What is Crack Cocaine?
While cocaine is a powder, crack cocaine is its more potent and highly addictive counterpart, lethally boasting anywhere from 75% to 100% purity. It is formed into solid crystals and makes a crackling sound when smoked in a pipe; hence, the nickname “crack.” And it is highly addictive; some claim just one toke is all it takes to get hooked.
Crack is cheap and, unfortunately, easily available. While most commonly smoked, it may also be injected or even snorted. Smoking is most common as it offers the most intense high that can onset within seconds and last anywhere from 5-30 minutes. The intense but short-lived high and the cheap price are a dangerous combination that has led many on the path to addiction.
Sadly, crack cocaine abuse is one of the most dangerous public health issues of our time. Crack is easy and inexpensive to manufacture, and the low price to attain it makes it more accessible for many more people. But it comes with a price; users may experience a variety of symptoms such as nosebleeds, nasal tissue damage and loss of smell.
The Dangers of Abusing Crack
Serious side effects of crack cocaine include: coughing, lung trauma and bleeding, heart palpitations, increased blood pressure and even cardiac arrest. Being high inhibits good judgment, and many who become addicted go from smoking to injecting, and then on to sharing needles or trading sex for more of the drug.
Users tend to be more aggressive as they experience paranoia or hallucinations. They may strike out at innocent people, believing they are protecting themselves. This makes crack cocaine not only dangerous to the user, but to those around them, too.
Communication with family members about this illicit drug may help prevent a loved one from becoming a victim of crack cocaine addiction. Recognizing warning signs such as behavioral changes and even physical attributes associated with this type of addiction may increase your chances of successful treatment.
Signs of Crack Cocaine Abuse
The most immediate and common physical sign of crack cocaine abuse is hyperactivity. The high is caused by excessive dopamine flooding the brain, causing the user to experience “the jitters,” and characterized by trembling, shaking or twitching. Hyperactivity is also recognized by excessive talking and restlessness as the user experiences extreme bouts of energy.
Euphoria is the pleasurable effect brought on by being high from crack and is characterized by feelings of intense joy or excitement for what we may consider to be simply normal, everyday activities such as watching television or listening to music. Euphoria is the reward for the user, but the effects do not last long and the highs become less intense as use continues. This causes the user to come back for more as the cycle of addiction takes hold.
After the initial high the user may crash into lethargy. As the effects wear off, they may sleep for hours or even days at a time. During these periods you may notice irritability, depression or other changes in behavior along with the extended or abnormal sleeping pattern.
Long Term Abuse
Long term crack cocaine abuse may cause a person to begin seeking out their next high before they come down. This person may be agitated, irritable, nervous and even exhibit other behaviors that they were not prone to before such as paranoia, secrecy and lying.
It is common for a user to begin to neglect their physical appearance or personal hygiene and experience weight loss as the pursuit of more drugs takes on a more important role in their lives than self-care.
There are some tell-tale physical signs that indicate crack cocaine abuse. This drug literally alters the brain, so a person high on crack may have dilated pupils as the eyes react differently to light, resulting in the black center of the eye to be larger than normal.
If the user smokes crack, they may have burn marks on their fingers and experience hoarseness or even voice loss. Tooth discoloration may become noticeable. If they snort crack cocaine, you may see an increase in nosebleeds, while injecting results in the obvious telltale sign of track marks.
Behavioral changes are also common. Addicts tend to distance themselves from loved ones to more easily avoid detection. They may begin to miss work and fall out of relationships as the addiction overwhelms them.
Because of the intensity of the high and the need to constantly feed it, crack is known to lead to more crime than other illegal drugs. Secrecy and lying are common as addicts may be stealing or doing other illegal activities to obtain money for their addiction.
A person abusing crack cocaine may become argumentative and aggressive. This happens when they feel threatened that their secret may be revealed. Addicts are masters at manipulation but can only get away with their behaviors for so long before others notice the changes. When confronted, they may become aggressive and even violent, depending on how deep their addiction is.
Crack Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms
Crack cocaine is highly addictive; both mentally and physically. Even just reducing crack use can bring on withdrawal symptoms. Because of this, it is important to seek medical help for safe treatment.
Withdrawal symptoms will happen during treatment as the body detoxes from the chemical changes the drug has caused. Withdrawal can begin in as short a time as 30 minutes or take up to 72 hours to appear. The length and intensity of the withdrawal effects depends upon the person's body chemistry and tolerance as well the amount of crack used and how long they were using for. This is a highly individual experience, which is why professional treatment is encouraged for those who want to overcome their addiction.
