Crack Cocaine Dangers

While the side effects and risks of using crack are similar to those of using cocaine, amphetamine and methamphetamine, there are specific dangers of smoking crack cocaine, in addition. Because crack is created with ammonia, toxic fumes are emitted when it is smoked. Ammonia is especially harmful to smokers' lungs, as well as those who breathe it in second hand. Furthermore, because crack cocaine is mostly smoked, users often develop what is termed “crack lip,” blisters and burns on the lips, caused by the hot glass pipes that are used for smoking. The toxic fumes are also responsible for the discolored and damaged teeth and gums of regular crack users, as well as the risk of mouth, lip and tongue cancer. The ravages of crack are quickly apparent in users' appearance. Health dangers of crack cocaine are respiratory illnesses such as coughing, wheezing and the toxic, cumulative effects (after long-term use) of ammonia burns on the lungs and throat. Other dangers are increase in blood pressure, increased heart rate and body temperature, as well as other lung damage. Crack cocaine users develop paranoia and aggressive behavior. The kidneys and liver are damaged through use of crack cocaine on a regular or frequent basis. Other damages done by use of crack cocaine are to the reproductive organs in both men and women, as well as brain damage that may become permanent. Possibly the highest risk with crack cocaine is its addictive properties, as it's believed to be the single most addictive drug of abuse. Thus, quitting crack cold turkey is not an solo endeavor; and addicts need to seek out a crack cocaine treatment facility to help get through their addiction as well as have post-addiction support in place in case they are tempted to relapse.

Symptoms of Regular Use

Use of crack cocaine becomes more than an occasional habit. Most users become addicted to crack after as little as a single use. Smoking becomes an addiction that must be fed continually, causing the user to become unproductive in other areas of their lives. Beginning crack use leaves the user with a euphoria that is seldom felt again, no matter how much or how often the user attempts to regain the same high. Smoking crack gives a high that is more intense than most other forms of drug use, which is the reason that many people claim to have become addicted after just one hit. Chasing that high becomes an obsession that is impossible to achieve. Symptoms of ongoing crack cocaine are weight loss, insomnia, increased heart rate and body temperature, as well as high blood pressure. Those who continue to use and abuse crack become severely emaciated, with yellowing skin and teeth, along with black circles beneath their sunken eyes. Behaviors may become paranoid and aggressive, as well as manic and hyper-active. The user may also exhibit signs of dementia-type psychosis. Dental problems are common, with tooth decay becoming severe and creating black or broken teeth. Users may spend all of their disposable income on crack initially. Then they begin to pay for crack from resources that would normally provide their food and shelter. Illegal activity influenced by a crack addiction is not uncommon. Many addicts who end up living on the streets or prostituting themselves to stay high claim their dependence on crack was the beginning of their downward spiral into a life of criminal behavior to stay high.

Co-Occurrence with Mental Illness and Confounding Symptoms

Psychotic symptoms that may occur with long term, chronic use of crack cocaine are hallucinations, paranoia and aggression. These symptoms may appear similar to those of mental illness and can be misdiagnosed as such. Mental health professionals may easily assume that persons with a history of crack cocaine use suffer from depression, due to the confounding effects of withdrawal from crack. Even minutes after smoking crack, users will experience a spiral downward into depressed states that are significant and form the need for use of more crack.

Brain Damage and Other Health Risks

Abuse of crack cocaine causes damage to the reward center of the brain. Consistent “hits” which inflict a rush of dopamine to the brain will begin to wear on the entire reward process of the brain. As use escalates, the brain will begin to shut down receptors in order to achieve balance. This creates a need for more and more of the substance to remain consistently high, and often just to stabilize the user from a state of deep depression. In time, the brain becomes accustomed to the hits and can no longer function normally without them. Addiction is created. It takes a long time of abstaining for the user to retrain the brain to function without the need to use crack. Overstimulation of the pleasure center has left the user with little or no response to those situations and stimuli which were once pleasurable. Because it is difficult for the addict to achieve pleasure, they may be inclined toward risky behaviors, sexually and otherwise, to create the same rush of euphoria they once felt on crack cocaine.
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