I smoke on occasion… Is that crack abuse?
You may not want to hear it: Yes.
When you smoke cocaine, you are abusing the drug.
Crack abuse can range from occasional to repeated or compulsive use, with a variety of patterns between these extremes…but it is always considered to be abuse. Why? Because coke itself is a Schedule II drug under the Controlled Substances Act, and crack is the most dangerous form of cocaine.
How and why do people abuse crack? What are the dangers? In this article, we cover more on the reasons for and risks of abusing crack, and offer options for help. At the end, we welcome your questions. NOTE HERE: We try to respond personally and promptly to all legitimate inquiries, so please write in!
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Abuse Of Crack
Crack cocaine is a strong central nervous system stimulant. When you smoke it, cocaine enters the bloodstream through the lungs, and then travels to the brain where it causes an excessive production of the feel-good chemical called “dopamine”. However, crack alters the brain’s reward system…it hijacks the way that you feel pleasure. So, it’s only a question of a time before you begin to strongly crave the drug.
Smoking crack brings a quicker and more powerful sense of euphoria than snorting cocaine. But the high from crack doesn’t last long…only about 5 to 10 minutes. The short-lasting high may compel you to use crack again and again just to maintain the desired effects. When the pleasurable effects of crack wear off, it results in a debilitating crash. The abuse cycle looks something like this:
Crash as effects diminish.
Take crack again and again to continue to feel good!
Crack Abuse Signs And Symptoms
Do you suspect a loved one is abusing crack? There are some tell tale signs that can help you get to the truth. People who abuse crack usually exhibit overconfidence and hyperactivity. Other signs of crack may include:
- aggressive behavior
- burns on fingers
- cracked or blistered lips from smoking out of a hot pipe
- dilated pupils
- frequent disappearances (to get high)
- increased breathing rate
- uncharacteristic irresponsibility
When crack become a problem…
If you use crack, know that there are many people who get caught up. Using crack does not make you a bad person! You may just need some extra help to get off crack for good.
If you want to know whether your use has turned into a problem, see if you recognize these main red flags for a drug problem:
- The loss of control over crack use, including amount of use, frequency of use, or ability to quit.
- Intense cravings for crack, or a pattern of obsessive thinking about it.
- A compulsion to use crack in order to avoid/deal with withdrawal symptoms (a sign of crack dependence).
- Continuing to take crack, even if use has destroyed health, home, or work situations.
If you notice any of the above, it’s possible that you or a loved one can benefit from medical help. You can Call 1-877-721-2687 for a FREE and Confidential conversation with helpline staff who understand what you are going through. You won’t be judged or shamed for your crack use. These professionals are well trained and work to help you take your life back on track.
Overdose From Crack Abuse: Help!
Due to the drug’s high potency, there is a high risk of fatal overdose… even during first time use. What are the signs of a case of crack OD? A crack cocaine overdose is typically preceded by dilated pupils and sweating. Someone who has overdosed may exhibit signs of:
Additionally, those with kidney problems or high blood pressure have a higher risk of fatal complications caused by smoking crack.
Q: What can you do in case of a crack overdose?
A: Call 911 ASAP!
It is important to tell the 911 dispatcher several crucial information:
- The symptoms the overdosed individual is displaying.
- Your exact location.
- What you know about drug consumption: dose, administration, or mixing substances.
The Crack Cycle: From High To Low In 8 Stages
It might help to know that there are some predictable patterns that emerge when most people try to get off crack. This way, you can know what to expect and when to intervene. The chronic crack abuse and withdrawal pattern can be explained through eight stages.
1. Use crack. At the moment of taking crack you usually experience auditory hallucinations (hearing sirens, voices, music) and tactile hallucinations (skin crawling or “crack bugs”). Feelings of suspicion and paranoia may also occur, making users display erratic behaviors.
2. I need more crack! About 1-3 hours after the last use, you start obsessing over obtaining and using more crack. This is the time of acute crack withdrawal. The intense withdrawal symptoms and cravings impair a persons ability to make reasonable decisions and think logically.
