Crack cocaine (also known as 'crack') is one of the most dangerous illegal drugs, and it is highly addictive. From the first time someone takes it, there is potential for addiction to develop. The side effects of crack cocaine can lead to serious mental health challenges and physical problems.
Crack cocaine can completely take over the lives of users. It creates intense cravings, which is how the psychological addiction starts. The user then rapidly requires higher and more frequent doses to feel crack cocaine’s effects, as tolerance quickly builds. Over time, the long-term effects of crack cocaine can severely impact someone’s life and even be fatal.
Here we’ve explained everything you need to know about the side effects of crack cocaine.
What is crack cocaine?
Crack cocaine is a less pure, crystal form of cocaine, which is smoked rather than snorted. It is made by dissolving powder cocaine in water and sodium bicarbonate. This mixture is then boiled and dried, leaving a solid compound that is crushed into small chunks.
Users heat the small chunks until they liquify, then, once it produces vapours, inhale them through a pipe. This leads to an almost immediate euphoria, which is why people pursue crack cocaine’s effects. It is named after the cracking sound that occurs as the chunks are heated.
The immediate effects of crack cocaine
Crack cocaine’s effects feel initially pleasurable, as it increases the levels of dopamine in the brain (the chemical that makes us feel happy). Crack cocaine’s euphoria is faster and much more intense than that of powder cocaine. It usually lasts up to around 10 minutes. This is followed by a depression, known as a 'comedown'.
Users will experience various effects of crack cocaine immediately after inhaling it, including:
- Euphoria – this is usually intense and accompanied by heightened awareness, feelings of superiority and invincibility, and a lowering of inhibitions
- Depression – once the euphoria has worn off, users can become depressed and angry. They may become hostile, paranoid and anxious. These feelings often prompt users to want another ‘hit’ straight away
- Physical reactions – in some cases, users experience a greatly elevated heart rate, as well as convulsions and muscle spasms. Dilated pupils, nausea and more rapid breathing are also common reactions
Long-term effects of crack cocaine
The long-term effects of crack cocaine are the same as powder cocaine, including:
- Insomnia and loss of appetite that can lead to nutritional problems
- Sexual dysfunction and possibly infertility in both men and women
- Permanent damage to blood vessels and high blood pressure that can lead to severe coronary damage (and heart attacks), kidney failure and liver damage
- Damage to the respiratory system. Users of crack cocaine are more at risk of respiratory problems due to the way they use the drug. The smoke causes lung damage, bleeding, shortness of breath and coughing
Users of crack cocaine also suffer oral problems. The pipe through which they inhale is short and gets very hot, which leads to burning of the lips. Their teeth are also exposed to the smoke, which can cause the enamel to become extreme decayed.
Social effects of crack cocaine
As with most drugs, there are serious social consequences associated with crack cocaine. Criminals that produce and distribute the drug create an atmosphere of fear and pose a threat to society, as do crack cocaine users themselves.
Studies have shown that crack cocaine use leads to violence and crime, as users feel all-powerful and uninhibited. Their dependence on the drug can lead to them going to great lengths to acquire money to buy it. Crack cocaine users may deplete their family’s finances and can become psychotic. This destructive behaviour often has a highly traumatic outcome for family and friends.
Expectant mothers who use the drug are taking hugely harmful risks, due to the effects of crack cocaine on their unborn babies. There is the likelihood of premature birth, the baby being born with defects or drug addiction, as well as possible brain damage.
Get treatment for crack cocaine addiction
The dangerous short-term and long-term effects of crack cocaine use can’t be underestimated. It affects users, and those around them, in endless destructive ways. Professional help is essential for recovery from crack cocaine addiction, because it is extremely difficult to quit without support.
You can visit your GP to talk through your concerns and worries, and they may refer you for expert treatment at Life Works. In addition, while we prefer people to have a GP referral, this isn’t essential. You can also contact Life Works directly to discuss your needs and options for treatment.