Crack is a relatively unrefined form of cocaine that induces a brief but intense euphoric high, followed by effects that are essentially the opposite—depression, edginess, and cravings for more of the drug. For these reasons, users often smoke or otherwise ingest crack in a binge-like fashion in an attempt to forestall the unpleasant effects of a comedown.
Individuals who regularly abuse crack tend to neglect critical health-promoting functions such as proper nutrition and adequate sleep. Elevated heart rate, muscle spasms, and convulsions among users are not uncommon. People may also begin to experience radical mood disturbances, including paranoia, anger, hostility, and anxiety, even when they are not using crack.
Regardless of how much of or how often the drug is smoked, it increases the likelihood the user will suffer from a heart attack, stroke, seizures, or respiratory failure, any of which can lead to sudden death.
Smoking crack poses unique health risks associated with the method of administration. Crack is often combined with other substances that produce noxious fumes when burned. And crack smoke does not remain potent for long—this is why crack pipes are generally short. This design often results in cracked and blistered lips (crack lip) among users from having a hot pipe pressed against their mouths.
Long-term Effects of Crack
In addition to the typical risks associated with cocaine use, crack users who smoke the drug can experience severe respiratory issues, including coughing, lung damage, shortness of breath, and bleeding. Long-term effects associated with crack use include severe damage to the heart, liver, and kidneys. Furthermore, users are also more likely to contract infectious diseases.
As crack cocaine interferes with how the brain processes neurochemicals such as dopamine, a person who uses repeatedly will soon start to need increasing amounts of the drug merely to feel “normal.” Those who become dependent on or fully addicted to crack cocaine tend to lose interest in other life areas rapidly.
As noted, coming down from cocaine or crack can cause severe depression, which may worsen with each use. Symptoms associated with dependence can get so intense that an individual will do almost anything to get the drug and will compulsively seek to obtain it and use it.
Complete List of Mental and Physical Long-Term Effects
- Irreversible damage to blood vessels of the ear and hypertension leading to heart attacks, strokes, and death
- Liver, kidney, and lung damage
- Severe chest pains
- Respiratory failure
- Infectious diseases and abscesses when injected
- Malnutrition, weight loss
- Severe tooth decay
- Auditory and tactile hallucinations
- Sexual problems among both sexes, reproductive damage, and infertility
- Disorientation and confusion
- Apathy and anhedonia
- Irritability and anger
- Increased likelihood of impulsive/risky behavior
- Delirium, paranoia, and psychosis
- Profound depression
- Tolerance, dependence, and addiction
Short-Term Effects of Crack
Because it is smoked, crack cocaine effects are more immediate and more intense than powdered cocaine. Feelings of energy and euphoria are typically the desired result, but a myriad of unwanted effects can occur. These include insomnia, nausea, irritability, anger, and various other mood disturbances, such as paranoia, anxiety, panic, and depression.
Complete List of Physical and Mental Short-Term Side Effects
- Loss of appetite
- Elevated heart rate
- High blood pressure
- High body temperature
- Contracted blood vessels
- Increased respiration rate
- Dilated pupils
- Sleep disturbances
- Bizarre, erratic behavior
- Irritability and agitation
- Tactile hallucinations
- Intense euphoria
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Intense drug cravings
- Panic and paranoia
- Convulsions and seizures
Using an excessive amount of crack by any method of administration can result in a life-threatening overdose. This is especially true if crack is used in combination with other central nervous system stimulants and depressants. For example, mixing heroin and cocaine (commonly referred to as a speedball) has caused many celebrity deaths, including John Belushi, Chris Farley, and River Phoenix.
An overdose of cocaine is considered to be a medical emergency. If you or someone you know is experiencing the following symptoms related to crack use, please call 911 immediately:
- Chest pain
- Trouble with urination
- Nausea and vomiting
- Clammy skin
- Cold sweats and fever
- Tremors or convulsions
- Severe headache
Psychological symptoms of overdose may include extreme anxiety/panic, confusion/disorientation, irritability/agitation, hallucinations/delusions, and aggressive/violent behavior.
Getting Help for Crack Addiction
Addiction to crack cocaine can be a chronic, devastating, and potentially life-threatening disease that requires long-term care and professional support. Just Believe Recovery offers comprehensive treatment programs in various formats that feature services and activities essential for the recovery process. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Behavioral therapy
- Peer group support
- Individual and family counseling
- Substance abuse education
- Health and wellness education
- Art and music therapy
- Relapse prevention
- Aftercare planning