Can you get high on crack?

Crack is known for its almost immediate euphoric effect. But while you can get high on crack easily, risk for addiction is through the roof! More on crack, the high it produces, and risks you take when using crack here.

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Yes, crack is known to produce an almost immediate high.

However, this high comes with serious risk to your physical and mental health. More here on what happens when you become dependent on crack to get high. And we invite your questions about crack use, abuse, or addiction treatment for crack  at the end.

Psychoactive ingredients of crack

Crack is a form of cocaine that has been processed to make a rock crystal that users smoke. Crack has been processed from cocaine hydrochloride and is prepared by adding baking soda to aqueous cocaine hydrochloride and heating it until the free-base cocaine precipitates into small pellets. The mixture is cooled and filtered, and then the “rocks” are smoked in a crack pipe. Crack is in a form that allows it to be vaporized at a much lower temperature (98°C), without burning and destroying excess cocaine.

Crack and central nervous system effects

Cocaine itself is a strong central nervous system (CNS) stimulant that interferes with the reabsorption process of catecholamines, particularly dopamine, a chemical messenger associated with pleasure and movement. Cocaine produces CNS effects by blocking the dopamine transporter, leading to increased extracellular dopamine, which results in chronic stimulation of postsynaptic dopamine receptors. This results in the euphoric ‘rush’ or high when you consume crack.

There are two important reasons people prefer crack to other forms of cocaine. The first is that, when smoked, the drug is delivered through the lungs to the brain almost immediately. It then causes release of brain chemicals in the pleasure centers of the brain, resulting in the desired stimulating, euphoric effects. The second reason is that the crack form does not waste cocaine by burning it up.

Crack and euphoria / euphoric effect

Crack produces effects almost instantaneously, within seconds, whereas intranasal powder cocaine may require 5 to 10 minutes to produce effects. These effects consist of intense euphoria, pleasure, and ecstasy, states in which everything pleasurable is intensified.

Getting high on crack

The intensity and duration of cocaine’s pleasurable effects depend on the way it is administered. Injecting or smoking cocaine delivers the drug rapidly into the bloodstream and brain, producing a quicker and stronger but shorter-lasting high than snorting. The high from snorting cocaine may last 15 to 30 minutes. In contrast, the high from smoking crack may last 5 to 10 minutes.

In order to sustain their high, people who use crack cocaine often use the drug in a binge pattern—taking the drug repeatedly within a relatively short period of time, at increasingly higher doses. This practice can easily lead to addiction, a chronic relapsing disease caused by changes in the brain and characterized by uncontrollable drug-seeking no matter the consequences. Seeking help for crack addiction can be difficult, however; crack cravings can be intense and compulsive thinking related to addiction can lead to repeated relapse.

Mixing crack with other substances

Cocaine is more dangerous when combined with other drugs or alcohol (poly-drug use). For example, the combination of cocaine and heroin (known as a “speedball”), carries a particularly high risk of fatal overdose. Likewise, mixing crack and alcohol can intensify the CNS depressant effects of alcohol, clouding perception, judgement, and decision making.

Risks of using crack to get high

Cocaine affects the body in a variety of ways. It constricts blood vessels, dilates pupils, and increases body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure. It can also cause headaches and gastrointestinal complications such as abdominal pain and nausea. Because cocaine tends to decrease appetite, chronic users can become malnourished as well.

Some effects of cocaine depend on the method of taking it. Crack cocaine is a strong stimulant that energizes the entire central nervous system. Smoking crack triggers damaging stresses on the heart, lungs and brain. Crack users often have burned fingers or lips from holding onto the pipe while it heats up. Similarly, if you use crack cocaine, you put yourself at risk for contracting HIV because crack impairs your judgment, which can lead to risky sexual behavior.

Questions about crack

Still have questions about crack? Please leave your questions or comments in the section below. We do our best to respond to all legitimate concerns with a personal and prompt reply.

Reference Sources: NCBI: Cocaine and Psychiatric Symptoms
AIDS [dot] GOV: Substance Abuse
NIDA Drug Facts: Cocaine
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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