Cocaine (benzoylmethylecgonine) is a tropane alkaloid obtained from the leaves of the coca plant. The name comes from “coca” and the suffix of the alkaloid “-ine,” forming cocaine. It’s a stimulant with a non-specific voltage-gated sodium channel blocker, making it able to produce an anesthetic effect at small doses. “Crack” is cocaine that has been processed using ammonia or baking soda and has been converted into a more potent solid “rock” or crystal form.
Crack comes in varying colors, ranging from yellow, white or pale rose. It produces a crackling sound when the rock is heated and smoked, thus its name.
Methods of Using Crack
Once crack is processed from cocaine powder, it’s cut or broken into smaller rocks that weigh a few tenths of a gram. It’s usually smoked using a glass water pipe or hand pipe. There are other reports of it being injected intravenously or even snorted, but these methods are less common. Sometimes it’s combined with heroin, marijuana or other types of drugs to create different and more intense effects.
Why Is Crack Cocaine So Addictive?
Cocaine is an extremely addictive drug, and crack produced from cocaine powder is even more addicting because it’s more potent. Smoking crack allows the drug to reach the brain faster, thus creating an intense and immediate yet short-lived “high,” often lasting from five to fifteen minutes.
Since addiction can develop more quickly when the drug is smoked rather than snorted, the user can become addicted after the first time of trying crack. Because the high is short-lived, users smoke it more frequently to sustain the high, which often leads to a faster onset of addiction. Since crack works on the brain’s reward center, withdrawal symptoms begin to occur when the effects of crack subside. These symptoms include psychosis and an intense craving for the drug. As a result, users will keep using the drug to avoid the adverse impact of withdrawal.
Facts and Statistics Surrounding Crack Cocaine Abuse
There are several facts and statistics regarding crack and its use among society.
1. Crack cocaine was first developed in the early 1970s, but freebase cocaine (crack) became popular in the 1980s among users searching for the ultimate high.
2. Out of 4.2 million Americans who’ve tried crack, 600,000 are currently addicted.
3. Experts all over the world call crack the most addictive drug. Some users claim they were addicted the first time they put the smoking pipe on their lips.
4. A characteristic feature of crack addiction is an intense craving for the drug. Most hooked users confess that they kept using it until they ran out of money.
5. Chronic use of crack often triggers full-blown psychosis, with symptoms similar to paranoid schizophrenia.
6. Crack is sold in small plastic vials and can be smoked in a tobacco or marijuana cigarette or a glass pipe.
Short-term Effects of Crack Cocaine
The high from crack begins immediately after smoking it. After the initial high subsides, the user experiences an intense desire for more of the drug – which is how users can become addicted after the first “hit.” Other short-term effects include:
• High blood pressure and heart rate
• Constriction of blood vessels
• Dilated pupils
• Intense euphoria
• Decreased appetite
• Paranoia and anxiety
• Paranoid, aggressive behavior
• Sudden death (even a single use can cause overdose or death)
It’s important to note that with any drug, the effects can vary because of the uniqueness and uncertainty of the drug’s contents. Crack abuse can affect the addict tremendously.
Long-term Effects of Crack Cocaine
The following are long-term effects of crack cocaine abuse:
• Severe depression
• Irritability and mood swings
• Delirium or psychosis
• Aggressive, paranoid behavior
• Tolerance and addiction, even after a single use
• Tactile and auditory hallucinations
• Heart attack or other heart diseases
• Respiratory failure
• Brain seizures
• Birth defects in babies born to addicted women
• Sexual dysfunction in both men and women
• Reproductive damage and infertility in both men and women
• High frequency of risky behavior
Getting Help to Overcome Crack Cocaine Abuse and Addiction
Crack cocaine is highly addictive and affects the life of the abuser in a negative way. There are several signs that indicate an individual needs help regarding crack cocaine abuse. These are:
• Lack of control over the use of crack
• Feeling the need for crack in order to perform well
• Extreme craving for the drug
• Loss of interest in career, family, friends or hobbies
• Spending vast amounts of money on crack
• Spending too much time thinking about crack
• Doing unsafe or illegal things to obtain the drug
The majority of those who seek help for cocaine addiction are poly-drug abusers – that is, users of more than one drug. When alcohol is combined with crack, the situation poses greater danger to the abuser as these substances combine to form cocaethylene, a compound that increases both the high and the probability of sudden death.
Drug abuse is a complex disease that involves biological changes in the brain, together with familial, social and environmental problems. Thus, the treatment options for addiction must be comprehensive and center on the neurobiological, medical and social aspects of the addict’s problems. In addition, patients with a variety of addictions often display co-occurring mental disorders that usually require additional behavioral or pharmacological interventions.
The first step in treatment of crack addiction is detoxification. At this phase, the addict stops using the drug abruptly. There’s no need to wean from the drug, so most treatment centers encourage the user to halt using the drug all at once. Currently, there are no FDA-approved drugs for treating cocaine addiction, but the National Institute on Drug Abuse is working tirelessly to identify and test new medications to treat cocaine addiction effectively and safely. Several medications (such as topiramate, disulfiram, modafinil, tiagabine and vigabatrin) marketed for other diseases are promising and have been reported to reduce cocaine use in controlled clinical trials.
Certain behavioral intervention methods, such as motivational incentives (MI) and contingency management, have proven to be effective in both outpatient and residential settings and remain useful for many other drug problems. However, integrating behavioral and pharmacological modalities may ultimately prove to be the most efficient approach to treatment.
Help for crack addiction is offered in various types of rehabilitation centers and clinics. An addict, therefore, has to determine whether a private or public rehabilitation facility would be most beneficial. Private services offer more privacy and personalized experiences, but they tend to be more expensive than public rehabilitation centers.
Crack cocaine addiction can be a challenge to the addict, and requires quick intervention.