crack cocaine addiction and abuse

Modified: 4th Jul 2019

Last updated on July 4th, 2019 at 02:25 pm

Crack cocaine is highly addictive because it produces a euphoric high and it’s cheap and easy to buy.

Made by mixing powdered cocaine with baking soda or ammonia, the intense high lasts only a few minutes, but cravings may last weeks or even months. The combination of the intense experience with its short-lived effects makes it difficult to kick.

Crack cocaine addiction and abuse have serious – and even fatal – consequences. Is someone you know addicted to crack cocaine? Keep reading to learn more about signs of crack use.

Crack Cocaine Addiction and Abuse Statistics

In 2012, 4.7 million Americans aged 12 and over reported using cocaine in the previous year. 

Cocaine crosses economic and racial lines. White Americans were more likely to report lifetime use of powder and/or crack cocaine with 16.9 percent reporting lifetime use. African Americans saw a lower use rate (9.7 percent), and Hispanics came in third at 11.6 percent.

Crack cocaine reporting differs from other drugs because it comes in two common forms and sees two different control mechanisms.

Crack cocaine – a smokable form of cocaine – became widely available across the United States in the 1980s. Crack cocaine is less expensive and sold in smaller quantities, which also resulted in higher sales in inner-city drug markets in America’s largest cities.

Unsubstantiated claims that crack cocaine was a more dangerous form of the drug compared to powder cocaine resulted in changed attitudes and higher penalties. However, these claims do not hold up under scrutiny even as attitudes persist.

One study found that crack cocaine abuse actually exhibits a higher association with violence in bivariable analyses. However, when controlled for mood disorders, substance use disorders, and demographics, no increased tendency toward violence appears.

Long-Term Effects of Crack Cocaine

Some of the more common long-term effects include:

  • Heart attack
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Marked cognitive decline
  • Psychosis
  • Confusion
  • Malnutrition
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Damage to mouth tissue and teeth

Crack cocaine can have adverse effects on your body after only days of abuse.

Signs of Crack Cocaine Abuse

Crack cocaine is a stimulant that sends the central nervous system alight.

People high on crack cocaine experience physical symptoms like:

  • Faster heartbeat
  • Tense muscles
  • Feelings of exhilaration
  • Elevated blood pressure

Outward signs seen by those around a person who is high might include:

  • Restlessness
  • Dilated pupils
  • Lack of appetite
  • Nosebleeds
  • Sweatiness
  • High levels of energy
  • A desire to be physically active
  • Severe and frequent mood swings
  • Depression and isolation
  • Paranoia and defensiveness

Crack cocaine addictions develop rapidly. The effects of crack cocaine do not last as long as those from the powdered form of cocaine. A person who needs another hit could start craving it as soon as ten minutes after use. If they don’t get another hit, the effects could be devastating in only two to twenty minutes.

This rapid cycle may result in binging.

To cope, those addicted to crack cocaine may not stray far from their paraphernalia. Tiny plastic bags (full or with residue), metal or glass pipes, and lighters are tell-tale signs of crack use.

The constant binging and crashing adds to a growing tolerance, which in turn feeds addiction and abuse of crack cocaine.

People who smoke crack also often experience burns on their lips and fingers. These injuries result from holding onto the pipe while heating it with a lighter.

Am I Addicted to Crack Cocaine?

Do you know whether you are teetering on the line between use and abuse?

You may experience addiction when you choose crack cocaine over other important things in your life. For example, if you use crack cocaine to the detriment of your relationships with a partner, friends, or family, or if your habit starts to take away from your time spent on other important responsibilities like work or school.

Additionally, if you spend all available funds on crack cocaine and see yourself resorting to uncharacteristic behaviors like stealing or other risky behaviors to buy more of the drug, you may be addicted.

People experiencing addiction make irrational and illogical decisions. They will have a difficult time managing their daily life and their drug habit, and many parts of their life are likely to suffer the consequences.

Dangers of Crack Cocaine Abuse

Societal stigma suggests that crack cocaine makes people “dangerous”. Even if crack cocaine does not contribute to violence more than other drugs, it is still physically dangerous for those who use it.

Crack cocaine is particularly dangerous because the body grows tolerant of it quickly compared to other drugs. Drug tolerance occurs when your body requires more of the drug to achieve the same effect found in the initial high.

Other Risks of Crack Abuse

Crack use may lead you to make poor decisions that place you in harm’s way.

Risk behaviors are a tell-tale sign of crack use and drug abuse generally.

People who abuse crack may be more likely to participate in risky sexual behaviors. The drug’s impact on the nervous system removes inhibitions and intensifies desire.

This combination may lead you to participate in unprotected sex or have sex with multiple partners. Some may elect to swap sex for the drug as a means of getting their next fix.

Abuse may also lead you to put yourself in high-risk situations to get crack. You may agree to do things that are illegal, unethical, and or things that come with a great personal risk just to get more of the drug.

Crack abuse may also lead to stealing and other illegal actions. Committing robberies or other unlawful activity in exchange for crack or cash to buy cocaine is one such illegal behavior. Possessing crack is also an offense, and it can lead to troubles with law enforcement if you are caught with it even if you avoid other illicit activities.

Help is Available

Crack cocaine addiction and abuse is dangerous, but it doesn’t need to be a death sentence.

The intensity of addiction is difficult to overcome on your own. Someone addicted may not even see that their problems hurt themselves and others.

Addiction treatment can help those ready to stop using to get clean and stay clean. Treatment programs offer the physical and psychological resources to overcome this complicated process and focus on the light at the other side of the tunnel.

If you or a loved one are ready to start a life without crack cocaine, click here to learn more about the intervention process.