Crack, a solid, crystallized form of cocaine, is smoked and taken in through the lungs. Also called “freebase cocaine,” crack was first seen in the US in the 1980s, where it quickly became popular due to its accessibility and relatively low price. Use of crack cocaine has decreased in more recent years. Despite the wane in prevalence, the drug has cemented its reputation as one of the most addictive illicit substances around due to its powerful yet short-lived high.
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Crack delivers faster, more intense effects than snorted powdered cocaine. First, smoking cocaine allows for more rapid absorption of the drug into the body than snorting it, producing a quick and more potent high. Additionally, though, the drug is more bioavailable when smoked than snorted. Snorting cocaine results in 57% bioavailability, while smoking it ramps up the bioavailability to 70%. This means simply that the drug becomes more active in the bloodstream to a greater extent and at a faster rate when smoked, resulting in a more potent high. This is a major factor in its significant addictive potential.
The crack high comes on faster but lasts for approximately 10-15 minutes, whereas the cocaine high can last up to 45 minutes. As a result, crack users seek highs with greater intensity and frequency.
While it’s impossible to say that crack causes addiction after one hit, many people describe themselves as being hooked and wanting more after the first time. How quickly someone becomes addicted to crack depends on a number of factors including use of other substances, genetic influences, and other environmental and psychological factors. If you are worried you or someone you love might be developing an addiction to crack, you can get help. If you need assistance finding a program, call 1-888-744-0069 today. We are available 24 hours a day and all calls are confidential.
Effects of Crack
Crack cocaine affects a number of neurotransmitters in the brain. Chief among these is dopamine, which plays an integral role in our reward system – helping to reinforce life-sustaining behavior and otherwise pleasurable activities. When the brain is functioning optimally without drugs, dopamine release accompanies rewarding behaviors such as eating a good meal or sexual activity. The released dopamine then gets reabsorbed for future use in a process called “dopamine reuptake”.
Cocaine, however, blocks this process of reabsorption, allowing dopamine to remain active in our neural synapses – essentially overloading our dopamine receptors with a resultant heightened sense of euphoria and confidence. The rewarding feelings associated with cocaine lead the brain to link cocaine and pleasure, encouraging future use.
Other short-term effects of crack include:
- Increased talkativeness.
- Increased energy.
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure.
- Dilated pupils.
- Abdominal pain.
The pleasurable feelings one experiences immediately following crack use are short-lived. In 10-15 minutes time, a crack user will begin to feel the drug effects wearing off. This can lead to immediate cravings and incidences of binge consumption during which crack is smoked continuously over long periods of time. During binge use, the individual can experience serious negative side effects, such as:
- Dangerously high blood pressure levels.
- Excessive irritability.
- Paranoia or psychosis.
After crack use, especially a binge, it is common to experience a “crash”. During a crash, one feels excessive fatigue or sadness – this can easily contribute to continued crack use in an attempt to alleviate these feelings. This cycle perpetuates ongoing use and increases the risk of dependency.
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Why is Crack Dangerous?
Aside from its ability to quickly result in physical dependence, crack use – especially in binge fashion – can cause a deadly overdose. Overdosing on cocaine (“cocaine toxicity”) is indicated by the following symptoms:
- Severe tachycardia and hypertension.
- Abnormal heart rhythm.
- Cardiac arrest.
- Dangerously elevated body temperature.
- Rhabdomyolysis (muscle breakdown and release of renal-toxic breakdown products).
- Kidney damage.
Several mental health issues may also arise with continued crack use. Depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia are all fairly common crack-induced mental health issues, but will usually recede upon crack cessation. However, prolonged, heavy crack use can lead to more persistent psychological changes.
How Do You Get Addicted to Crack?
Crack delivers a quick, intense high that can fuel cravings and accelerate the development of dependency. However, crack addiction may not manifest right away. What generally first happens is that a positive association is made in the brain between crack use and the initially pleasant high it elicits. This impact of this link, once established, is modified by a number of other factors – a person’s environment, their genetic makeup and various other psychological factors. The complicated interplay influences future use and addiction, and helps to determine how quickly they may develop.
When continued crack use impacts someone’s social or occupational functioning, they are thought to have developed a (crack) cocaine use disorder.
Addiction refers to the continued use of a substance in spite of evidence that use of the substance causes negative consequences. Again, numerous factors contribute to the likelihood and timeline of crack addiction. For example, someone with a history of illicit drug use or mental illness may be at particularly high risk of developing an addiction to the drug.
As someone regularly uses crack or any other drug, he will begin to develop a tolerance to it. This means that more of the drug or higher potency is needed to get the same effects as time goes on. Tolerance often spurs ever-increasing amounts of crack used and can hasten the development of compulsive drug use patterns. When continued crack use impacts someone’s social or occupational functioning, they are thought to have developed a (crack) cocaine use disorder. For some, this chain of events can be very rapid.
What to Do If You’re Thinking of Trying Crack Cocaine
If you are considering using crack, make sure to consider whether a 10-15 minute crack high is worth:
- Risking an almost assured progression toward addiction.
- Significant psychological and physical damage.
- The alienation of friends/family.
- Having a substance become your main priority.
- Potentially ending up in jail.
- Spending a large amount of money on obtaining the drug.
Many people believe they are invincible to drug addiction. Crack, however, is considered one of the most dangerous and addictive drugs. Consider the risks of using before putting yourself in harm’s way.
If you or someone you know is addicted to crack, you are not alone, and there are people who can help. Call 1-888-744-0069 to speak to someone who can assist you in finding the help needed you or your loved one needs to overcome addiction.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2013, April). Drug Facts: Cocaine. Retrieved February 12, 2016, from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/cocaine
- Palamar, J. J., Davies, S., Ompad, D. C., Cleland, C. M., & Weitzman, M. (2015). Powder cocaine and crack use in the United States: an examination of risk for arrest and socioeconomic disparities in use. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 149, 108-116.
- Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, & RTI International. (2014, September). Results from the 2103 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings. Retrieved February 12, 2016, from http://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUHresultsPDFWHTML2013/Web/NSDUHresults2013.pdf
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2007, January). The Neurobiology of Drug Addiction: Snorting vs Smoking Cocaine:Different Addictive Liabilities. Retrieved February 12, 2016, from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/teaching-packets/neurobiology-drug-addiction/section-iv-action-cocaine/2-snorting-vs-smoking-cocaine-different-a
- (2015, April 13). Cocaine Intoxication. Retrieved February 15, 2016, from https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000946.htm
- Parker, M. A., & Anthony, J. C. (2014). Should anyone be riding to glory on the now-descending limb of the crack-cocaine epidemic curve in the United States?. Drug and alcohol dependence, 138, 225-228.