Effects Of Crack: Overdose, Pregnancy Risks & Crack Baby

Last Updated: January 8, 2021

Authored by Isaak Stotts, LP

Reviewed by Michael Espelin APRN

Crack cocaine, also called rock cocaine, is a drug commonly abused in the United States. In many cities, it is easy to access, and compared to powder cocaine, significantly easier to afford. But that does not mean that its use comes without a price; the side effects of crack cocaine are serious, life-changing, and even deadly. Moreover, 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.

When consuming the drug, crack effects can be noticed in all body parts, from the internal organs to the skin and eyes. Anyone who uses it should understand its negative impacts, and loved ones who suspect someone is abusing it must know the signs to spot the signs that someone has begun to smoke crack.

Side Effects of Crack

The use of rock cocaine and other forms of cocaine is widespread, with an estimated 6,222,000 U.S. residents aged 12 and older having used it at least once in their lifetime. As a result, there is a significant number of people experiencing the drug’s symptoms at any given time. Side effects of crack use are present from the first time the drug is taken. Some of these symptoms are the motivation for the user to take the drug.

General Effects Of Crack Use Include:

  • A feeling of euphoria or extreme happiness
  • A significant increase in energy
  • Mental alertness
  • Hypersensitivity to sensory stimulation, such as light, sound, and touch
  • Irritability
  • Paranoia

These are all symptoms that are present every time someone uses the drug. The majority of these do not last long. However, with continued use, these symptoms can increase in severity and become long-lasting.

Additionally, the substance is known to impact physical appearance quickly. Skin effects can include visibly damaged blood vessels, abscesses, and even deep scratch marks due to the sensation of bugs crawling underneath the skin. Rock cocaine effects on eyes can include changes in the pupils and even yellowing of the whites of the eyes once drug use begins to harm the internal organs. Together, these are often referred to as crack faces—an individual’s appearance as impacted by their use of rock cocaine.

While these symptoms are nothing to look forward to, they are not the most severe side effects of rock cocaine use. The symptoms of it can cause everything from organ damage to death. As such, users should seek help to end their addiction before it is too late.

Short-Term Effects of Crack

Short-term effects of crack cocaine use include the general symptoms listed above, which every user will experience. However, they also include other, more severe symptoms, some of which can be life-threatening or contribute to the development of life-threatening conditions.

Some Short-Term Effects Include:

  • Constricted blood vessels
  • Dilated pupils
  • Increased body temperature
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased respiration
  • Tremors
  • Vertigo
  • Muscle twitches
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Bizarre, erratic, and violent behavior
  • Restlessness, anxiety, panic, and paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Depression
  • Overdose
  • Death

While some of these results are permanent, such as death from overdose, because they come on suddenly and can occur from the first use of rock cocaine, they are considered short-term effects. Some of these may seem benign. For example, temporary anxiety might sound like it is of no consequence. However, anxiety can drive negative and dangerous behaviors that put the user at risk of physical harm, even in the short term.

Long-Term Effects of Crack Use

Long-term effects of crack are those that do not show up immediately but build over time as individuals continue their drug use. As a result, stopping the use of rock cocaine may prevent them from worsening, but it is not guaranteed to reverse the results. The longer use of the substance continues, the more permanent the results are likely to be.

Because the drug impacts all parts of the body, the long-term effects are numerous. Those who use regularly or over an extended period of time can expect to experience at least a few of these symptoms.

