Crack cocaine, commonly just known as crack, is a stimulant drug that is usually smoked. It is extremely potent so can quickly lead to dependence and addiction. With long-term use, crack leads to an increased risk of heart attacks and stroke and can permanently damage your brain. It can also cause crack lung which includes symptoms of fever and coughing up blood. In the most extreme cases, crack can cause deaths such as by overdose.
If you are taking crack or suspect that someone you love is, you may wish to consider treatment. It can be very difficult to accept that you need help and to undergo treatment, but it could change your life. Detoxing is the first step, and we will discuss this and the treatment that follows this to ensure that you have the best chance of recovery.
What is Crack?
Crack cocaine is a substance that is extracted from the leaves of the coca plant. It is a central nervous system stimulant that increases the activity of dopamine in the reward pathways of the brain. It works by blocking the reuptake of dopamine so that it accumulates and has a greater effect. This has effects of euphoria, confidence, loss of appetite, increased energy, alertness, and insomnia.
Cocaine is a Schedule II substance due to having a high risk for abuse and addiction, but unlike Schedule I substances it is recognized to have some medical use. In rare cases, it is used as an anesthetic for nasal, mouth, and throat surgeries. However, crack cocaine is not recognized to have medical properties.
Crack cocaine was developed as a somewhat safer way to smoke than freebase cocaine. It is made by dissolving powdered cocaine in bicarbonate and water to create rocks. These rocks are white but can also be brown depending on impurities. Crack and powdered cocaine are different in other ways. Crack cocaine causes a more intense and shorter high which makes it more addictive.
Crack Dependence and Addiction
The more you abuse crack cocaine the more likely you are to develop a dependence. This occurs because your brain adapts to your drug use so that it can maintain balance. Once dependence has developed you will experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking crack because you disrupt the new balance in your brain. This makes quitting very difficult since the withdrawal process can be unpleasant.
Crack cocaine addiction usually follows. The National Institute on Drug Abuse described crack addiction as a brain disease that causes you to compulsively take the substance to which you are addicted. You lose control of your use, and your behavior also changes as crack becomes the most important thing in your life. Because it is a disease it is important to remember that those who develop a crack cocaine addiction should not be blamed and judged for it.
Signs of Crack Use
Recognizing the signs of crack use could help you or a loved one understand that you need help. Signs include:
- Dilated pupils
- High body temperature and blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
- Loss of appetite
- Mood swings
- Erratic behavior
Crack cocaine use is especially dangerous for people with underlying heart problems as it increases heart rate and blood pressure. With continued use, you may get to a point where you cannot feel happy without taking it and symptoms of underlying mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar are exacerbated.
Signs of Crack Cocaine Addiction
If you do not notice the signs of crack use you may be able to recognize signs of addiction if it has come that far. Signs of addiction include:
- Social withdrawal
- Withdrawal symptoms when you stop
- Neglecting responsibilities
- Risk-taking such as driving under the influence and unprotected sex
- Relationship problems
- Legal problems
- Lack of control over drug use
- Life revolving around the drug
Crack cocaine detox is when you stop taking crack and your body and mind start to adjust to being more like how they were before you started using it. This can take a long time, especially if you have been using crack heavily and for a while. The initial stage of crack detox is often the hardest as you may experience acute crack withdrawal symptoms.
Physical Withdrawal Symptoms of Crack Detox
- Aches and pains
Psychological Withdrawal Symptoms of Crack Detox
- Anxiety and depression
- Inability to feel pleasure
- Intense cravings
These psychological and physical symptoms may put you off treatment as they look daunting but there are many treatment centers that can offer you support. With medical support, the withdrawal process is a lot easier.
The first stage of withdrawal is when you will experience the most intense physical symptoms. Because crack cocaine has a short half-life, you will usually start to experience crack withdrawal symptoms within a few hours of your last dose. This first phase is known as the crash phase, and common symptoms at this point include irritability, anxiety, depression, fatigue, psychosis, and cravings. This phase tends to last from seven to ten days if you get support from a treatment center.
In week two you should start to regain your appetite, but you are likely to experience a peak in mood swings and irritability. Psychological symptoms can last for up to ten weeks without medical care. Finally, the extinction phase tends to be the end of symptoms. You may experience cravings, but they are usually less intense than before and while you may experience irritability, apathy, and lethargy, your mood will likely be better.
From week three you should start to feel better, with increased confidence, clearer thoughts, better sleep patterns, and a more stable appetite. However, for some, symptoms can last longer. It can take months to adjust to chemical changes. Post-acute withdrawal symptoms such as mood changes, depression, and cravings can last up to six months and sometimes even longer. It is therefore important to continue receiving support to help you through this.
Factors That Affect Detox
The crack cocaine withdrawal process is different for everyone and there are many factors that affect this. They include:
- Length of use – the longer you used the more likely you are to experience severe and long-lasting symptoms
- Frequency of use
- Quantity per dose
- The purity of crack cocaine used
- Mixing with other drugs
- General physical and mental health – detox is hard on physical and mental health, so you are more likely to experience complications if you have underlying health problems
Detoxing at Home Vs at a Treatment Center
While physical crack cocaine withdrawal symptoms are not life-threatening, psychological symptoms can affect your chances of recovery and there is a risk of relapse. As you can see, detoxing can be challenging, so it is generally recommended that you undergo detox under medical supervision. Having medical supervision also means that a medical professional can prescribe you any medication you might need to help manage crack withdrawal symptoms.
Crack Addiction Treatment
When you get crack addiction treatment you will typically be offered the option of inpatient or outpatient programs. In the former, you will undergo treatment at the center and will have twenty-four-hour support from medical staff. With the latter, you will continue life as normal in general, but you will visit the center to attend appointments and you will usually have access to a twenty-four-hour helpline in case you are struggling. While inpatient treatment tends to have better chances of long-term recovery, outpatient care may suit those who have responsibilities that they cannot avoid for the duration of an inpatient program.
After detoxing you may continue with inpatient or outpatient treatment. Detox is only the start of the recovery process. There are reasons that you started taking crack and there are also triggers including people, places, and objects that could make you want to start taking it again. Therapy and support groups can help you to work through these so that your chances of relapsing are lower. However, if you do relapse, do not lose hope. Most people who have been sober long-term will have relapsed at least once before they got there.
Get Help at Ebb Tide
Overdose deaths due to crack are rising drastically, jumping from 5,419 deaths in 2014 to 19,447 deaths in 2020. It is very important that those who need and want help feel comfortable reaching out and know that they will be treated without judgment when they do.
At Ebb Tide, we know that drug abuse and addiction are not your fault. We know that your story is different from anyone else’s and that you may therefore require different things in order to recover. We speak with you to make sure that together we can create an addiction treatment program that works for your individual needs. Some of our treatment options include:
- Individual therapies
- Group therapy
- Physical activities such as gym workouts, yoga, swimming, and team sports
- Balanced and nutritious meals
- We accept Medicaid
Please visit our website or call us at 561-931-4944 to find out more. We look forward to welcoming you to our community.