- Immediate Effects and Adverse Effects of Crack Use
- Long-Term Effects
- How Crack Addiction Changes Your Life
- Crack Addiction and Mental Health
About Crack Abuse
Crack—the smokable, freebase form of cocaine—was first introduced to the market in the late 1970s and quickly decimated inner city neighborhoods for much of the 1980s and 1990s.
The cheap cost of this drug makes it accessible even to the poorest addicts, and this may help explain why crack can destroy lives so quickly.
Immediate Effects and Adverse Effects of Crack Use
Crack is so immediately addictive that many addicts have even theorized that it was developed and disseminated as part of a government conspiracy.
It is a central nervous system stimulant, which means that it speeds up activity in your brain. Of course, this doesn't mean crack makes you smarter; instead, it just makes you feel smarter, and this false sense of confidence can lead to a host of problematic and dangerous choices. Some of the other immediate effects of crack use include:
- Insomnia and disturbing dreams.
- Difficulty sleeping.
- Aggression, anxiety, and paranoia.
- Inflated sense of self-confidence.
- Feelings of invincibility.
- Feelings of euphoria.
- Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
- Loss of appetite.
- Panic attacks.
- A “creepy-crawly” sensation on the skin (known technically as formication, a word derived from the Latin for ‘ant’, as stimulant abusers frequently report feeling like bugs are crawling on and under the skin).
Most crack users begin using the drug because of its pleasant short-term effects. There's no denying that the first few doses of crack are often intensely pleasurable, but these side effects quickly give way to the more troubling and dangerous long-term effects of the drug:
- Damaged skin and teeth.
- Multiple organ injury, including muscular breakdown (rhabdomyolysis) and kidney damage.
- Chronic cardiovascular issues such as congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, strokes and heart attack.
- New or worsening mental health symptoms.
- Infertility, loss of libido, impotence, and other forms of sexual dysfunction.
- Concomitant crack and alcohol abuse has been linked with the exacerbation of oral lesions, sometimes leading to cancer.
- Coma, seizures, and sudden death.
- Pregnancy complications.
Crack addiction is itself a disease that begins with mild to moderate cravings. Over time, these cravings can overtake your life, causing you to neglect that which matters most to you.
As your chemical dependency gets stronger, the intensity of cravings increases.
Most people begin using crack to get a quick high or a relief from the stress of everyday life. But from your very first use, your body begins changing in response to the drug.
Cravings may be relatively minor at first, but when stress kicks in, the cravings can become intense. Over time, as your chemical dependency gets stronger, the intensity of craving increases.
Dependency positions the drug as the most important part of your life, and can result in you giving up even the people and things you love the most for just one more fix.
Withdrawal is the painful result of chemical dependency. When you suddenly remove crack from your body, your body can react almost as if you've stopped eating or drinking. Symptoms range from lethargy and relatively mild anxiety and headaches to intense psychological and physiological pain.
If you have other health problems or a long history of addiction, you may even suffer life-threatening symptoms, such as suicidal thoughts.
How Crack Addiction Changes Your Life
Narcotics Anonymous is a 12-step support group that helps people who are addicted to crack and other drugs. Locate a meeting for you or your loved one.
Crack addiction isn't something easily compartmentalized away from the rest of your life. Your crack addiction will eventually influence every area of your life.
Addiction is, almost by definition, an all-encompassing ailment. Even if you're able to control your cravings now, eventually they will distract you from your values, goals, and those you love.
Women who are pregnant while using crack may set themselves up for a lifetime of suffering if their children are born addicted to the drug, or with drug-related birth defects.
Because crack is both illegal and has the capacity to induce aggressive behavior, use of this drug exposes you to the risk of violence from drug dealers and other users—far more so than most other illegal drugs.
Some other ways addiction undermines quality of life include:
- Exposing you to legal, financial and health risks.
- Undermining your relationships.
- Causing you to hurt the people you love the most.
- Sidelining your career.
- Interfering with your judgment.
- Contributing to the development of new or worsening mental illness symptoms.
Crack Addiction and Mental Health
For people with depression, the stimulating effects of crack are hard to resist. The escape crack provides can make it a tempting option for people with other mental illnesses.
Because crack is a stimulant, it may also induce manic episodes or psychosis. Some users even experience dangerous hallucinations that encourage them to make risky decisions, such as climbing a building or engaging in a fight with a bystander.
The pain of mental illness is challenging enough to deal with on its own. When crack is added into the mix, things can get even worse.
Painful withdrawal symptoms can compound mental health issues, convincing addicts to continue using, even in the face of terrible consequences. It's no wonder, then, that about half of people with mental illness eventually develop an addiction.
The good news is that you don't have to live with a crack addiction forever. Treatment works, and the first step to getting better is simple: simply admit you have a problem and seek help.