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A Guide To Crack Addiction
Crack, or crack cocaine, is easily one of the most infamous and vilified of drugs in the US. Today, many associate the drug with images and videos of substance use, abuse, dependence, and addiction.
Addiction to this illicit drug is a grave and deadly problem in many families and communities. To ensure that you do not fall prey to the white death, you need to learn how to recognize the use, effects, signs, symptoms, and addiction before seeking treatment at the earliest opportunity.
As a variation of regular cocaine, crack is different in the sense that it is a compound of hydrochloride (cocaine) processed with water and ammonia. This process creates crack rocks, chunks, and chips.
Since its introduction to the black market in the 80s, crack has ravaged entire communities due to its affordability and availability. More particularly, studies show that crack affects the poor and happens to be one of the biggest threats to American progress.
By definition, crack (or crack cocaine) is the hard, rocky version of regular powdered cocaine. Although it might be cheaper than cocaine, it is just as deadly and addictive. Originating from South America, both of these drugs are created using coca plant leaves.
The process of extracting crack from cocaine is deadly and toxic as are the chemicals used in cutting the drug before sale. The resulting product after powder cocaine has been processed to form crack eventually triggers addiction, sometimes leading to overdose and death.
Further, the federal government has classified crack as a Schedule II drug, meaning that it has one of the highest potentials for addiction and abuse as defined by both physical and psychological dependence.
The NDIC (the National Drug Intelligence Center) has documented the various names used to refer to crack on the street. Depending on the region, these names include:
- Bad rock
- Devil drug
- Fat bags
- French fries
- Hard ball
- Hard rock
- Ice cube
- Jelly beans
- Prime time
- Snow coke
After synthesizing cocaine powder from coca leaves, black market drug dealers mix the powder with baking soda (or sodium bicarbonate) to create small hard rocks of crack cocaine. According to the NDIC, these rocks are estimated to contain between 75-95% pure cocaine.
Users typically smoke crack in a glass straw or small pipe for purposes of achieving the intense and instantaneous high. The stimulant also triggers alertness, a sense of euphoria, as well as an immediate craving for more.
However, subsequent use does not elicit the same intensity you experienced when you first used crack. Still, your cravings for crack might become stronger after each use - which is how addiction starts in the first place.
Most people who use crack cocaine tend to do so in search of experiencing the pleasurable effects the drug causes. Some of these effects include:
- Escape from reality
- Improved focus
- Inflated sense of self-importance
- Intense bursts of energy
Similar to many other addictive drugs and substances, persistence use is so dangerous that these desired effects are likely to change after you start experiencing the negative repercussions of crack addiction.
When you ingest crack, it goes straight to the ventral segment of the brain, triggering the release of dopamine in the process. Dopamine is a brain chemical that creates the feeling of pleasure and happiness. However, crack also blocks the re-absorption of dopamine from the neuron that released it.
Here, the initial effect of crack use is the creation of intense feelings of euphoria, which you will feel a couple of seconds after you ingest the drug into your system. This type of euphoria lasts anywhere between 5 and 15 minutes.
Some of the adverse effects of abusing crack cocaine include:
- Aggressive behavior
- Dilated pupils
- Increased blood pressure
- Increased body temperature
- Increased heart rate
- Increased sensory perception
- Lack of appetite
- Stomach pain
Crack Side Effects
Apart from the above effects, using crack regularly, even if you only repeat it a couple of times, might increase your risk of experiencing the following adverse side effects:
- Heart attack
- Respiratory issues
- Severe mental health disorders
Crack Addictive Qualities
Research from Science and Practice Perspectives shows that you only need to use crack cocaine once for it to become a habit and for you to get addicted to it. Immediately after taking this illicit substance, it will force your brain to release dopamine.
As mentioned above, dopamine is a neurotransmitter that the brain uses to produce feelings of pleasure and reward. Using crack, therefore, creates a strong urge to experience more of these feelings.
The strength of the dopamine release after each dose of crack cocaine goes over and beyond any satisfaction you might derive from natural, healthy activities - activities that would ordinarily lead to the production of dopamine in the brain.
Additionally, the drug stops the brain from breaking down the released dopamine or from re-absorbing it back. The effect is a frenzy of stimulation and ecstasy, which creates that instant addiction that crack cocaine is so infamous for.
As you can see, addiction to crack develops in much the same way it would for any other addiction. With time, you might start craving the drug even more and using it repeatedly to quench these cravings. Eventually, your body will become tolerant to the substance and need more of it to achieve the original high. In the meantime, your cravings for crack are highly likely to intensify until your next dose.
After you've used crack over the long haul, your brain's function and structure might alter. In turn, this alteration is likely to change how you behave in certain situations, especially as you start making the drug a priority over and above everything else in your life, which is how dependence develops.
At this point, most users are highly likely to graduate to full addiction. This means they change their lifestyle to match the compulsive use of the drug, even after the adverse consequences crack causes in their lives and relationship. Further, your addiction might blind you to such an extent that you will feel powerless in the face of the drug, even ignoring the fact that crack is at the core of your new problems.
