The effects of crack cocaine
Crack cocaine is one of the most dangerous illegal drugs in the world today. It is highly addictive - often just one exposure is enough to cause addiction – and leads users into a life of misery.
Crack cocaine completely takes over the lives of users. It produces massive cravings – hence psychological addiction – and rapidly requires higher more frequent doses, as tolerance quickly develops. Here are some facts about crack cocaine that you need to know.
What is crack cocaine?
Crack cocaine is a less pure form of powder cocaine and is usually made by dissolving cocaine powder 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 liquefy and then inhale the vapours that are produced through a pipe. The result is an almost immediate euphoria. The cracking sound that occurs as the chunks are heated gives crack its name.
The immediate effects of crack cocaine
By inhibiting the re-absorption into the brain of dopamine (the chemical that makes us feel happy), crack cocaine creates an immediate feeling of euphoria that is faster and much more intense than that experienced by those who snort powder cocaine. This usually lasts up to about ten minutes and is followed by a depression, or ‘down’, that is deeper than it was before the drug was taken.
In the immediate aftermath of inhaling crack cocaine, users experience a range of effects, including:
- Euphoria – this is usually intense and is 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 and, sometimes, convulsions and muscle spasms. Dilated pupils, nausea and more rapid breathing are also common reactions.
Longer term effects of using crack cocaine
Crack cocaine users will experience the same long term effects as users of powder cocaine, such as:
- 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 precipitates severe decay.
As with all drug use, there are serious social consequences associated with crack cocaine. Crime syndicates that produce and distribute the drug create an atmosphere of fear and pose a great threat to society, but the users themselves also pose a threat.
Studies have shown that crack cocaine use leads to violence and crime, as users feel all-powerful and uninhibited and will also do anything to get cash to buy more of the drug they crave. They will deplete their family finances and can also become psychotic. This destructive behaviour often has a tragic outcome for family and friends.
Expectant mothers who use crack cocaine also place their unborn babies at risk. There is the likelihood of premature birth, babies born with defects or already addicted to the drug, as well as possible brain damage.
The dangers of crack cocaine use cannot be under-estimated. It affects users and those around them in destructive ways that non-users can only imagine. Professional help is essential because the chances of kicking the habit on your own are not high.
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 and you can also contact Life Works directly to discuss your needs and options for treatment.