The early stages of withdrawal may cause the addict to have obsessive thoughts about using again. Some have drug dreams, which feeds the fuel of desire to continue their habit. They may then experience sleeplessness, depression and irritability. Some people may feel lethargic and have an increase in appetite. This is the early phase of detoxification that some professionals may refer to as crashing.
As withdrawal continues, physical symptoms such as muscle aches and pains may begin to manifest. For some, flu-like symptoms such as extreme lethargy and headaches set in. More severe symptoms may include sweating, shaking, and vomiting. This part of the process can be very painful, which can lead to relapse as the addict seeks relief. These symptoms can also be dangerous, as they may lead to dehydration, heart problems, seizures and even shock.
The physical discomfort along with the psychological need for getting high is a critical time in which the addict may experience more severe symptoms such as self-harm or suicidal tendencies. If crack use was heavy, the addict may even experience hallucinations. The process of withdrawal can take a few weeks or go on for months.
It is difficult for anyone to predict who will have which withdrawal symptoms or how long the process will take. If a person has been abusing crack for a long period of time, chances are their health has taken a turn for the worst.
Poor health, long-term use or stressful living situations may require a longer time to recover. Paying attention to nutrition may help the process along while ensuring rest to help the body deal with crack cocaine withdrawal symptoms.
Street Names for Crack Cocaine
It is beneficial to recognize street names for crack cocaine to help you better recognize if a loved one is in trouble. Addicts often use nicknames, or street names, to hide the fact they may be buying, selling or using crack. The following is a list of nicknames or street names commonly used:
- Hard Rock
- Hard Ball
- Black Rock
- Snow Coke
- Jelly Beans
- 7 Up
- Rock Attack
- Purple Caps
- The Devil
- Fat Bags
- French Fries
- Hamburger Helper
- Sugar Block
Unfortunately, the list goes on. Each city has its own jargon that is recognized by addicts. But paying attention to conversations may help you determine if a term is used too often or inappropriately as crack addicts attempt to keep their drug use covert.
Treatment for Crack Cocaine
Treatment for crack cocaine can be effective, especially if early detection is in play. There are many types of programs available utilizing both inpatient and outpatient, medical and non-medical. Insurance covers addiction treatment, but because it is still a highly unregulated industry, some research can help you locate an addiction recovery center that works for you or your loved one.
Inpatient, medical treatment may be the option for those who prefer more support, and it reduces risk that may accompany withdrawal symptoms. Round the clock oversight ensures the addict will avoid temptation to relapse. They will have oversight to ensure that symptoms do not lead to serious medical conditions or death. During recovery the staff will also see to it that the patient's physical requirements of proper food, water and rest will be met to assure safe healing. Inpatient addiction recovery has the highest percentage of success.
Outpatient treatment centers are viable options for those who prefer to stay home, have the support of family or need to keep working during their treatment for crack cocaine addiction. Often utilizing therapy, a program may include a 12-step program, individual counseling, life coaching to teach healthy lifestyle changes, partial hospitalization or a combination of these. The more of the processes a person incorporates, the higher chance for successful recovery.
Receiving medical treatment by a licensed physician through a detoxification center can make the detox process more manageable and reduce the risk of harmful withdrawal. While most illegal and abused drugs have replacement drugs that are legal and safe, crack has no such alternative. Instead, medications are given that are effective at reducing or easing withdrawal symptoms. This puts less stress on the patient's body and is more bearable psychologically for some.
Medical treatments may include pharmaceuticals for high blood pressure, anxiety reduction, and anti-seizure medication. Sleep aids may also be given so the patient can better rest and recover. All of these should be monitored by a professional physician during treatment to ensure the body responds safely to the medications.
Using medical treatment remains highly individual as the doctors must develop strategies based on a patient's unique body chemistry. Also considered will be the level of crack use, such as amounts and frequency, and the effects or damage the drug had on the body and organs.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a versatile method of recovery that may be used at inpatient or outpatient centers and may be done individually or in a group. Psychotherapists work with the patient to in an action-based strategy and is considered a more engaging method of therapy. If you are interested in incorporating this method, many treatment centers offer this type of therapy in addition to other services.
Going cold-turkey, or completely stopping all drugs at once, is a preferred method of treatment for some. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of people that try this method are successful. Cravings for crack cocaine are extremely powerful and withdrawal symptoms are difficult to deal with, leading the addict to relapse to ease the pain.
But if one is determined to go it alone, then counseling, group therapy or even Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can increase chances for success. Each of these methods lead to behavioral modification, which is key to the “cold-turkey method.”
Being prepared to ride out the treatment of crack cocaine addiction can help you or your loved one through the withdrawal process. Expect highs and lows, and prepare by planning treatments, strategies to cope and time for healing. With help and the many and varied types of treatment available, nobody has to do it alone.