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Signs of Crack Abuse: Physical, Psychological, and Behavioral Changes

Symptoms of Crack Abuse

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Crack cocaine, a crystalline freebase form of cocaine, is one of the world’s most addictive substances. And while most people have come in contact with this drug solely through their television screens, others have to fight with its life-wrecking effects on a daily basis. Some 1.4 million Americans, in fact, have been linked to cocaine addiction in 2008, according to data from the national drug use watchdog.
Sometimes, crack addiction symptoms aren’t that obvious and spotting a loved one developing a dangerous dependency can be difficult. However, there are certain physical, psychological, and behavioral side effects inherent to the drug which we’ll outline below. Read on to get the to answer to the question: ”How to tell if someone is smoking crack?”

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Table Of Contents:

Psychological Signs of Crack Abuse

Psychological signs of someone on crack are clear and substantial. A person’s psyche under the influence of the substance changes drastically, following an addiction. To better recognize an abuse, one has to understand the way crack influences the mind. Its addictive high and extreme euphoria make the world around the user seem surreal and intense, albeit for a very short duration of time.

The person’s brain under the influence of cocaine rapidly fires dopamine, the neurotransmitter which regulates our mood, including excitement and pleasure. In short, general effects of crack use include:

  • A sense of self-importance and invincibility
  • Strong euphoria
  • Bursts of energy
  • Sharp focus
  • Detachment from reality

The tell-tale signs of use will commonly include sudden and unexpected bursts of energy, surpassing any reasonable amount of excitement. This state of mind, as well as the heavy crashes that accompany it, are one’s first indicators that a person is developing a dependency. This addiction comes with a disorientating, confusing, and paranoid mindset, which further exacerbates the problem. Users are at this stage likely to feel depressed, irritated, and solely focused on their next high.

As soon as they smoke the next dose, certain psychological signs of intoxication will help to identify a crack cocaine use problem. These include:

  • Aggression
  • Mood swings
  • Inability to stop the habit
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Irritability
  • Depression

Physical Symptoms of Crack Consumption

Body chemistry sharply changes in people who smoke crack, too. Because cocaine acts as a central nervous (CNS) stimulant, targeting our dopamine receptors primarily, changes will be most evident in those regions of the body where movement, appetite, and stress are regulated. For example, a person under the influence of cocaine may be talking rapidly, sweat profusely, shake all over, or have a fast heart rate.

Physical signs of crack use are:

  • Insomnia
  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate
  • Dilated pupils and bloodshot eyes
  • Changes in appetite
  • Jitters

The list of adverse side effects doesn’t end there, though. Much of it will depend on the method of administration, too; smoking the rocks causes numbness and a burning sensation while shooting the drug up can lead to collapsed veins and injection marks. Can one snort crack? Users believe snorting the drug will quicken the onset of effects, but the results are quite the contrary. Not only does frequent snorting lead to nasal damage and a sore, runny nose, it also reduces the bioavailability of the drug. In other words, the chemicals only get partially absorbed as it ends up in the stomach.How long does crack stay in the urine? In the body system, cocaine doesn’t linger on for too long. In most cases, products of the drug’s metabolization will be detected for 2-4 days. However, if we’re talking about chronic use, cocaine can be detected for up to 12 days. These numbers will also heavily depend on the purity of the batch and what is crack made of. Extremely pure cocaine can be detectable in one’s system for up to 3 weeks!

Behavioral Changes of the Addict

Crack addiction behavior creates an incredibly debilitating situation for both the user and his or her loved ones. Work attendance, school obligations, and general responsibilities all lose priority as the drug becomes the user’s obsession. It all they care about. This can make the user appear selfish and inconsiderate of the damage he or she is doing to the family along the way, but it is important to understand the nature of addiction.

Consistent crack use is a tough habit to overcome. Not least because the person may deny their wrongdoing and hide behind accusations and well-thought excuses. They may be manic, paranoid, and difficult to speak with because of their aggressive or agitated standpoint. So, in terms of behavior, what are the signs of crack use?

Well, an addict will often display:

  • Unsafe sexual tendencies
    Addicts under the influence commonly have an intensified sexual urge and engage in unprotected intercourse, sometimes with multiple partners, which can lead to a range of problems
  • Violent behavior
    This is one of cocaine’s hallmarks. A person high on the drug is more likely to abuse those close to them, because of their aggressive and intense stance.
  • Negligence of dangers
    When it comes to obtaining their next dose, addicts know of no limits or precautions. They will often enter dangerous neighborhoods and get themselves into hazardous situations only to make their next purchase.
  • Carelessness
    This extends far beyond work or school obligations. An addict will also disregard their monthly bills, relationships, or even their own family.
  • Law-breaking behavior
    One may probably aware that many crack addicts steal to fund their habit. They may also engage in prostitution and a range of criminal activities to support their addiction financially.

Finally, seeking out crack is a behavioral sign of addiction on its own. Even when the world around them is crumbling, an addict won’t discontinue his use. This inability to think logically and objectively is one of the reasons why it is so difficult to persuade the user to seek help. However, if they persist in their behavior, no good will come out of it. After effects of crack use and long-term exposure to the drug can lead to severe damage to the liver, heart, and kidneys. Developments of these diseases often lead to coma and even death.

Getting Help

Although the symptoms mentioned above will vary significantly on several factors, including the purity of the drug and individual conditions of the user, some common side effects remain. Most importantly, the danger of developing dependence is always high with crack use and that behavior can lead to life-threatening conditions.

Indubitably, people who smoke crack need to quit. This can be an extremely challenging path to undertake, but there are resources and organizations in a place devoted to this cause. Nobody is alone in their struggles, and an addiction-free life is as far as the telephone is.

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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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