WHAT IS CRACK COCAINE?
Crack cocaine is the crystal form of cocaine, which normally comes in a powder form.1 It comes in solid blocks or crystals varying in color from yellow to pale rose or white.
Crack is heated and smoked. It is so named because it makes a cracking or popping sound when heated.
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—but very short-lived—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 his or her first time trying crack.
Because of cocaine’s high cost, it has long been considered a “rich man’s drug.” Crack, on the other hand, is sold at prices so low that even teens can afford to buy it—at first. The truth is that once a person is addicted, the expense skyrockets in direct ratio to the increasing amount needed to support the habit.
WHY IS CRACK COCAINE SO HIGHLY ADDICTIVE?
Crack cocaine is one of the most powerful illegal drugs when it comes to producing psychological dependence. It stimulates key pleasure centers within the brain and causes extremely heightened euphoria. Compulsive crack use develops soon after the person starts using, because the substance is smoked and enters the blood stream rapidly. A tolerance develops quickly—the addict soon fails to achieve the same high experienced earlier from the same amount of crack cocaine.
EFFECTS OF CRACK COCAINE
What are the short-term effects of crack cocaine?
Crack causes a short-lived, intense high that is immediately followed by the opposite—intense depression, edginess and a craving for more of the drug. People who use it often don’t eat or sleep properly. They can experience greatly increased heart rate, muscle spasms and convulsions. The drug can make people feel paranoid,1angry, hostile and anxious—even when they aren’t high.
Regardless of how much of the drug is used or how frequently, crack cocaine increases the risk that the user will experience a heart attack, stroke, seizure or respiratory (breathing) failure, any of which can result in sudden death.
Smoking crack further presents a series of health risks. Crack is often mixed with other substances that create toxic fumes when burned. As crack smoke does not remain potent for long, crack pipes are generally very short. This often causes cracked and blistered lips, known as “crack lip,” from users having a very hot pipe pressed against their lips.
What are the long-term effects of 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 from use of crack cocaine 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. Smoking crack cocaine also can 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 (as with most other drugs) lose interest in other areas of life.
Coming down from the drug causes severe depression, which becomes deeper and deeper after each use. This can get so severe that a person will do almost anything to get the drug—even commit murder. And if he or she can’t get crack cocaine, the depression can get so intense it can drive the addict to suicide.
PHYSICAL & MENTAL EFFECTS
Because it is smoked, the effects of crack cocaine are more immediate and more intense than that of powdered cocaine.
- Loss of appetite
- Increased heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature
- Contracted blood vessels
- Increased rate of breathing
- Dilated pupils
- Disturbed sleep patterns
- Bizarre, erratic, sometimes violent behavior
- Hallucinations, hyperexcitability, irritability
- Tactile hallucination that creates the illusion of bugs burrowing under the skin
- Intense euphoria
- Anxiety and paranoia
- Intense drug craving
- Panic and psychosis
- Convulsions, seizures and sudden death from high doses (even one time)
- 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 damage 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)