If you take too much crack - far more than your body can logically handle - you might slip into a condition of over-stimulation. In this condition, you are likely to experience higher temperatures, one of the first symptoms of crack overdose.
Some people overdose on the drug when they swallow their entire supply to avoid arrest. This results in dangerous intoxication and might prove to be fatal or even lead to death.
Below are some of the symptoms of a crack overdose:
- Abnormal heart rhythm.
- Cardiac arrest
- Dangerously high body temperatures
- Kidney damage
- Rhabdomyolysis (the breakdown of muscle accompanied by the release of the renal-toxic broken down products)
- Severe tachycardia
Continued crack use also caused a variety of mental health issues. These include schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression. Although they might recede when you quit using, substantial and prolonged use has also been known to cause permanent psychological changes.
In case you try to quit crack on your own, you may suffer a variety of daunting withdrawal symptoms. In many instances, these symptoms might force you to want to go back to using the drug. This is one of the reasons why it can be so hard to quit the drug.
If you have been abusing crack over the long haul, one of the best pathways to recovery lies in checking into a rehabilitation facility for treatment and medically-assisted withdrawal.
The symptoms experienced by crack abusers vary widely from individual to individual. However, some of the more common symptoms include:
- Angry outbursts
- Constant hunger
- Craving crack to the point of obsession
- Feeling sleepy
- Extreme fatigue
- Flu-like symptoms, such as body aches, runny nose, nausea, and chills
- Mood swings
- Sleep disturbed by vivid nightmares and dreams
Using and abusing crack has a high likelihood of putting you (and anyone around you) at risk. More specifically, you might engage in any, some, or all of the behaviors listed below:
a) Breaking the Law
Many crack addicts tend to steal to support the habit. Others commit robberies and engage in a variety of illegal activity (such as prostitution) to get money so that they can afford their next few doses of the drug.
In and of itself, the possession of crack is illegal. Therefore, if the police catch you with it, you might still be in trouble with the law even if you did not engage in the illegal behaviors listed above.
b) Taking Risks
Crack addiction tends to force users into risky situations in search for their next dose. For instance, you might engage in dangerous activities, such as getting into fights with people who try to get in your way of acquiring the drug. In fact, this type of addiction is such a powerful motivator that most addicts tend to do anything to get more of the drug.
Crack cocaine also intensifies most emotional experiences, including rage and anger. When you are under the influence of this drug, there is a high chance that you might end up abusing your significant other, friend, spouse, or anyone in your vicinity. You might also harm yourself, either unintentionally or intentionally.
d) Neglecting Responsibility
After you get addicted to crack, your interests might shift as you go out in search of the drug. As a result, you might eventually stop taking care of your bills, work projects, or your family. The addiction might also cause you to stop maintaining your regular social and personal relationships as you sink deeper into the abyss of constant drug abuse.
e) Risky Sexual Behavior
Crack has been found to intensify sexual desires. It also removes inhibitions. When you are high on it, therefore, you might start engaging in sexual conduct with multiple partners, sometimes without using protection.
Additionally, there's likelihood for most abusers to eventually exchange sexual favors to get the drug or money to buy it - leading to the contracting of such sexually transmitted diseases as HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C.
Similarly, a study funded by NIDA (the National Institute on Drug Abuse) found that many crack users living with HIV suffered rapid declines in immune function even in spite of sticking to therapy. The same study showed that crack use reduces the efficacy of most antiviral medications taken.
Signs And Symptoms Of Crack Abuse
Since crack is so dangerously addiction, it is unlikely for users to stop using (recreationally or casually) on their own. The chances of instant addicted to the drug are quite high - sometimes happening immediately after you first use it. Consider the following signs and symptoms of crack use, abuse, dependence, and addiction:
a) Physical Symptoms
- Dilated pupils
- Increased heart rate
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Suppressed appetite
- Weight loss
- Fasciculation, or muscle twitching
b) Behavioral and Psychological Symptoms
- Volatile mood swings
- Psychotic symptoms, including paranoia and hallucinations
- Obsessive and persistent thoughts about getting and using crack
- Inability to quit even if you strongly desire to do so
- Prioritizing the drug above all else
- Using crack at the expense of the other important aspects of life, such as your relationships and finances
Treatment For Crack Addiction
The only way you are going to be able to quit crack use and addiction is through treatment at the right addiction facility. If you leave the situation unchecked, it might eventually lead to the permanent damage of your mental capability, or even to death.
During your treatment, the medical team will put you on medications to detoxify your body and start breaking your physical and psychological need for the drug. Such teams also monitor the condition of patients suffering from crack addicting to deal with any withdrawal symptoms that arise.
Once you recuperate, you might be put on different therapies until you transition back to normal, everyday life. These treatments include counseling, group work, and lessons about how to prevent yourself from reverting to crack.
Overall, there is more to treatment for crack addiction than meets the eye. Although the process might take a considerable amount of time - depending on the severity of the substance abuse and how long and how frequently you have been using the drug - the chances of recovery are quite high. Eventually, therefore, you might be able to wave goodbye to your crack dependence and addiction once and for all. As with anything else, the best solution would be to start early.
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