buildup of dopamine in the brain, causing feelings of intense euphoria. However, when the high wears off, users will crash.

During a crash, crack users may feel:

  • Irritable
  • Drowsy
  • Lethargic
  • Hungry
  • Cravings

This crash is what makes users engage in repetitive crack abuse. Withdrawal symptoms often start developing during the crash phase, as well.

Crack Cocaine Abuse

Cocaine can be expensive, especially if someone is using a lot of it. Crack, on the other hand, is a much cheaper alternative. As a result, it is often sought out by regular drug users who are seeking a faster, cheaper, and more intense high rather than first-time drug users.

It is also extremely powerful. Whether it is smoked or injected, the drug enters the bloodstream all at once, within as little as 15 seconds. This instant and powerful high puts users at an extremely high risk of overdose.

According to the most recent Monitoring the Future Study from 2020, 0.9% of 8th graders and 1.6% of 12th graders reported using crack cocaine at some point in their lifetimes. Up to 0.1% and 0.4% reported crack use in the last month. While these numbers may seem small, they represent tens of thousands of American youth. And, considering how addictive and dangerous crack is, that is a major problem.

The same study also revealed that 4.1% of adults ages 26 and older had abused crack in their lifetime and 0.2% reported using the drug in the last month.

No matter who abuses crack and why, the drug is highly addictive and can be habit-forming. With that said, some people may be more susceptible to addiction, such as those who abuse the drug on a daily basis, people with co-occurring health conditions, or people who are already addicted to another substance.

Symptoms of Crack Overdose

Crack cocaine, like cocaine in its powdered form, can lead to overdose. First-time crack users are at a particularly high risk of overdose as well as people with kidney problems or high blood pressure. Symptoms of crack overdose include:

  • Convulsions
  • Agitation
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Aggression
  • Seizures
  • Chest pain
  • Hallucinations
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Hyperventilation
  • Heart attack
  • Coma

Fatal crack overdoses usually result in heart attacks, hyperventilation, or coma. While there is no stimulant overdose-reversal drug available on the market, overdose can be treated with careful monitoring and supportive care. In some cases, benzodiazepines are administered to help patients relax.

Crack Cocaine Addiction

Crack cocaine is one of the most addictive drugs out there. It is even more addictive than regular cocaine. As a result, addiction to this drug often develops rapidly.

Since the high produced by crack is so short-lived and enjoyable, many people come down and immediately feel as though they need more of the drug. Then, they may fall into a cycle of binging and crashing during which they are using crack simply to maintain functioning without going into withdrawal.

Symptoms of crack withdrawal include:

  • Intense cravings
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Agitation
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle pain
  • Sweating
  • Vivid dreams
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Intense drug cravings

Crack cocaine directly affects the production and reuptake of dopamine in the brain. Chronic use makes the brain and body dependent on excess dopamine and unable to produce dopamine without crack cocaine. Withdrawal symptoms are the result of the body trying to regain balance once crack leaves the system.

Crack cocaine cravings are particularly challenging, making it difficult for people to quit. People who are addicted to crack often ignore the negative consequences of their drug use, act out in illegal or illicit behaviors, and go to any lengths possible to maintain their addiction.

Long-Term Side Effects

People who get addicted to crack may experience a number of difficulties in their lives. They may struggle to maintain employment, have trouble with personal relationships, experience their health decline, struggle to pay rent, and so much more. Crack cocaine abuse may also encourage illegal activities that users face consequences for.

Addiction to any type of drug can make a person’s health deteriorate. Crack, being as powerful as it is, can cause mental, emotional, and cognitive decline, especially after long-term use.

Long term mental and emotional side effects of cocaine abuse include:

  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Disorientation
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations

People who abuse crack may also see their physical health decline. Some long-term physical effects of cocaine include:

  • Kidney or liver damage
  • Lung damage
  • Malnutrition
  • Heart disease
  • Infertility
  • Early death

The best way to prevent these long-term effects is to abstain from crack entirely.

Treatment for Crack Cocaine Abuse

Crack cocaine drug addiction is treated just as any other stimulant use disorder is treated. First, patients will go through detox where they are monitored and cared for as the substances leave their system. Then, they will transition to an inpatient rehab program where a multitude of therapies are applied, including:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Contingency management (CM)
  • Community support (12-Step programs)
  • Therapeutic communities (sober living, residential care)

There are currently no FDA-approved treatment medications for cocaine, but a combination of counseling, behavioral therapy, and peer support can help teach patients how to live sober and put a life of cocaine abuse behind them.


Crack is so addictive that users can get hooked after only one use. Whether you have fallen into the trap of crack addiction or now somebody who has, our dedicated team of addiction specialists at Elevate Recovery center is here to help.

Our Massachusetts drug and alcohol rehab program uses cutting-edge therapies facilitated by some of the most experienced addiction experts in the state. We can help you overcome your addiction to crack – no matter how long you’ve been struggling.

Don’t wait any longer. Call today to find a crack cocaine rehab in Massachusetts.


Valerie Tecci, Program Director

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