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Crack Abuse

  1. Table of ContentsPrint
  2. Key Facts About Crack Abuse
  3. Signs and Symptoms
  4. Risks of Crack Abuse
  5. Effects of Crack Abuse
  6. Crack Abuse Treatment

Key Facts About Crack Abuse

What Is Crack?

Crack cocaine is the freebase form of cocaine. Crack's popularity, in part, was due to its appeal for drug users seeking an inexpensive, ultra-potent, fast acting high.

Street Names

The name crack actually comes from the sound that is produced from burning the rock-shaped chunks. Crack rocks tend to occur in white, yellow, or pink colors; colors are dependent on the various methods of production and the presence of any contaminants.

Other names for the substance include:

  • Nuggets.
  • Jelly beans.
  • Gravel.
  • Dice.
  • Candy.
  • Piece.
  • Rocks.
  • Base.
  • Cookies.

As a powerful stimulant, crack use can elicit a rapid, euphoric high. Its stimulant effect on the body means that it will speed up various mental and physical processes, serving to increase energy, attention and focus. As a smoked form of cocaine, crack cocaine use results in near immediate effects because the drug is readily absorbed from the lungs into the bloodstream, where it then quickly travels throughout the body and brain. The effects are quick to be felt, peak quickly, and then end after only 5 or 10 minutes. Compared with the non-freebase form of cocaine, this hastened abuse cycle of crack adds to the risk of tolerance, dependency and addiction.

Why Do People Use Crack? 

Those who use crack do so to achieve a “high” that includes:

  • A euphoric feeling.
  • Inflated sense of self and increased self-importance.
  • Sense of escaping reality.
  • Intense burst of energy.
  • Increased focus.

As with other drugs, with persistent use, the desired effects quickly become replaced with negatives.

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Signs and Symptoms

What does crack look and smell like?

If you're worried that your teenager is doing crack, it's helpful to know what to look for. Shaped in irregular white chunks of varying sizes sometimes gives crack the nickname "rock". Though the drug itself doesn't carry a distinct smell, the method it's taken—typically smoked—produces a burning or smoke odor.

Crack is a very dangerous substance. It is very unlikely that someone can use crack cocaine in a casual or recreational way for any significant duration, due to its powerfully addictive nature. Any crack use must be taken seriously by the user and those that love him. Symptoms of crack abuse may be both physical and psychological.

Crack is addictive because it causes an intense high. When users smoke crack, they experience extreme euphoria. Everything they experience seems more intense, and they may become energetic or overly alert as a result of taking the drug. The brain's reward centers are activated by crack stimulation, and reinforce continued and repeated use of the drug.

When the high wears off, the user feels a need to smoke more crack because he or she becomes agitated, restless, paranoid, or irritable.

Physical Symptoms

Parents or others close to a individual potentially addicted to crack may benefit from knowing what some of the warning signs or such an addiction are. Some of the physical signs of crack abuse include:

  • Dilated pupils.
  • Insomnia.
  • Increased heart rate.
  • Hypertension (raised blood pressure).
  • Suppressed appetite and weight loss.
  • Fasciculations / twitching of the muscles.
  • Nosebleeds.

Psychological and Behavioral Symptoms

  • Aggression and volatile mood swings.
  • Psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations and paranoia.
  • Persistent and obsessive thoughts about smoking crack.
  • Inability to stop despite a strong desire to do so.
  • Tendency to put a high priority on obtaining the drug.
  • Smoking crack at the expense of your finances, your relationships, or other important aspects of your life.

Other Signs: Tolerance and Withdrawal

Addiction is likely present when someone will engage in risky, dangerous, or problematic behaviors to continue receiving and using the substance.

One of the most important signs of persistent drug abuse is that one builds tolerance to the amount of crack cocaine usually smoked. Tolerance occurs when your body adapts to the crack in your system and requires greater amounts of it to have the same effect. If you are no longer satisfied with a small amount of crack and feel a need for larger and larger amounts, you have built a tolerance.

Once tolerance has manifested, and increasing amounts of drug are used to overcome it, addiction to the substance is sure to follow soon thereafter. Addiction is likely present when someone will engage in risky, dangerous, or problematic behaviors to continue receiving and using the substance. If someone is engaging in the risky sexual behaviors, violence, and illegal activities surrounding their use as outlined above, they are likely addicted to crack.

In the throes of an addiction, someone will be less rational and logical. It will be increasingly challenging to maintain a relationship due to the influence of the substance. This does not mean that someone should end relationships with someone experiencing addiction. It only means that you may need additional supports and a new plan of action.

Following the development of tolerance, the phenomenon of withdrawal is another sign of crack abuse. Withdrawal manifests when unwanted symptoms arise after being free of the substance for some time. In the case of crack cocaine, during withdrawal someone may experience:

  • High levels of depression.
  • Increased anxiety, stress, and worry.
  • Being highly irritable and easily agitated.
  • Intense cravings for more crack.

