Crack cocaine addiction

Crack cocaine has been the subject of media scrutiny and negative attention ever since it burst onto the street drug scene in the 1980s. This media interest has often led to the demonisation of those who suffer from crack addiction and while the portrayal is grossly sensationalised, the reality of living with crack addiction is a difficult and dangerous one. In order to break through the misconceptions and provide help to those who need it, we must first explore the complex nature of crack cocaine addiction and how this life-threatening condition can be beaten.

Crack addiction - uncut rock of crack cocaine

What is crack?

Crack, also known as crack cocaine, is a powerful and highly addictive stimulant drug. It is a form of cocaine that is processed into a rock crystal and is typically smoked using a pipe. Crack produces an intense, euphoric high that lasts for approximately 5-10 minutes with effects including:

  • An intense feeling of euphoria
  • Increased energy and alertness
  • Inflated self-confidence and increased sociability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dilated pupils
  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate
  • Increased body temperature
  • Rapid breathing

The term “crack” comes from the crackling sound produced when the rock is heated and the vapours are inhaled. Crack first appeared in the United States in the early 1980s and quickly gained popularity due to its potent effects and relatively low cost. In the UK, crack is a Class A drug, making it illegal to possess, distribute or produce.

Crack 101: Did you know…?

  • Crack cocaine is derived from powder cocaine by dissolving it in water and mixing it with baking soda or ammonia. The mixture is then boiled and cooled, producing the crystalline “rocks” that are smoked.
  • Cocaine, in both crack and powder form, is the second most used drug in the UK after cannabis.
  • 4,545 people sought support for crack addiction in 2021 in the UK.
  • Some common street names for crack include rock, base, gravel, nuggets and sugar block.
  • There were 840 cocaine-related deaths in the UK in 2021 with many due to crack cocaine.

What is crack addiction?

Crack addiction is a chronic, relapsing mental health condition characterised by a need to take crack even though it is harming you. Crack addiction affects millions of people worldwide and has significant impacts on both individual health and public safety.

Crack addiction develops through a series of stages, usually beginning with recreational use.

As a person then continues to use crack, they develop a tolerance to its effects, requiring larger amounts of the drug to achieve the same high.

Over time, this can lead to dependence, where the brain and body become reliant on crack to function normally.

Finally, crack addiction sets in, marked by an inability to control drug use and a preoccupation with obtaining and using crack.

Crack addiction - man smoking crack cocaine

Am I addicted to crack?

Recognising the signs of crack addiction is crucial in seeking help and beginning the recovery process. Crack addiction can often hide in plain sight as it is a manipulative condition that can lead people to believe they are in control of their drug use when, in fact, they are not.

To help you recognise the signs of crack addiction, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I find myself thinking about crack constantly, even when I am not using it?
  • Have I tried to cut back or quit using crack but found it too difficult?
  • Do I spend a significant amount of time and money obtaining and using crack?
  • Have I neglected responsibilities at home, work, or school due to crack use?
  • Have my relationships with friends or family members suffered because of my crack use?
  • Have I engaged in risky or illegal activities to obtain crack?
  • Do I continue to use crack despite the negative consequences it has on my health and well-being?
  • Have I developed a tolerance to crack, requiring larger amounts to achieve the desired effects?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, it may be time to seek help for crack addiction.

What factors increase the risk of crack cocaine addiction?

There are several factors that can increase your risk of developing a crack cocaine addiction. These include:

  • Environmental factors: Exposure to drug use or high levels of stress may increase the likelihood of crack cocaine use and subsequent addiction.
  • Co-occurring trauma or mental health disorders: People with mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, trauma or bipolar disorder may be more susceptible to crack addiction as a means of self-medication.
  • Genetic predisposition: People with a family history of substance abuse may be at a higher risk of developing an addiction to crack cocaine.
  • Early exposure: People who begin using crack at a young age are more likely to develop a crack addiction later in life, as the developing brain is more vulnerable to the effects of drugs.
  • Peer pressure: Being surrounded by friends or acquaintances who use crack cocaine can increase the risk of trying the drug and subsequently developing an addiction.
  • Socioeconomic factors: People who face poverty, unemployment or limited education may be more likely to turn to crack cocaine as a means of coping with stress or seeking an escape from their daily struggles.

What are the health effects of crack cocaine addiction?

