Crack Cocaine

What is Crack Cocaine?

The chemical cocaine hydrochloride is commonly known as crack cocaine. Some users chemically process cocaine to remove the hydrochloride. This process is called “freebasing” and makes the drug more potent. A solid form of freebased cocaine, the drug is called “crack” because it snaps and cracks when heated and smoked. Crack, the most potent form in which cocaine appears, is also the riskiest. It is between 75% and 100% pure, far stronger and more potent than regular cocaine. Smoking crack allows it to reach the brain more quickly and thus brings an intense and immediate high that lasts about fifteen minutes. And because addiction can develop even more rapidly if the substance is smoked rather than snorted (taken in through the nose), an abuser can become addicted after their first time trying it. In the 1970s, cocaine was expensive and considered a status drug. The introduction of inexpensive crack increased the accessibility of this substance, and crack has become the drug of choice for many drug users, especially inner-city disadvantaged youth. Crack’s convenience, ease of concealment, wide availability and low cost has increased its use. The fact that it is smoked rather than snorted or injected has contributed to its popularity.

Why is crack so addictive?

Crack cocaine is one of the most potent illegal drugs when it comes to producing psychological dependence. It stimulates vital pleasure centers within the brain and causes hugely heightened euphoria. Compulsive crack use develops soon after the person starts using because the substance is smoked and enters the blood stream rapidly. Tolerance develops quickly since the addict soon fails to achieve the same high experienced earlier from the same amount of crack cocaine.

What are the short-term effects of crack cocaine addiction?

Crack causes a short-lived, intense high that is immediately followed by severe depression, edginess and a craving for more of the drug. People who use it often don’t eat or sleep properly. They can experience significantly increased heart rate, muscle spasms, and convulsions. The drug can make people feel paranoid, angry, hostile and anxious—even when they’re not high. Regardless of the quantity or frequency of its use, crack cocaine increases the risk that the user will experience a heart attack, stroke, seizure or respiratory failure, any of which can result in sudden death. Crack is often mixed with other substances that create toxic fumes when burned. As crack smoke doesn’t remain potent for long, crack pipes are very short. This often causes cracked and blistered lips, known as “crack lip,” from users having a very hot pipe pressed against their lips. Effects of crack abuse include:
  • Changes in blood pressure, heart rates, and breathing rates
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Convulsions
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite leading to malnutrition and weight loss
  • Cold sweats
  • Swelling and bleeding of mucous membranes
  • Restlessness and anxiety
  • Damage to nasal cavities
  • Damage to lungs
  • Possible heart attacks, strokes or convulsions

What are the long-term effects of crack cocaine?

The Consequences of using Crack Cocaine In addition to the usual risks associated with cocaine use, crack users may experience severe respiratory problems, including coughing, shortness of breath, lung damage and bleeding. Long-term effects of crack cocaine abuse include severe damage to the heart, liver, and kidneys. Users are more likely to have infectious diseases. Continued daily use causes sleep deprivation and loss of appetite, resulting in malnutrition. It can also cause aggressive and paranoid behavior. As crack cocaine interferes with the way the brain processes chemicals, one needs more and more of the drug just to feel “normal.” Those who become addicted to crack cocaine soon lose interest in other areas of their life. The effects of long-term crack use include:
  • Permanent damage to blood vessels of ear and brain, high blood pressure, leading to heart attacks, strokes and death
  • Liver, kidney and lung damage
  • Severe chest pains
  • Respiratory failure
  • Infectious diseases and abscesses if injected
  • Malnutrition, weight loss
  • Severe tooth decay
  • Auditory and tactile hallucinations
  • Sexual problems, reproductive harm, and infertility (for both men and women)
  • Disorientation, apathy, confused exhaustion
  • Irritability and mood disturbances
  • Increased frequency of risky behavior
  • Delirium or psychosis
  • Severe depression
  • Tolerance and addiction, even after just one use
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