Crack Cocaine Effects

The immediate rush of pleasure that courses through the body of a crack user can often be addictive from the first hit. Crack cocaine is a processed form of cocaine created for smoking. While cocaine is expensive, crack is sold in heavily altered forms cheaply. The product may not resemble its origins of cocaine much at all by the time it gets to the streets. Cocaine users in the 1980s found that by “freebasing” cocaine, or creating a by-product of cocaine that could be smoked by altering the chemical makeup of cocaine into a nondilutable form, they got a more powerful high than by using cocaine either as an inhaled powder or by injection. Crack mimics the chemical processes used in creating freebase, but uses higher concentrations of “cuts” to reduce amounts of cocaine being processed which creates a lower cost drug. The “rock” that is formed when crack is being manufactured may tell the story about what substances are used for mixing the cocaine to create crack. These can vary from off-white, opaque small rocks to glasslike, crystalline rocks with sharper edges.

How Crack Cocaine Affects Your Body

The primary differences between using cocaine and smoking crack are important as distinctions to understand in how it works and why crack is more addictive than cocaine. When smoked, crack is absorbed into the brain within eight seconds. The high lasts a very short time, only 10-15 minutes on the average, making it necessary for the user to keep smoking to remain high. Snorting or injecting cocaine in its pure form is much slower acting and lasts as long as 30 minutes after use. However, the intensity of the high is much less and its cost is prohibitive for many. After a hit of crack, the user experiences a “rush” instantly. The user feels pleasure, like a chill, that floods the body and senses. They immediately feel more alert with a heightened sense of awareness and increased well-being. They experience little or no desire for food or sleep and may enjoy these effects for up to an hour after a single use. After the immediate high begins to subside, the user will attempt to maintain that level with subsequent use. However, because it is caused by a flood of dopamine in the brain, repeated use will not create the same peak experience for the user. They will then most often chase that high and may continue to binge on crack cocaine for days at a time without food or sleep. The first use triggers a desire for more of the drug; however, as discussed, that deep pleasure only comes with the first hit. In fact, each additional hit will diminish the pleasure sensation, creating a deeper depression in the user as use increases. The user will “come down” feeling very depressed, even suicidal. After binging on cocaine, depression is a serious risk for users. Physical effects of smoking crack are similar to those other stimulant drugs. These include: insomnia, restlessness, irritability, loss of appetite and weight, nervousness, anxiety, depression and teeth grinding. Increased heart rate, body temperature, and nervous tics are common. After several days of binging, hallucinations and psychosis may develop.

Long-Term Effects of Crack Cocaine

Chronic and persistent use of crack will increase risk of heart attack, high blood pressure, stress-related illness, severe weight loss, (leading to malnutrition), broken teeth from clenching jaws, and vitamin deficiencies. Also, loss of bone mass, stroke, heart failure, and permanent brain damage can occur. Psychotic behavior and irrational mood swings are common. Permanent paranoid delusions are not unheard of for crack addicts.

Aftereffects of Crack

Crack cocaine use will deteriorate the addict's body by depleting vitamins and minerals. The loss of appetite experienced by crack addicts can lead to severe malnutrition. Loss of bone density can cause facial distortion, further exacerbated by teeth grinding, which can break the teeth and cause the facial structure to cave in and become deformed which can become quickly apparent when looking at crack before-and-after pictures. Nervous tics and jerky movements are common, along with the phenomenon of stimulant abuse wherein addicts believe they have “bugs” crawling under their skin. Psychosis may become permanent, along with paranoia. Most of the symptoms caused by long-term use will balance after abstinence has been maintained for a period of time. However, crack cocaine has an added hazard not seen with many other substances called “euphoric recall.” This is when an addict sees crack cocaine images such as in a film even after abstinence has been long established. As a result, an addict might feel the overwhelming desire to re-experience the drug. An addict romanticizes the "positive" effects the drug induced, and the desire to re-experience it becomes very strong and poses a threat for relapse.

Social Effects of Crack

Social consequences of crack use are many. Because it is an illegal drug, crack usage can lead to various legal problems, which can lead to incarceration. Others negative social effects surround the lifestyle that devolves with use. As usage becomes addiction, maintaining regular job performance suffers. Further, an addict might begin to abuse welfare and social resources or resort to stealing to fund the addiction. Many young addicts who began using crack socially become addicted and prostitute for their drugs. This may be street prostitution or trading sex with one person or one group of people in exchange for drugs. This happens to both men and women. These illicit behaviors can eventually lead to crack cocaine-influenced arrests and convictions. As a result, to recover from a crack cocaine addiction, many people need to seek professional help and cannot do it cold turkey or without assistance. Other social impacts are on the families of those who use and abuse crack. The children and spouses are often left to fend for themselves without the addict, creating emotional, physical, fiscal and social consequences. Stigma develops around the user and they feel shame and remorse, treated by using more of the substance, a continual downward spiral.

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