3. The “crash” from crack. This phase occurs within 3-24 hours after you last took crack. You become very depressed and feel remorse for using crack and for all the money you’ve spent. During this period of time users face the highest risk for suicide. Call 1-800–SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) to talk through your thoughts and to be referred to local help in your area.
4. The “honeymoon”. During this stage (1-5 days after use) you may feel very good. Cravings for crack seem to wear off, the effects of the drug are decreasing, and you become confident that you will never use crack again.
5. Craving crack. Within the next 3-14 days, you start to feel an immense intensification of drug hunger, depression and anger, followed by vivid dream and fantasies. The cravings diminish in time, but the process is slow. It could take years of recovery until a person fully returns to being normal.
6. Covert Cravings. During the first 1-2 months after your quit crack, you will experience periods of strong cravings. It is crucial to address these carvings when they are with lower intensity, since they can evolve into acute need for the drug, obsessive and compulsive cravings, and drug seeking.
7. Mood is up and down and all around. Enhancement of emotions can start during the first 14-28 days after you quit, but may last up to 1-2 years (in more severe cases of crack abuse). This stage is characterized by alterations of mood and thoughts. The body is going through the process of healing and replacing important chemicals responsible for the regulation of mood and emotions, especially in the areas damaged by crack abuse.
8. Everything reminds me of crack. This phase starts after the first month of being crack free. During this time, anything that’s strongly associated with abusing crack can trigger cravings. A trigger could be just about anything including money, a song, a movie, getting upset over something, feeling hungry, disappointed or extremely joyful…
Long-Term Side Effects From Crack Abuse
In addition to the usual risks of crack abuse, there are a whole range of physical, mental, behavioral, and emotional changes that happen over time. Crack interferes with the brain’s chemicals, so people who use crack often need regular hits just to feel normal again. Crack users usually lose interest in other areas of life and everything starts to revolve around crack.
Serious and adverse side effects form prolonged crack abuse include:
- crack lung (acute lung injury)
- delirium or psychosis
- disorientation and apathy
- heart problems and heart attack
- high blood pressure
- liver, kidney and lung damage
- permanent damage of brain’s blood vessels
- respiratory failure
- reproductive organ damage and infertility
- sexual dysfunction
- tooth decay
Help for Crack Abuse
When you decide to get help, it’s best to turn to your doctor, a treatment clinic in your local area, or call a trusted helpline at 1-877-721-2687. Then, once you speak with a crack abuse professional, you can begin your process of recovery through the following three main treatment stages:
- Crack Abuse Assessment
- Detox from Crack
- Rehab Treatment
1. Crack Abuse Assessment
The initial stage of getting help consists of an initial meeting with doctors and addiction therapists. They will assess the severity of the drug use, diagnose any co-occurring mental health conditions, complete an interview, and drug test you. Based on this initial eval, addiction professionals will be better equipped with knowledge about your situation and direct you to appropriate recovery options.
2. Detox from Crack
The detox process can be the most difficult part of getting clean, but it is a very important step towards recovery. As depression can quickly set in, it is important that you detox in a controlled and safe environment. Emotional support is critical during this time. Additionally, short term use of antidepressants can address dopamine and serotonin imbalances in the brain.
3. Rehab Treatment
Talk therapies plus appropriate pharmacological treatment is the best ways to successfully complete your recovery. Therapy will be mostly focused on addressing your underlying reasons for drug abuse, your behavior, and socialization. You should be prepared for the crack addiction treatment program to last between 30-90 days, or even longer in more severe cases of crack abuse.
Crack Abuse Questions
If you have a personal story you want to share with others, please feel free to post it in the section comments below. We also welcome your questions regarding crack abuse, addiction, and treatment. We do our best to respond to all legitimate inquiries with a personal and prompt answer. In fact, we strive to help all struggling with crack abuse to find their path to a sober, more fulfilling future.