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Effects of Crack Cocaine Use

Crack Cocaine, also known simply as “crack”, is a form of cocaine processed with a base, turning it into small rocks that are smoked. When inhaled, the effects of crack cocaine become more potent and addictive.

Understanding the Effects of Crack Cocaine Use

Crack cocaine is the free base form of cocaine, meaning that the powder cocaine has been processed with a base, such as baking soda or ammonia. In this “free base” form, cocaine turns into yellowish-white rocks that can be smoked, allowing the stimulant to be more rapidly absorbed. The effects of crack vs. powder cocaine are similar, but the difference in the potency is related to the way the drug is being used. When a substance is smoked, it reaches the brain more quickly than other ways of administration. Smoking crack results in a high that happens faster but also wears off sooner, often resulting in binges where the person will repeatedly use over and over to feel the same effects. It is possible to become addicted to crack cocaine after only the first use.

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Crack cocaine stimulates the central nervous system, resulting in high levels of dopamine in the brain that cause sensations of pleasure and euphoria. Repeated crack use leads to building up a tolerance, resulting in the need for higher and higher doses in order to attain the same effects. Using crack cocaine alters the brain’s reward system, leading to strong cravings and withdrawal symptoms that can be felt as soon as the first time trying the drug. Withdrawal symptoms from crack cocaine may include:

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • irritability
  • extreme fatigue
  • intense craving for the drug
  • psychosis

There is no safe amount of crack usage, and even a small dose can lead to dependence, addiction, and a wide variety of negative side effects. Crack cocaine abuse results in serious damage to all the organs, especially the lungs which are exposed to toxins from the smoke. Abusing crack cocaine also causes serious damage to the brain, heart, and blood vessels, all of which can lead to sudden death.

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Short-Term Effects of Crack Cocaine Use

The effects from crack cocaine begin almost immediately after the smoke is inhaled and peak within 3 to 5 minutes, lasting a total of 15 to 30 minutes. Crack causes a short-lived, intense high that is usually followed by the opposite effects, such as depression, edginess, and a strong craving for more of the drug. Because inhalation gets the user higher (more drug is delivered at once), and the high occurs faster and wears off faster, the user will tend to binge, making them more vulnerable to the addictive effects of the drug. Crack can make the user have an increased heart rate, muscle spasms, and convulsions. The drug may even make some people paranoid, angry, hostile, and anxious even when they aren’t high.

“Crack lip” is another short-term effect that can result from smoking crack cocaine. Crack smoke does not remain potent for a long time, so crack pipes are usually very short. Users who press a very hot pipe against their lips may end up with cracked and blistered lips.

Since it is smoked, the effects of crack cocaine are more immediate and intense than that of powdered cocaine. Short-term effects include:

  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Constricted blood vessels
  • Increased rate of breathing
  • Dilated pupils
  • Hyper-stimulation
  • Intense euphoria
  • Loss of appetite
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Depression
  • Intense drug craving
  • Sudden death

Long-Term Effects of Crack Cocaine Use

The use of crack cocaine affects the entire body, and users are more likely to have infectious diseases. Smoking may also lead to additional risks not typically associated with snorting powder cocaine, such as respiratory problems like coughing, shortness of breath, lung damage, and bleeding. Continued use can cause sleep deprivation and decreased appetite, resulting in malnutrition. Other problems that result from prolonged crack cocaine abuse include:

  • Severe depression
  • Irritability
  • Mood disturbances
  • Aggressive, paranoid behavior
  • Delirium
  • Psychosis
  • Auditory and tactile hallucinations
  • Heart attack
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Respiratory failure
  • Brain seizures
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Reproductive damage and infertility
  • Increased frequency of risky behavior
  • Death

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Symptoms of Crack Cocaine Overdose

Crack cocaine is one of the most dangerous stimulants in the world due to its high potential for overdose leading to death. It is possible to overdose on crack even after the first use. Overdose occurs when there are toxic levels of the drug within the body, essentially poisoning the user. Symptoms of overdose can occur rapidly, so it is important to recognize any symptoms. Overdose is more likely to happen when the drug is combined with other substances, especially alcohol and opioids. Side effects should always be taken seriously, and emergency services should be called right away if any of the following occur:

  • Vomiting
  • Low blood pressure
  • Chest pain
  • Labored breathing
  • Tremors
  • Unconsciousness
  • Cold or clammy skin
  • Blue lips

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Finding Treatment for Crack Cocaine Addiction

Crack cocaine is a potent and addictive form of cocaine, and the use of it can lead to negative physical, emotional, and cognitive effects. The effects of crack may make it seem impossible to quit, but you are not alone. If you or a loved one is struggling with crack cocaine addiction, contact a treatment providerthat can help you find the right option.

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