Crack Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment

Crack cocaine could easily be one of the most vilified and infamous drugs in America, being synonymous with many of the public images (whether accurate or otherwise) of substance abuse and addiction.

But away from movie and TV depictions, crack addiction is a serious, deadly problem for thousands of people. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of a crack problem are vital in getting treatment for the addiction at the soonest possible moment.

Creating Crack Cocaine

Cocaine has always been a drug of concern, but when the standard product is dissolved in waterand simple baking soda, boiled (to separate the solids), and then cooled and cut up into rocks, the resulting product becomes a potentially even deadlier form of an already-potent drug. The resultant crack cocaine (so called because of the distinctive cracking noise made during the boiling process) has to be snorted or smoked for its effects to be felt.

This means that the chemicals in the drug reach the brain much faster and more directly than when powdered (standard) cocaine is ingested. The high caused by crack cocaine is more intense and powerful, but short-lived, lasting only 15 minutes; however, this compels users to take another hit of crack, trying in vain (and repeatedly) to recapture the novelty of the sensation.

According to Science and Practice Perspectives, it could take as little as one hit of crack cocaine for the brain to be effectively rewired. As soon as the drug is ingested, it strikes the brain’s mesolimbic dopamine system, forcing the production of the dopamine neurotransmitter, which has the effect of making the user feel rewarded and pleasured, and creating a strong anticipation for more of those feelings.

The strength with which dopamine is released after a dose of crack far exceeds any satisfaction derived from a natural, healthy activity that would normally cause dopamine to be produced. In fact, the cocaine actually stops the brain from breaking down and reabsorbing the dopamine, effectively putting a user into a frenzy of ecstasy and stimulation, and creating an instant hook.

Signs of Crack Abuse

Crack cocaine has telltale signs of use. Someone on the drug will exhibit excessive and perhaps uncharacteristic bursts of energy and stimulation, going far beyond any reasonable kind of excitement. The manic activity may include things like talking rapidly, consuming food at an inhuman rate (or perhaps not even needing food at all, despite having gone without sustenance), or being otherwise nervously agitated. When the dose wears off, users show signs of great fatigue, sometimes falling asleep wherever they are and then staying asleep for days.

The drastic seesawing between unstoppable energy and exhaustion has obvious impacts on day-to-day behavior. Crack cocaine renders regular sleep habits all but impossible, in turn throwing off regular attendance at school, work attendance, and other obligations. The superhuman stimulation and unfathomable fatigue also cause violent and unpredictable mood swings, causing users to be argumentative and perhaps violent and dangerous to those around them, especially toward people who try and stop the drug use. Being off crack for a while can cause severe depression and even suicidal thoughts. Abusing crack for a prolonged period of time can lead to paranoia and hallucinations.