Long-Term Crack Side Effects Are:

  • Tolerance, requiring higher and more frequent doses to achieve the same experience
  • Tooth decay
  • Increased psychological effects leading to full-blown psychosis
  • Increased sensitivity to the rewarding effects of other drugs, encouraging polysubstance abuse
  • Reduced blood flow to the gastrointestinal tract
  • Bowel decay
  • Malnourishment
  • Chest pain mimicking heart attacks
  • Increased risk of stroke
  • Inflammation of the heart muscles
  • Reduced ability for the heart to contract
  • Aortic ruptures
  • Intracerebral hemorrhage
  • Movement Disorders, including Parkinson's disease
  • Decreased mental abilities
  • Effects related to the method of administration, such as loss of smell from snorting and hoarseness from smoking

Crack and Sex

When a person who has just taken cocaine engages in sex, this experience can be described as extreme, intense, and mind-blowing. When a person is under the harmful effect of the substance, they will have no inhibitions, having sex with whoever is available, even total strangers. To make things worse, a lack of inhibition also means the person will likely not use any protection. The resulting trade-off between sex and the consequences of having unprotected sex with total strangers makes for a poor trade balance.

Woman high on crack.

Rock cocaine has such an effect because once the person inhales the smoke, it affects both the pleasure/arousal hormone dopamine and the endurance hormone norepinephrine. This combo makes having sex on cocaine an exhilarating yet dangerous and harmful cocktail.

When under the influence of crack, users experience a heightened libido and increased stamina. When in such a state, they will seek casual sexual encounters to fulfill the raging urges they are experiencing, which may be with other drug users or prostitutes.

In the short term, these behaviors may result in the contraction of sexually transmitted infections, run-ins with the law, and an eroding of the person’s personal life. From a drug addiction perspective, drug abuse will rapidly lead to tolerance and dependence, the two cornerstones of drug addiction. Therefore, a person experimenting with smoking rock cocaine and sex must be aware of the dangers associated with the habit.

Long-term effects of using the drug and having sex can include contraction of HIV and Hepatitis C, recurrent STI contractions, and a general loss of control of one’s sexual life. From a health perspective, there are indications that long-term abuse can also lead to erectile dysfunction.

Crack Baby Syndrome

Rock cocaine can be dangerous and addictive in any circumstance. However, it is especially dangerous while pregnant. Women taking the substance are no longer just affecting themselves, but their child too. This makes it all the more important to avoid the drug and try to seek treatment.

Pregnant woman thinking about her crack addiction.

The crack baby syndrome occurs when the mother is regularly smoking the substance while pregnant. Smoking cocaine while pregnant can have dire effects on a child. Children born under the influence of the substance are known as crack babies. Crack babies are often born with several issues. The effects of crack on babies mean they sometimes suffer from lower birth weight and many other physical and psychological symptoms.

These Symptoms Include:

  • Developmental issues in mind and organs – reduced oxygen means organs don't develop correctly. This, in turn, creates mental issues and physical problems
  • Body abnormalities – The body develops in ways it shouldn't, creating smaller limbs, organs, etc
  • Lower life expectancy – Often down to the body not developing sufficiently to sustain itself, this is one of the long-term effects of crack
  • Coordination issues – Due to the brain not developing correctly. Children with motor issues will often struggle to be coordinated, learn to walk or talk

Those born with crack baby syndrome also tend to struggle with a susceptibility to the drug themselves. Babies addicted to cocaine often suffer from crack withdrawal in the earliest stages of their life, and even if they can overcome withdrawal, they tend to go back to the drug in later life.

The Risks To Pregnant Women

Crack use during pregnancy is not only dangerous to the child but also to the woman using. As well as all the normal dangers of taking the drug, which are considerable, there are also other dangers related to pregnancy.

According To the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Risks Include:

  • Anemia
  • Being more prone to disease
  • Being more prone to postnatal depression and anxiety – enhanced because of withdrawal
  • Migraines and seizures
  • Spontaneous miscarriage
  • A difficult delivery
  • Premature membrane rupture
  • Premature delivery – This often leads to a crack babies development being impaired

The drug use during pregnancy also enhances a lot of the other effects of the drug. The chemical reactions that take place in the body during pregnancy often do not react well to the substance. That is why it is increasingly important to avoid any form of cocaine while with a child.

