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What Is Crack Cocaine?
Crack cocaine is a processed form of cocaine (cocaine hydrochloride) that can be smoked, making it highly addictive and often deadly.
Crack cocaine is more potent than the powdered form of cocaine and the most addictive form of cocaine because it is ingested via smoking rather than snorting, causing it to enter the bloodstream more rapidly than powdered cocaine.
Crack cocaine gets its name from the sound it makes when it is smoked. Just like powdered cocaine, the use of crack cocaine is illegal throughout the United States.
Cocaine is derived from the South American coca plant, whereas crack is cocaine that has been heavily processed with water, ammonia, or baking soda to achieve a freebase form that can be smoked.
Crack Cocaine Abuse and Addiction
Smoking crack delivers an intense but very short high that begins immediately after inhaling and dissipates within seconds or minutes, depending on how much of it is taken.
Crack cocaine is one of the most addictive drugs on the illicit market.
The fastest way to get a drug into the brain is inhalation—even faster than IV injection. This is because of the large surface area of the lungs in connection to the body’s vascular system.
Signs of crack cocaine addiction include:
- Having no regard for safety or survival
- Losing all desire for food/water
- No longer caring about appearance
- Neglecting responsibilities at home/work/school
- Cravings for crack cocaine
- Inability to stop using crack
Some crack users take other drugs, such as alcohol or heroin, to counteract certain side effects of crack use.
Crack Cocaine Side Effects
Since crack is smoked rather than snorted, its effects on the body are more intense and immediate than the effects of cocaine use. Crack cocaine’s intensity can cause addiction for individuals using it for the first time.
Common short-term effects of crack cocaine use can include:
- Feeling energetic/alert
- Dry mouth
- Reduced appetite
- Increased body temperature
- Rapid or increased heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Mood swings
- Dilated pupils
- Constricted blood vessels
- Cravings for more after the effects of the drug have worn off
Several of the short-term effects of crack abuse can lead to heart attack or stroke.
Additionally, very high doses of crack cocaine can cause symptoms similar to amphetamine poisoning. The risk of overdose from crack is very high due to how rapidly it affects the body.
In addition to the short-term dangers of crack cocaine, users also put themselves at risk of developing more long-term health problems, including:
- Extreme weight loss
- Lung damage (e.g., breathing issues, persistent cough, etc.)
- Psychotic behavior
Long-term cocaine use can also trigger depression and suicidal thoughts, especially if the user already struggles with mental health.
Both short- and long-term crack use can quickly lead to the development of substance use disorder. However, the availability of addiction centers throughout the US makes it possible to recover from this drug addiction and return to a normal, healthy life.
Crack Cocaine Overdose
An overdose of crack cocaine is likely to cause the same symptoms as traditional cocaine. However, the onset of these symptoms may be much faster in the case of crack.
Crack generates a very powerful, short-lasting high. As a result, many users smoke crack in repeated binges over a short period to sustain a high, significantly increasing the user’s overdose risk.
Additionally, vaping this drug can lead to acute overdose—especially if you have taken another substance that slows down your metabolism, such as heroin or alcohol.
Signs of a crack cocaine overdose include:
- Chest pain
- Rapid heart rate
- Extremely elevated blood pressure
- A sensation of insects crawling on or under the skin
- Intense anxiety and agitation
- Violent behavior
- Hallucinations and paranoia
What to Do for a Crack Cocaine Overdose
If you suspect an overdose of crack cocaine, call 911 immediately and stay with the victim until help arrives.
While you wait for paramedics, you can perform the following steps to assist the victim:
- Use a cold compress in the event of a fever.
- If a seizure occurs, clear the surrounding area of any sharp objects and roll the person onto their side to help facilitate breathing.
- If the person is acting violently, keep yourself and others a safe distance away from the individual.
Crack Cocaine Addiction Treatment
Crack cocaine addiction treatment involves many different methods depending on the severity of the addiction. These treatment options can include medications, psychological counseling, or a combination.
Recovery from crack abuse is possible, but it depends on many factors, including the patient’s commitment to recovery.
Crack Cocaine Detox
The first step to treating crack addiction is to get the drug out of your system safely during a medical detox.
Detoxing from crack cocaine can have very serious side effects without appropriate medical supervision. It is strongly recommended to seek the guidance of a health professional to detox safely.
The detox process often occurs at a treatment facility or rehab center, where your vitals will be monitored to ensure your safety.
