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Article Summary

About Crack Cocaine

Crack cocaine is a stimulant drug which is highly addictive. Crack cocaine is derived from powdered cocaine, and easily and inexpensively manufactured utilizing an easy conversion process. Crack cocaine first came on the drug scene in the 1980's, where use and abuse of the drug exploded into a full blown epidemic. Users found the high from crack much more immediate and intense than the one experienced on regular powdered cocaine. Crack cocaine is easy to find and rather inexpensive to buy, much cheaper than the powdered version of the drug, and has therefore become a primary drug of abuse. This is especially true in urban areas. While crack cocaine use is extremely common in urban areas, abuse of the drug spans all ages and ethnicities, with over 6.2 million lifetime users in the U.S. alone. A recent government study reports hundreds of thousands of teenagers and young adults use crack cocaine, with almost 4% of 12th graders in the nation reporting lifetime use of the powerful stimulant drug.

The process by which crack cocaine is manufactured is quite simple, and basically involves dissolving cocaine in its powdered form with ammonia and baking soda, which is then boiled until it becomes a solid. This material is then dried and disbursed into varying sizes of white or off-white crack rocks which can then be dispensed on the streets. Crack cocaine is typically smoked, most commonly through a glass pipe. The crack cocaine user puts the crack cocaine in the glass pipe and heats the crack rock through the bottom of the pipe. When the crack cocaine vapors are heated and inhaled, the drug goes into the user's lungs and directly into their bloodstream.

Effects of Crack Cocaine

By smoking crack cocaine and having the stimulant drug enter the bloodstream so quickly, it delivers an almost immediate sense of euphoria and an intense high that has almost no rival. Inhaling crack cocaine when smoked causes the drug to reach the brain quicker than if the user were to snort it. The difference is significant, and smoking crack can produce a high in about 10 seconds while snorting powdered cocaine doesn't take effect until about 10 minutes after the drug has been administered. This euphoric high is created by the neurotransmitter "dopamine", which is the body's feel good chemical. Dopamine is how your body rewards you when you do something pleasant or that makes you feel good, like eating your favorite food for example. It is a reminder to do that activity again, and you will be rewarded. Under normal conditions, such as when you eat delicious food or go for a good jog, dopamine is released but is then recycled by the same cell that released it. Crack cocaine blocks the dopamine receptors temporarily, not allowing it to be recycled. This causes an abnormally large dose of dopamine to flood the body causing the high.

Crack Addiction

Crack cocaine use comes with many risks, including the risk of dependence and almost instant addiction. An individual who uses crack cocaine will be become addicted typically after just one use. Crack cocaine users are driven psychologically and physically to continue using crack cocaine repeatedly, as they have ultimately become addicted to the intense sense of euphoria that is experienced when one takes the drug. Essentially, the normal levels of dopamine that are created by their body's reward system is just not sufficient. Crack cocaine users continuously crave the chemically induced flood of dopamine that cannot be achieved naturally. The original high that a crack cocaine user experiences when first using the drug is particularly intense and users are typically always chasing this original high. Unfortunately, no matter how hard they try they rarely succeed in achieving such a high, while at the same time putting themselves at risk of dangerous side effects and potentially fatal overdoses.

In small doses, crack cocaine produces an exhilarated feeling in the user, along with a sense of alertness and energy with an enhanced sensitivity to one's senses. However, there are many ill effects that users can potentially experience as side effects of crack cocaine, most of which can pose dangers to one's physical and psychological well being. Crack cocaine users who ingest large amounts of the drug, on binges for example, can begin to experience paranoia and delusion, and can even become anxious, aggressive and extremely irritated which could spur a psychotic episode. Due to the drug's effects on the heart and lungs, crack cocaine users are at an elevated risk of experiencing cardiovascular and respiratory problems which can be severe and life threatening such as respiratory failure, cardiac arrest, seizures, and stroke. Combining alcohol with crack cocaine causes the liver to produce a toxic substance which can produce a more intense high while also raising heart rate and blood pressure raising the risk of a potentially fatal overdose. Because each person metabolizes and reacts to crack cocaine differently, sensitivity to certain doses can also vary. Certain users can become more sensitive to the drug after extended use, while others may experience a fatal overdose after just one use.

Withdrawal Symptoms

When someone wants to quit using crack cocaine and suddenly stops, or when an addicted individual goes without the drug there is a "crash." This is typical with any drug, and it is known as drug withdrawal. Crack cocaine withdrawal occurs very shortly after last use of the drug, sometimes within a hour. This is what makes kicking one's crack cocaine habit so difficult, and many users fail to do so on their own. Crack cocaine withdrawal symptoms occur as a result of the body not having enough time to readapt to normal function with the drug. The brain and central nervous system need time to adjust, and this could take anywhere from a few days to week depending on the addict's history of crack cocaine use. Individuals who wish to get off of crack cocaine should seek treatment at a drug rehab which treats crack cocaine addiction. A crack cocaine detox can be delivered by medical and professional drug treatment staff that will ensure it is a safe and smooth process. It is recommended that individuals who have become addicted to crack cocaine follow up any detox process with a drug rehab program, with at least a 90 day curriculum that will treat all underlying psychological and emotional issues.

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