Risks of Crack Abuse

Oftentimes, those who abuse crack place themselves and others in harm's way because of dangerous compulsive drug seeking behaviors. Crack abusers tend to engage in the following behaviors:

  • Risky sexual behaviors. Crack intensifies sexual desire and removes inhibitions. Those high on crack might be more likely to have sex with multiple partners and are also more likely to have unprotected sex. In addition to risky sexual behaviors while under the influence of crack, some people may choose exchange sex for the drug.
  • Increased tendencies towards violence. Crack cocaine intensifies emotional experiences, including anger and rage. People who are high on crack may be more likely to abuse their spouses or significant others. They may also harm themselves intentionally or unintentionally.
  • Getting into risky situations in order to obtain crack. Crack users often enter dangerous neighborhoods or agree to do risky things in order to obtain the substance. Crack addiction is a powerful motivator, and many individuals ensnared by it are willing to do almost anything in exchange for some more of the substance.
  • Neglecting their other responsibilities. People that are interested in obtaining the drug will care little for paying their bills, attending work, maintaining relationships with family members, or even caring for their children.
  • Breaking the law. Many addicted to crack may steal to support their habit. They also may commit robberies or engage in other illegal activity – including prostitution – to gain money to buy crack. In addition, crack possession itself is illegal, so some will face legal trouble for using it even if they don't engage in these behaviors.

Video: Key Signs of a Crack Addiction

The following video discusses the key signs of a crack addiction.

Credit: Howcast

Effects of Crack Abuse

In both the short- and long-term, crack abuse can give rise to a number of side effects that can drastically compromise your health.

Short-term health risks of crack abuse include:

  • Cardiovascular risks including higher heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature.
  • Higher breathing rates.
  • Nausea.
  • Odd or bizarre behaviors.
  • Hallucinations including seeing, hearing, or feeling things that are not present.
  • Delusional thinking.
  • Paranoia.
  • Anxiety and panic.
  • Seizures.

The above negative effects of the substance can occur after only one use at a high dose.

Crack's Long-Term Effects

Long-term effects can occur after days, weeks, months, and years of consistent abuse. They include:


  • Long-lasting cardiovascular issues that may include heart attack, stroke, and damaged vessels.
  • Malnutrition due to significant weight loss.
  • Marked cognitive decline.
  • Confusion / delirium.
  • Persistent psychotic symptoms.
  • Damage to the lips, mouth, and teeth.
  • Major depression, anxiety, and irritability.

Don't wait until crack use has caused numerous debilitating physical and mental health effects to pile up before beginning your recovery.

Call 1-888-744-0069Who Answers? to speak confidentially with someone who can help you find the treatment you need to begin your journey to recovery.

Crack Abuse Quiz question 4

Crack Abuse Quiz question 5

Crack Abuse Treatment

Treatment for crack abuse usually begins with detoxification. This is a controlled withdrawal from crack cocaine that is usually performed at a detox center. Doctors are able to monitor patients for severe physical symptoms of crack withdrawal. Patients may also experience intense psychological effects such as mood swings, agitation and anxiety during the withdrawal period. This period varies in duration based on the amount of use and the time the substance was abused. Withdrawal can be more severe if the patient has used crack at high doses for an extended duration. Some users may experience what is known as a post-acute withdrawal syndrome, in which symptoms can extend well past the acute detoxification phase, necessitating close mental health follow-up treatment.

You don’t have to continue suffering under the weight of a crack addiction. Learn how treatment can help.

After finishing detox, many patients transition to a residential residential rehab center or other form of structured addiction treatment. Rehab programs are generally inpatient, which means patients live at the rehab center while getting treatment. Treatment focuses on the psychological aspects of addiction—patients receive individual and group therapy and may attend ongoing support groups (such as 12-step groups like Narcotics Anonymous). These residential programs may last anywhere from 30 days to 1 year.

An inpatient or residential rehab stay is typically followed by a period of ongoing aftercare, in which patients return to their daily lives but continue to visit the treatment center (or a pre-arranged aftercare clinic or clinician) on a regular basis to receive continuing therapy and other needed treatment. Some patients transition back to their normal lives by living in a halfway house or sober living facility. These facilities are run like regular apartments, but residents must follow house rules such as curfews and must submit to regular drug tests to prove they are clean.

Some people may elect to enroll in or undergo addiction treatment in an outpatient setting. In outpatient treatment, someone in recovery from crack might meet with a mental health or addiction therapist weekly on an ongoing basis. Someone in recovery will also benefit from community supports like sober activities and meetings, and will be encouraged or required to participate in some sort of support group setting.

Crack Abuse Quiz question 6

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