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Crack Addiction: Identifying Dependence and Getting Medical Help

Crack Addiction and abuse

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Drug addiction can be one of the most challenging things to overcome. Crack addiction is no exception to that rule. In fact, crack addicts struggle more than most to overcome their addiction. That is because crack cocaine is a stimulant which is both highly addictive physically, and psychologically.
So, what is crack cocaine? What are the signs and symptoms of someone who is addicted to the substance, and how can you fight against your addiction to the drug?

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Table Of Contents:

What Causes Crack Addiction?

Shadowed person lighting up a crack pipe.Crack is a derivative of the substance cocaine, which has been cut during the process of making the drug, making it less pure. Due to the drug being a mix of cocaine and other substances, it tends to be both highly dangerous and addictive.
Crack addiction is worsened by the fact that a crack high is so short. This means crack users (often referred to colloquially as crack heads) take more of the substance than they would when getting high on another drug. This then causes the addiction to worsen rapidly.
Smoking crack as a cigarette or through crack pipes are the most common way of taking the substance. According to The National Drug Intelligence Center, smoking the substance enhances the dangers from taking the drug as it is then very fast effecting and can cause almost instant effects. However, the rapid effects of the drug aren’t the only dangers it presents. When using crack, you should be fully aware of what is crack like. Other dangers from addiction, may include both short-term and long-term effects.
Short-term effects include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased temperature
  • Anxiety and paranoia
  • Depression
  • Drug cravings
  • Panic and psychosis
  • Insomnia or regularly waking up during the night
  • Nausea
  • Contracted blood vessels
  • Breathing issues
  • Dilated pupils
  • Hallucinations
  • Intense euphoria
  • Overstimulation
  • Erratic and aggressive behavior
  • Convulsions and seizures
  • Crack overdose and death

Long-term effects of crack abuse can cause dangers such as:

  • Permanent damage to blood vessels
  • High blood pressure (can lead to heart attacks and heart failure)
  • Respiratory failure
  • Disorientation and confusion
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Careless, rash behavior
  • Organ damage including heart, kidney and lungs
  • Chest pains
  • Delirium or psychosis
  • Severe depression
  • More prone to disease and infection
  • Weight loss
  • Tooth decay
  • Hallucinations
  • Sexual and reproductive issues for both genders

Despite the dangers of the drug, many users will still struggle to quit because of their addiction. Addiction to crack is caused by a variety of factors. One of the main factors is the psychological euphoria it creates within users. This makes them want to come back, time and time again, looking for the same high. The drug is also physically moreish. When a user stops taking the drug, they will experience crack withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms; especially the cravings will become so unbearable during the withdrawal that the user will seek out more of the drug and continue to use. This triggers a continuous downward spiral until the drug rules their life.

The Signs and Symptoms of Crack Abuse

Two angry friends or roommates arguing and threatening in the living room at home
A user will usually display the symptoms of crack use, no matter how long they have been using the drug. The stimulant has clear, dangerous signs that make stimulants stand out from many other kinds of substances. These signs of crack use can be used to identify someone who is abusing the drug to ensure they get the help they need.

Crack symptoms may include:

  • Aggression
  • Extreme paranoia and anxiety
  • Euphoric state
  • Dilated pupils
  • No appetite
  • Breathing issues
  • Depression
  • Careless behavior
  • Lack of funds (For more info on how the drug influences a users ability to monitor their cash, check out how much does crack cost)
  • Unnatural behavior
  • Lack of interest in usual hobbies
  • Distancing

How to Stop Smoking Crack?

Young guys taking cocaine and crack cocaine in various waysThere are many reasons to quit crack. Firstly, it is an incredibly addictive and dangerous drug. In addition to that, it can also be harmful to decision making and relationships. For example, many users have sex on crack without considering the consequences. Those consequences can be even more dangerous, as they can result in a crack baby, which is when a baby is born addicted to the substance. As these reasons highlight, the drug is harmful to more than just the user in the long term. 
When it comes to quitting crack, you have to be up for a substantial challenge. It is not recommended that you try to quit the highly addictive substance with medical support. However, it is possible. In this section, we will look at how to quit crack and the best ways of dealing with withdrawal symptoms.
Crack in the system can last up to four days. This means after the effects of the drug wear off, there will be a reasonably long crack withdrawal. During this time you should have as much support as possible and must be ready for the effects of withdrawal.
When quitting crack at home, or in a non-medical environment, you will not have the support of other drugs to lessen the withdrawal symptoms. There will be extreme cravings for more of the drug, as well as other signs which will encourage you to take more. This is why support is so necessary, as sometimes another perspective can help you stay on track with recovery and quitting. Whereas alone, you may be too tempted and relapse.
Although it is unlikely you will have the support of medical drugs to help you through withdrawal, quitting crack can still be made a little more comfortable with the help of natural or home available remedies.
These natural remedies may include:

  • Meditation – This method promotes thoughtfulness and awareness of what you are doing. It helps users master emotions and stresses that may trigger a relapse.
  • Caffeine – Caffeine is the ideal substitute for crack abuse as it is also a stimulant. It boosts adrenaline and energy, creating a rush very similar to the one induced by crack and thus warding away withdrawal symptoms. However, caffeine is also a drug, so it should be taken with caution.
  • Apple cider vinegar – Although still in the early stages of research, it is believed the acid in apple cider vinegar reduces cravings. It also helps to boost the immune system, which is a significant concern of addicts who are often exposed to illness due to their addiction.
  • Yoga – Yoga is a positive repetitive action, which gets users into a better routine. It helps to cleanse the body and change the users’ mindset, which can deter any thoughts of relapse.
  • Protein – It helps the body to recover from the damage caused by drug abuse. Crack high gradually fry the brain’s neurotransmitters and the tissue in your body. Protein helps to rebuild that and give you a healthier diet.
  • Omega 3 – Omega 3 is commonly found in fish meat. It is an excellent source of stress relief and helps a lot with anxiety and paranoia.