However, detox from crack cocaine can also be managed on an outpatient basis with the help of an addiction specialist.
The most common withdrawal symptom associated with crack cocaine withdrawal is experiencing extreme cravings for crack.
Typical withdrawal symptoms associated with crack cocaine withdrawal include:
- Irritability or agitation
- Increased appetite
- Unpleasant dreams
Crack Cocaine Rehab Programs
A comprehensive rehab program for crack cocaine addiction will address both the physical and emotional needs of the individual seeking recovery.
Factors such as the length of time crack cocaine had been used, how much was consumed, whether other drugs were involved, and the individual’s overall health can impact the rehab program that will work best for you or your loved one.
A general breakdown of rehab programs available for crack cocaine addiction treatment is as follows:
- Inpatient Rehab Program: An inpatient rehab program provides a safe, comfortable, and drug-free residential setting to help you work on the issues that influenced your substance abuse and crack addiction. Inpatient programs typically last between 30 to 90 days.
- Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP): Alternatively, a partial hospitalization program provides outpatient care for your crack addiction, allowing you to leave the treatment center for work and other obligations at the end of each day.
- Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP): Support from an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) may be better suited for someone with a minor crack addiction or as part of your ongoing treatment after completing a more intense crack cocaine rehab program.
Psychological Therapy for Crack Cocaine Recovery
Therapy is a major part of treatment and recovery from a crack cocaine addiction.
Most rehab programs will offer some form of individual and/or group counseling to help those in recovery build better coping skills and overcome the emotional impact that addiction had on their lives.
The most common forms of therapy for treating crack cocaine addiction include:
- The Matrix Model
- Contingency management
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)
Crack Cocaine Addiction Statistics
Crack cocaine first appeared in the early 1980s as a common street drug that was both potent and inexpensive. By 1987, the ER visits had doubled year over year, and crack was available in all but four states in the U.S., making crack easy to come by and extremely dangerous.
At present, crack cocaine statistics are included alongside all cocaine statistics.
- In 2021, approximately 4.8 million people reported using cocaine in the past year.
- Of the individuals (12 and older) who self-reported using cocaine in the last year, about 0.5% (or about 1.4 million people) meet the criteria for cocaine use disorder.
- Statistically, the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse indicates that people of all ages use crack cocaine, and an estimated 6.2 million US residents (12 and up) reported using crack at least once in their lifetime.
- The 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that about 0.5% of 8th, 0.3% of 10th, and 1.5% of 12th graders self-reported cocaine use within the past year.
- The National Center for Drug Abuse reported in 2017 that 1 out of 5 drug overdose deaths were linked to cocaine. In 2021, over 24,000 people died from an overdose linked to cocaine.
Find Help for a Crack Cocaine Addiction
There is no denying the gravity of addiction. Deteriorating emotionally and physically because of a crack addiction can be difficult for the addicted person and their loved ones alike.
The good news is that many treatment programs are available to recover from crack addiction, allowing you and your doctor to tailor your recovery solution to your needs.
SAMHSA offers a confidential referral and treatment information service through its website (findtreatment.gov) and by phone at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). SAMHSA’s resources are available for both addicted persons themselves and their family members.
Get Help Overcoming Crack Cocaine Addiction
If you’ve battled an addiction to crack cocaine and are ready to get the help you need, choose from top treatment and therapy options.
Crack Cocaine FAQs
What does crack cocaine look like?
Crack rocks are tiny, off-white rocks resembling pieces of hard candy with jagged edges.
Crack cocaine is generally sold as “rocks” because it can be smoked, which gets users high faster than if they had to inject or ingest it.
How is crack cocaine abused?
Crack is typically smoked, which delivers rapid effects to the brain and lungs. Crack is often smoked on its own (freebasing), but drug users have also sprinkled it into marijuana or tobacco before smoking it together.
Is crack cocaine illegal?
Yes. Crack cocaine is illegal in the United States and classified under the Controlled Substances Act as a Schedule II drug.
What is the difference between crack and coke?
What is the difference between crack and coke?
Coke usually refers to the powdered form of cocaine, often ingested by snorting. While it is still mixed with other ingredients, it tends to be more refined.
Crack cocaine is a different substance made by mixing powdered cocaine with baking soda, ammonia, and water to form a rock. The “crack rock” is then smoked to achieve a high.
Both forms of cocaine are illegal and present a high risk of developing addiction, even for a first-time user.