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Crack Abuse: Dangers of Smoking, Snorting, and Shooting

Crack Abuse

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Crack cocaine is one of the most annihilating substances out there – it’s a freebase form of cocaine but a lot cheaper, and a more potent alternative to this ‘rich man’s drug’. The fast onset of effects of crack is the main reason drug has gained its popularity in the 80’s. It is yet unclear who invented crack and how it came about, but one thing is for sure: today, the drug is readily available on the streets and sold at prices so low even teens can get hold of it.
However, once the person starts to use for a longer period, the habit can become quite expensive and difficult to sustain. Not least because the substance withdrawal symptoms make it extremely hard for users to give up on the drug. So how is crack used? This article will aim to answer this question and explain the dangers related to each method.

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Table of Contents

Ways to Take Crack

Crack pipe on white background.Crack is a potent central nervous system (CNS) stimulant which affects the user’s dopamine receptors, blocking the neurotransmitter’s reabsorption and so increasing its levels in the synaptic space. This leads to a euphoric, short-lasting rush and a sudden crash that follows.

It is essential to mention, that recreational use of crack is considered an abuse and can be legally prosecuted.

Smoking The Drug

Smoking is one of the most popular ways of getting the drug’s high effects among addicts. Those individuals commonly do it through a crack pipe or some other form of tubing. The drug comes in a solid form sometimes referred to as ‘rock’ before being crushed into smaller bits. It is then lit and inhaled through the apparatus to enter the body. There are other ways to smoke crack, but the simplest and quickest method is by using the drug’s paraphernalia which can be built from objects around a typical household.

Do Users Inject It?

There are multiple ways to take crack. Addicts mostly use the drug by smoking, snorting, or rubbing the powder onto their gums (oral consumption). Can one shoot up crack? Because the chemical is not water soluble, dissolving it and using it intravenously isn’t an ordinary method. However, cocaine HCL, a drug’s salt form, is water soluble and commonly injected for heightened intensity of effects.

Snorting It

Another popular method of using is by snorting the crushed powder form of the drug. Can one sniff crack? People who snort the drug inhale the cocaine powder through their nostrils, where it reaches the bloodstream via the nasal tissue.

This method of usage is particularly dangerous as its effects last a lot shorter and thus prompt the user to search for their new high as soon as they crash, increasing the chances of addiction.

Dangers of Smoking, Snorting and Injecting Crack

close up of spoon and syringe with crack cocaine drug doseAs explained above, there are many ways to take crack. However, the side effects of its usage and the way in which the drug affects the body stay the same, irrespective of the method. So whatever way of using he or she chooses, the person will experience some common effects on the body. His or her heartbeat will increase, the body temperature will rise, and there will be a massive shift in appetite and sleep patterns.

Dangers of Injecting

Shooting crack intravenously comes with the same risks we’ve already mentioned and a few added harmful outcomes. Users who inject may experience track marks, crumbled veins, and infections arising from the shared usage of needles. How drug dealers make crack? Manufacturing cocaine is an incredibly complicated and completely illegal process which is exactly the reason why drug suppliers cut the substance with other stimulants, such as caffeine, speed, and other fillers.
The severity of side effects of injecting applies to other methods of administration, too and depends on:

  • How much is used
  • How pure the drug is
  • A person’s mindset

Also, shooting crack has the quickest onset of effects of all methods, but also the shortest-lasting high. This fast turnaround is partly responsible for the rapid development of dependence on the drug.

Quitting the drug after continuous intravenous use can be extremely difficult and produce the following withdrawal symptoms:

  • Slowed-down brain activity
  • Nightmares and trouble sleeping
  • Changes in appetite
  • Strong cravings
  • Depression and a lack of pleasurable activities
  • Suicidal thoughts

Dangers of Snorting Crack

Snorting the drug has a slower onset of effects than smoking and injecting because the substance travels to the stomach, where an oral dose goes, too. Also, by snorting, a lower amount of the substance actually reaches the bloodstream because of a lower bioavailability. This means the liver reduces the drug’s absorption through its ‘first pass’ effect. And how long does crack stay in the system? Not for long – its traces can be found in saliva for some 24 hours after consumption. Nevertheless, this method of use makes it easier for users to overdose on the drug by absorbing a toxic amount of the substance.
Overdosing on this drug can cause:

  • Seizures
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke

If taken in a too large of an amount, these conditions could lead to permanent health damage or even sudden death.

Dangers of Smoking Crack

As with other methods, smoking has very potent and short-lived effects on the individual. The intense high lasts for only 15 minutes, and abusers can get hooked on after their first time of trying crack this way. This is because the onset of effects after inhalation is not only very rapid and short-lived but is followed by a crash that can leave the user craving more.

Some of the adverse side effects of inhalation:

  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Hallucinations
  • Loss of appetite
  • Elevated body temperature and blood pressure
  • Paranoia
  • Insomnia

There Is No Safe Way To Use Crack

There is no best way to do crack as the habit is extremely unsafe, even if only done once. Regardless of the route of administration, the user puts him or herself under the risk of absorbing a toxic amount of cocaine and overdosing. Moreover, the user risks catching infections such as AIDS and hepatitis, from sharing needles or engaging in unprotected sex when under the influence of the drug.

Regular use, even if low amounts, leads to strong dependency on the substance which is difficult to break free from. Crack addiction is one of the most severe and destructive dependencies to get rid of. Snorting causes loss the sense of smell, damaged nasal pathways, constantly irritation and anxiety, and can lead to a whole spectrum of related health problems. In the most severe cases, the user may take a lethal dose to overcome their high tolerance, a move that can prove to be lethal. So what’s the best way to do crack? Not taking it at all.

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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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