However, quitting rocks, which is one of the street names for crack, isn’t always that simple. Dietary changes and support will only achieve so much, as you have to be in the correct mindset yourself to have any chance of a successful recovery. Meaning, you have to find your routine and coping mechanisms. There may be opportunities to attend group therapy sessions or individual counseling. Both of these areas help considerably in recovery as they give users ways to deal with cravings. Group sessions may even allow a user to make friends with fellow former users, who can help one another through the more difficult and challenging stages of withdrawal.

Treatment and Recovery for Crack Drug Abuse

Close up view of female medicine doctors hands filling patient medical form. There are some treatment options available to help a user through recovery for crack abuse. The most commonly used treatments are inpatient treatment centers and outpatient treatment. They are often used alongside other forms of recovery help such as therapy and counseling. So quitting is necessary to lessen crack effects. But what are these forms of treatment and which one is the most suited to you?
Inpatient Treatment – Inpatient treatment lets users stay in a healthcare facility throughout their treatment. They will receive round the clock care to ensure they are in the best physical and mental state to overcome their addiction. Inpatient treatment is often the most expensive option, as patients are given drugs to help them through withdrawal symptoms and gradually wean them away from their dependence. Inpatients will usually receive at least one form of therapy during their treatment, to help them deal with the psychological side of addiction and withdrawal. This treatment is the most rigorous and structured way of recovering from crack addiction.
Outpatient Treatment – This is a far less structured way of receiving crack addiction treatment. It allows users to stay in a home environment, receiving support from family and friends. The user then periodically visits a treatment center at decided upon times for progress check-ups and medications. They may also receive a little therapy during that time. Outpatient therapy works around the user’s lifestyle, meaning they have more time to get back into an everyday routine. In addition to that, it is a far cheaper option in inpatient care, due to the treatment not being constant. To prevent relapse, many inpatients choose to continue therapy as outpatients for a while. This is so they regain a routine and stay on track with their drug-free lives.
Counseling – Counseling is a form of individual therapy that helps users get to the roots of why the began and continued to abuse crack as a substance. It helps users gain perspective and understanding of their addiction and how it has been affecting their lives.
Group Therapy – Group therapy allows fellow users to get together and discuss their issues with drug abuse. It is highly beneficial for users as they often make friends with people who can relate to their problems. Because of this, they can help each other through the most challenging stages of withdrawal and cravings.
Psychotherapy – Psychotherapy is an excellent way for users to find coping mechanisms for their cravings. It also helps to give them ways to deal with any mental health issues surrounding addiction and withdrawal, such as anxiety or paranoia.
Natural Remedies – Natural remedies are alternatives to drugs. They may help with cravings or help to create a better mindset for the user. Natural remedies include yoga, protein and omega 3.
All these treatments have merits. However, some may be more suited to you, depending on a few factors. Factors may include:

  • Your health
  • Length of substance use
  • Amount of the drug usually taken
  • Diet
  • Lifestyle
  • Personality
  • Much more

For the most successful treatment, you should consult with a medical professional to find the most suitable option for you. Furthermore, when it comes to successful treatment, it is vital that you have the right support. In addition to that, you have to want to recover. Withdrawal will be difficult, so for successful treatment, a users mind must be focused on recovery.

Crack Addiction – Staying Clean

As aforementioned, staying clean once you have completed a successful recovery is vital. For many users, this is the most challenging part, due to cravings and temptation.
At this point, aftercare comes in. Outpatient treatment and various therapies are all effective forms of aftercare that help former users stay clean. The programs are arguably the most important part of addiction recovery and are recommended to everyone who goes through a recovery process. However, you can also help yourself.
By surrounding yourself with reasons to stay clean, it will provide a constant reminder of the health benefits you are feeling because you are no longer taking crack. There will be physical benefits, such as a healthier body and a more stable heartbeat. This, in turn, allows you to breathe better. In addition to the physical benefits, there are psychological benefits. The mind will feel clearer and your relationships will improve with others. Besides, you can find out how is crack made and the history of crack, here.
Staying clean brings an insurmountable amount of benefits. So make sure you have the best chance possible of overcoming crack for good.

Help Line Woman

Hope Without Commitment

Find the best treatment options.
Call our free and confidential helpline

Most private insurances accepted

Marketing fee may apply

  1. Haas C, Karila L, Lowenstein W., Cocaine and crack addiction: a growing public health problem,
  2. André de Queiroz Constantino Miguel, Contingency Management Treatment for Crack Addiction – Study With Brazilian Population,
  3. National Drug Intelligence Center, a component of the U.S. Department of Justice, Crack Cocaine Fast Facts,
Medically Reviewed By Michael Espelin APRN
Isaak Stotts

About Author

Isaak Stotts, LP

Isaak Stotts is an in-house medical writer in AddictionResource. Isaak learned addiction psychology at Aspen University and got a Master's Degree in Arts in Psychology and Addiction Counseling. After graduation, he became a substance abuse counselor, providing individual, group, and family counseling for those who strive to achieve and maintain sobriety and recovery goals.


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