Crack cocaine and cocaine powder have similar effects. According to drugpolicy.org, these two are pharmacologically identical, meaning they are chemically nearly identical. Therefore, they have the same impact. Their only difference is the way we take them. A person uses powder cocaine by either swallowing, injecting, or snorting it; on the other hand, a user consumes crack cocaine by smoking it. It crackles while being heated; that is why it is called “crack.”
Unlike other substance addictions, it is much harder to conceal crack addiction. Someone who uses drugs usually needs to excuse himself every 15-20 minutes to have another session. This is because smoking cocaine can only give 5-10 minutes of “high.” In between sessions, the person becomes less likely to engage in social activities as he is preoccupied with the thought of having another smoke.
According to MedlinePlus, cocaine speeds up the body. It can make people feel very positive, happy, and energetic for a while. But after the “high” comes the “crash.” The “high” takes its toll on the body. After the high, people feel fatigued and are down for days. It can also cause them to feel nervous, mad, or paranoid. Being under a lot of stress due to the “crash” triggers the vicious cycle of crack cravings, and crashing afterward comes at you again.
But, of course, we want to know more specific effects of crack cocaine. Let’s list them one by one.
Physical Effects of Crack Cocaine Consumption
- Appetite decreases
- Weight loss
- Heart problems (e.g., palpitations, arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeats)
- Kidney damage
- Skin flushing
- Breathing problem
- Increased incidence of stroke
Inhaling crack cocaine can cause problems with the nose, such as having a runny nose or blood from the nose.
How does addiction hijack the brain?
Right after the consumption of crack, crack cocaine tells your brain to be active since it is a strong stimulant. It also makes your brain release the “feel-good” chemical, dopamine. It may give you the following pleasurable effects:
- Confidence or extreme confidence
- Feeling that your thoughts are very clear
- Increased energy
- Wanting to be very talkative and sociable
However, it also has its adverse mental effects like:
- Memory loss
- Problems thinking clearly
- Aggressive or violent behaviors
- Mood swings
According to studies, using cocaine is also related to being prone to sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV and syphilis because of risky behaviors such as engaging in unsafe sex. Moreover, 60 to 90 percent of cocaine abusers also abuse alcohol. If someone uses cocaine with alcohol, you are more likely to feel more intense pleasurable sensations. However, you may also develop the combined toxicities of cocaine and cocaethylene. Cocaethylene is a chemical compound that forms in the liver when alcohol and cocaine are consumed. High levels of this compound have been found in the blood of persons who died because of an overdose.
Why do we get addicted?
We have walked through why crack cocaine works. The reward center of the brain is wired to reinforce behaviors that promote survival. Repeated behaviors are psychologically reinforced, but also socially. Our genetic factors, social circles, and socioeconomic positions can incline us towards being more at risk for it.
Warning signs and when to seek help
There are different reasons people use addictive substances like crack cocaine. It could be to forget past trauma momentarily, escape present reality, or suspend anxiety for the uncertain future. While using substances is people’s attempt at coping in life, it could lead to substance addiction, worsening health, crumbling relationships, and even death. Any point is a good time to seek help. But if you want more concrete warning signs, let’s talk about addiction and intoxication.
How do you know you are addicted?
Addiction to crack, powder cocaine, or any substance means the craving for the substance is more than what you can control. It is the same for most addictions. You know you have a nicotine addiction, for example, when you’re craving the next cigarette, having overwhelming urges to smoke just to feel satisfaction. What qualifies as addiction often involves body and mind looking for it every moment. One thinks and feels they need to use it to get through daily living. This has big implications, personal and relational, as the addiction demands resources such as time, money, and presence of mind. Addiction can also lead to tolerance. This means a body will not respond to the same amount of crack the same way it did at first. People have to use more and more to get to the same level of high. This can easily lead to intoxication.
The Four Common Characteristics of Addiction
Compulsion, loss of control, negative consequences, and denial are common features of addiction. To further complicate behavioral changes, they are consistent with drug tolerance, the hallmark of addiction. As we get used to new behaviors, which become habits, then lifestyles, the very chemistry of life begins to unravel. The four common characteristics of addiction exist on different levels in the four C’s of addiction:
- Compulsion. Impulsivity can nurse a habit into full-fledged habits that manifest in overwhelming urges to partake in said habit or activity. This is often accompanied by minimalizing, blame-shifting, and flat-out denial of a problem because it is uncomfortable to feel out-of-control.
- Craving. Craving is like a compulsion “getting its sea legs.” Habits are largely psychological, but a physical response feels like a natural hunger or fatigue response. When someone gives in to cravings, they can reinforce the “high” of the substance with the satisfaction we usually feel when we get adequate sleep or have a good meal.
- Consequences. Consequences become irrelevant. There are supposedly good consequences, such as a high or relief when negative consequences are dodged. However, the negative consequences that should outweigh them become invisible in comparison.
- Control. A complete loss of control over how or when to fuel addiction begins to interrupt and interfere with life apart from things having to do with drug use.
Although tolerance is a factor in using more and more crack, a fatal intoxication can happen to anyone who uses drugs—may he or she be a first-time user or a regular user. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, people who are intoxicated with cocaine may have the following symptoms:
Altered mental status – This refers to a general change in brain function. It may refer to memory loss, confusion, loss of alertness, inability to recognize themselves, where they are, what time of the day it is, poor regulation of emotions, or disruption in perception.
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Neurological deficits
- Vascular spasm and loss of distal pulses
- Extreme diaphoresis or excessive or abnormal sweating
- Pruritus -This refers to the feeling of itch in the skin that urges you to scratch
- Blurring of vision
- Corneal ulceration, vision loss
- Diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain
- Excited delirium – This means mental and physical agitation. It may also include attempts of aggression, unexpected strength, and very high body temperature
If you or someone you know have one of these symptoms, it is best to go to the ER or call 911 quickly. Crack cocaine intoxication poses a risk for stroke or heart attack, which can lead to death.
Let’s say that you or someone you love would like to quit crack because of its adverse effects on the body and the mind. What should you expect? Is it safe to do so on your own? According to a study of 150 participants, no one needed medical assistance as they quit. However, you might need professional help for the common cocaine withdrawal symptoms like transient craving, hyperactivity, slight tremors, insomnia, and apprehension.
The same study also found out it was uncommon for cocaine users to be using cocaine alone. Users usually intake alcohol and other substances with it. Over 50 percent of the participants had both cocaine and alcohol dependence. It is also possible that substance use and dependence come from or fester into additional mental health issues like depression. If you have these co-occurring disorders, it can be more challenging. Even quitting cocaine may feel hopeless and frustrating even when you want to quit for your health’s sake.
To help you with that, Roots through Recovery can guide you step by step in creating your recovery journey. We provide cost-effective and proven treatments to address issues that might drive you to use and/or abuse substances like crack cocaine. You may visit this page for trauma-focused treatment and resources on drug addiction and alcoholism: Alcohol and Substance Abuse Disorders. You may also contact us at 562-275-3498. We are here to help.
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