Crack Overdose

Due to the unregulated nature of rock cocaine, an overdose can occur the first time a user takes a dose of the drug. Crack overdose occurs when the drug or a mixture of substances act on the body in a way that causes adverse reactions with the potential to lead to death. Because rock cocaine is often used in conjunction with other substances, there are multiple ways it can occur, such as general toxicity from taking too much of the drug or a heart attack from using too many stimulants at once.

Man having a heart attack from a crack overdose.

While some intentionally overdose on cocaine, usually overdoses are unintentional. As such, users should know the causes of taking too much of the drug and overdosing, as this should make it easier for them to avoid such a situation between now and when they enter treatment for their addiction.

Below Are Some Of The Most Common Reasons For Taking Too Much Rock Cocaine and Overdosing:

  1. The user is attempting to experience a more significant or longer-lasting high. Since the high from the substance lasts as little as five minutes, the user may take hit after hit to maintain the feelings, resulting in what is called a crack binge
  2. The user is attempting to avoid the adverse effects of the withdrawal phase known as the crash. During this stage, the user experiences many negative consequences, often manifesting in a depression of both the mind and body. The user may take too much crack cocaine, thinking larger doses will hold off the crash for longer
  3. Rock cocaine is mixed with dangerous substances. The producer generally does this, sometimes to create more of the drug for a lower cost to them and sometimes to produce a different type of high. However, these combinations can be deadly
  4. The user is mixing it with other substances. For example, they may take it in tandem with heroin to feel an extreme stimulant experience, which can then overload the system and lead to circulatory and nervous system failures

Many users believe that once they have been using the drug long enough, they are experts and know how much can cause crack overdose, keeping themselves below that limit. However, because the drug is not produced in controlled environments, there is no way for the user to know the lethal dose.

Crack Overdose Symptoms

The best way to prevent an overdose from occurring is to spot the signs of crack abuse and get them help. However, should the user not get off cocaine before an overdose occurs, the following symptoms indicate immediate medical attention is required.

Crack Overdose Symptoms Are: 

  • Clammy skin
  • Pains or tightness in the chest or upper left arm
  • Feelings of heaviness in the chest
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Extreme hyperactivity
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Tremors
  • Convulsions
  • Unconsciousness

Should any signs of an overdose be observed, emergency medical services should be contacted. Do not attempt to treat an overdose by Googling detox guides. the results will not offer sufficient treatment.

Getting Medical Help For Drug Abuse

The only way to prevent an overdose and these effects or stop them from worsening is to cease using rock cocaine. The effects of crack on the body are severe and even deadly. Ultimately, the high the drug delivers is not worth the lowered quality of life it guarantees. Smoking crack while pregnant adds new dangers to an already volatile situation, and therefore, the situation needs to be managed as effectively as possible.

Doctor telling the patient about crack addiction treatment.

As quitting is the only way to eliminate or curtail the side effects of smoking crack, users should give themselves the best possible chance at success. The way to do this is through professional medical assisted rock cocaine detox and rehabilitation, learning how to make crack cocaine use a thing of the past. These programs are proven to be successful and can help those suffering from the effects of crack use to turn their lives around.

There are numerous treatment centers across the country that offer different treatment types, making it easy for the user to find a program that works for them. In general, crack rehabilitation treatment begins as an inpatient process, keeping the user at the facility through the majority of the first two stages of withdrawal, then switches to outpatient care once the cravings have lessened. Users should seek treatment before it is too late.

 


Page Sources

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Published on: June 26th, 2018

Updated on: January 8th, 2021

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.

Medically Reviewed by

Michael Espelin APRN

8 years of nursing experience in wide variety of behavioral and addition settings that include adult inpatient and outpatient mental health services with substance use disorders, and geriatric long-term care and hospice care.  He has a particular interest in psychopharmacology, nutritional psychiatry, and alternative treatment options involving particular vitamins, dietary supplements, and administering auricular acupuncture.