There are many side effects of crack addiction that can be both severe and long-lasting, including:

  • Cardiovascular problems, such as heart attacks, strokes and irregular heartbeat
  • Respiratory issues, including shortness of breath, chronic cough and bronchitis
  • Neurological damage leading to seizures, headaches and cognitive impairment
  • Gastrointestinal complications, such as abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting
  • Increased risk of infectious diseases, like HIV and hepatitis C, due to risky behaviours associated with drug use
  • Mental health issues, including depression, anxiety and psychosis
  • Malnutrition and weight loss

What is crack overdose?

Crack overdose can happen due to various factors, such as taking a large amount of the drug in a short period, using crack in combination with other substances or having a low tolerance to the drug. Overdose risk can also be influenced by the purity of the crack, as higher purity levels can lead to more potent effects and increase the likelihood of an overdose.

Signs and symptoms of a crack overdose may include:

  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Chest pain or difficulty breathing
  • Extremely high blood pressure
  • Seizures or tremors
  • Extreme agitation, anxiety, or paranoia
  • Hallucinations or delusions
  • Severe headache
  • Profuse sweating or fever
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness or coma

A crack overdose can have severe consequences, such as heart attack, stroke, kidney failure or respiratory failure and can be fatal if not treated promptly. If you suspect that someone is experiencing a crack overdose, it is essential to seek immediate medical help.

Crack addiction - man suffering from severe headache

How does crack abuse and addiction affect your life?

The impact of crack abuse and addiction extends far beyond your health. It can also lead to significant disruptions in various aspects of life, including:

  • Job loss or difficulty maintaining employment
  • Strained relationships with friends and family members
  • Legal troubles, such as arrests, incarceration, or loss of child custody
  • Financial difficulties due to spending large amounts of money on drugs and a decreased ability to maintain employment
  • A decline in educational performance or failure to complete education

How is crack addiction treated?

Treatment for crack addiction typically involves a combination of approaches to address the multi-faceted nature of the condition. This usually begins with crack detox which will help you break your physical dependence on crack, manage withdrawal symptoms while your body removes it from your system and stabilises your physical health.

Alongside this process, you will undergo crack rehab to work on the underlying causes of crack addiction and learn healthy coping strategies to prevent future relapse.

What are common crack addict symptoms?

We do not like to use the terms “crack addict” or “crack addict behaviour” until the recovery process starts, as they can stigmatise sufferers. However, some of the signs of crack addiction to look out for in a loved one include:

  • Crack paraphernalia, such as pipes, small plastic bags, or makeshift smoking devices
  • Frequent, unexplained disappearances or secretive behaviour
  • Neglecting responsibilities, such as work, school or family obligations
  • Financial difficulties or unexplained need for money
  • Sudden weight loss or changes in appetite
  • Changes in sleep patterns, such as insomnia or excessive sleepiness
  • Deterioration of personal hygiene and appearance
  • Mood swings, irritability, or agitation

If you spot these signs of crack addiction, approach your loved one in a calm, understanding way and voice your concerns.

How to get help for crack addiction

Taking the first step towards recovery from crack addiction is often the hardest, but it is vital for reclaiming control of your life and overcoming the challenges that crack addiction presents. If you or a loved one is struggling with crack addiction, don’t wait any longer to seek help.

Contact Oasis Runcorn today and start your journey towards a healthier, happier future free from the devastating effects of crack addiction.

Frequently asked questions

How do I help a loved one who is addicted to crack?
Here are some steps you can take to help a loved one struggling with crack addiction:

  • Educate yourself on crack addiction
  • Be compassionate and non-judgment
  • Encourage professional treatment
  • Set boundaries and avoid enabling behaviour
  • Be patient
  • Offer ongoing support

Remember that you cannot force someone to seek help or change their behaviour but your love, support and understanding can play a critical role in encouraging your loved one to do so.

Is crack more addictive than powder cocaine?
While both crack and powder cocaine are highly addictive substances, crack cocaine is often considered more addictive due to its potency and rapid onset of effects. Crack is a freebase form of cocaine that is smoked, delivering the drug to the brain more quickly than snorting powder cocaine. The intense, short-lived high from crack can lead to a cycle of repeated use and increased craving, heightening the risk of addiction.
What is crack cut with?
Crack cocaine is often cut or adulterated with various substances to increase its volume and profitability for dealers. Common substances used to cut crack include baking soda, talcum powder, powdered sugar and various over-the-counter pain relievers or stimulants. Some dealers may also add other drugs, such as fentanyl, which can significantly increase the risk of overdose and adverse effects. The presence of these additives not only dilutes the purity of crack cocaine but also introduces additional health risks for users due to potentially toxic or harmful interactions.