Crack cocaine is a dangerously addictive drug used pervasively in modern society. There are no medical benefits of crack and using the drug is highly detrimental to a person’s health and lifestyle.
As it’s a Schedule II drug, abusing or distributing crack is illegal in the United States, but even so, the drug still continues to invade and destroy people’s lives.
Cocaine stimulates the brain and other parts of the central nervous system. Cocaine typically appears as a white, pure powder. Crack cocaine is produced from cocaine, but combined with water and ammonia or sodium bicarbonate. The mixture is boiled until a hardened precipitate forms. The solid precipitate is dried and broken into small crystalline chunks.
Crack is sold on the streets in this crystal, or rock, form. In almost all cases, crack is smoked. Addicts place the rock in a special pipe and then light the pipe. As the piece of crack heats up, it releases fumes that the addict inhales. Inhalation of crack cocaine allows the drug to reach the lungs, where it is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. Crack’s effects are immediate, powerful and highly addictive.
There are a variety of creative terms used to describe much of the terminology and paraphernalia associated with crack cocaine addiction.
Common nicknames for crack cocaine include:
Rock or rocks
Crack sold on the street is often mixed with other drugs or additives that are supposed to enhance the effects of the drug. Usually, this contaminates the drug and makes abusing the drug even more dangerous.
As with most addictive drugs, crack causes a constellation of pleasurable effects that are often called a “high.” These effects are the main reason addicts continue to abuse crack.
Transient euphoria. This is the initial and most obvious effect of a crack “high.” The euphoria reportedly transcends all other pleasurable effects experienced by the addict. This euphoria lasts for three to five minutes.
Exaggerated alertness and excitement. As a stimulant, crack cocaine enhances some aspects of cognitive operation. Addicts under the effect of crack are often hyper-vigilant and may suffer from paranoia or mania.
Another important aspect of a crack “high” is the immediate aftereffect. Addicts experience intense depression, worry, anxiety, and have problems concentrating, according to the Center for Substance Abuse Research (CESAR). These aftereffects occur soon after the initial euphoria begins to wear off. The strength of these aftereffects is more apparent in long-time addicts. The larger the dose, the more severe the after-effects.
How Crack Affects the Body
Inhaled crack cocaine fumes directly reach the lungs and are swiftly absorbed into the blood. From the blood, the drug saturates the brain tissue. Once it is in the brain, crack causes a significant increase in the hormone dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter commonly associated with pleasure and movement. Furthermore, dopamine is vital in the operation of the body’s pleasure reward center.
The pleasure reward center is vital in the genesis of addiction. Each time crack enters the system, high levels of dopamine flood the pleasure reward center. This influx of dopamine is significantly higher than normal dopamine release. Therefore, as dopamine levels rise in response to the crack, the addict will experience intense pleasure. This euphoria is so alluring that addicts will want to have the feeling again, no matter the cost.
excitability, rapid speech, pupil dilation and agitation
Previous history of trying to quit using crack without effect
Noticeable decline in workplace performance
Continued use of crack despite obvious health, lifestyle and financial problems
Secrecy when using drugs
Using crack early or first thing in the morning
Violent reactions when confronted about crack cocaine use
Crack cocaine addicts are at a high risk for suffering from an overdose. The longer an addict uses crack, the more the body is able to adjust to the high dopamine levels. In most cases, the addict will need increasing doses of crack in order to experience the high that they crave. As the dose of crack rises, the risk of overdosing increases dramatically. Furthermore, crack is often combined with other drugs to enhance its effects. Certain combinations of drugs make overdosing even more probable.
Overdosing on crack causes the following:
Extreme aggressiveness and paranoia
Dramatically elevated blood pressure
Nausea and vomiting
Loss of consciousness
Seizure, muscle spasms or loss of muscle control
A crack overdose requires emergency medical treatment. Without treatment, overdosing can be fatal.
Crack and Alcohol
Most serious crack addicts take more than one drug. One of the least desirable combinations is crack and alcohol. In the human body, the liver takes in both crack and alcohol and attempts to detoxify the drugs. Unfortunately, if these two drugs are combined in the liver, they produce a chemical called cocaethylene. Cocaethylene potentiates the euphoric effects of cocaine. However, cocaethylene is associated with a much greater risk of sudden death than taking cocaine by itself.
Crack cocaine targets the brain, lungs, blood vessels, heart and gastrointestinal system. Each of these organs or systems is damaged each time crack is used. Over time, this damage builds up and begins to impair the addict’s overall health. Many of these long-term health consequences are permanent and fatal if not treated. These effects include:
Psychological. Crack addicts develop severe paranoia and suffer from bouts of deep psychosis. Crack causes addicts to experience delusions and auditory hallucinations. These psychological effects are attributed to the damaging effect crack has on different parts of the brain.
Malnourishment. Crack causes a steep decline in appetite. Over a long period of time, loss of appetite leads to weight loss and malnourishment.
Seizures. Crack cocaine interferes with normal muscle control and can lead to seizures. In severe cases, this can damage the diaphragm and lead to respiratory arrest.
Statistics on Use
The NIDA found that less than one percent of the American population reported using crack cocaine within the month prior to interview.
While the rate of crack abuse has decreased in all individuals 12 years and older, crack abuse has infiltrated the American school system. In 2009, NIDA reported that 2.7 percent of all 12th grade students have used crack. The number decreases in the lower education levels, but at least 1.7 percent of all 8th grade students abused crack.
Out of all the students who admit to using cocaine, 0.4 to 0.6 percent are current abusers of the drug. This means that they have smoked crack within month preceding the interview. This number is disturbing because it means that crack cocaine is easily available to a large portion of the student population.
Intervention for Crack Addiction
Crack addiction is an encompassing disease that affects whole families. Often the addict is the primary focus of drug treatment, but most of the addict’s friends and relatives are adversely affected by crack addiction as well.
Staging an intervention is usually the most effective method in treating all the potential victims of crack addiction. A trained interventionist is qualified to recognize who needs the most help from an intervention. Obviously the addict is the main focus of the intervention, but a true intervention also helps repair any damage the family has suffered due to their loved one’s addiction.
Recovering from a crack addiction is a difficult procedure. Most addicts are not only psychologically addicted, but also physically dependent on crack. This makes it difficult for crack addicts to quit on their own. Furthermore, addicts tend to avoid confronting their addiction and facing the adverse effects of using crack. Interventions help addicts accept their crack addiction and provide them with a proven therapeutic option.
Most interventions succeed in helping the addict and everyone who was affected by the crack addiction.