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Crack, also known as crack cocaine, is derived from powdered cocaine using a simple conversion process. Crack comes in solid chunks or rocks that vary in color from white to pale yellow. In most cases, users heat up and smoke the drug - a process that causes it to make a popping or cracking sound when it is heated, hence the name.
At the moment, crack is the most potent form of cocaine but also the riskiest and most dangerous. It usually appears in varying degrees of purity - ranging from 75 to 100% - all of which tend to be more potent in comparison to regular cocaine.
When users smoke this substance, it reaches their brains faster. In the process, it brings an immediately intense - albeit short lived - high that can last for around quarter of an hour.
Addiction to crack tends to develop rather quickly particularly among users who smoke it. This is why many users become addicted from the first time they try abusing the drug.
Traditionally, cocaine was expensive - which was long considered to be a drug for the rich. Crack - on the other hand - is usually sold at lower prices that some teenagers can also afford it (at first, at least). However, once you become addicted to the substance, the expense will skyrocket in direct proportion to the increasing amount you will need to support your habit.
At its most basic, crack can be considered to be the freebase form of another drug, cocaine. Its popularity in the marketplace is largely due to the appeal it has for users looking for an inexpensive but ultra-potent and fast acting high.
As we mentioned earlier, the name is derived from the sound the drug produces when it is burned. That said, crack is mostly sold in the form of rocks or chunks, which are pink, yellow, or white. The color of the batch you buy will mostly depend on the method that was used to produce the drug as well as the presence of contaminants in it.
On the street, crack is also known by a variety of names designed to fool law enforcement officers. These names include, but are not limited to:
- Topo (Spanish)
- Sugar block
- Snow coke
- Rock star
- Prime time
- Jelly beans
- Ice cube
- Hard rock
- Hard ball
- French fries
- Fat bags
- Electric Kool-Aid
- Devil drug
- Crunch & munch
- Apple jacks
Since crack is such a powerful stimulant, using it can elicit a fast acting euphoric high. The stimulant effects of the drug on your body means that it speeds up the various physical and mental process. As such, it can serve to increase your focus, attention, and energy.
When crack is smoked, it usually results in near-immediate effects since the drug will be absorbed readily by the bloodstream from your lungs. From there, it will quickly travel throughout your brain and body. As a direct result, you will feel the effects rather quickly. These effects also peak quickly before ending after 5 to 10 minutes.
In comparison to non-freebase forms of cocaine, this fast cycle of use will quickly add to the risks of abuse, tolerance, dependence, and addiction.
But exactly why do people abuse this drug? In most cases, crack is abused by people looking to achieve the high it causes. This high is usually accompanied by the following effects:
- A euphoric feeling
- A sense or escaping reality
- An increased sense of self-importance
- An inflated sense of self
- Increased focus
- Intense bursts of energy
However, crack is similar to other drugs in the sense that persistent use will quickly replace these desired effects with a myriad of negative impacts - both on your physical and psychological health and wellbeing.
Signs And Symptoms Of Crack Abuse
In case you are worried that someone you care about is abusing and addicted to crack, you might want to know what you need to look for. To a large extent, this drug comes in the shape of irregular white chunks that might be of varying sizes - which is why it is sometimes referred to as a rock on the street. Even though the drug does not carry any distinctive smell, the way it is taken - smoking in particular - tends to produce a smoke or burning odor.
That said, crack is quite dangerous. As such, it is highly unlikely that anyone can abuse it in a recreational or casual way for a significant duration before its effects start being seen by those around them. This is especially on account of its powerful and addictive nature.
Therefore, if someone has been abusing the drug, they - as well as those who love them - need to take it seriously. More specifically, crack tends to be addictive because of the intense high it causes. When someone smokes it, they may experience extreme elation and euphoria.
During the high, everything they experience will seem to be more intense than it actually is. Some users will also become overly alert or energetic after taking this substance - even for the first time.
On the other hand, crack will activate the reward centers of the brain. By so doing, it may reinforce repeated and continued use and abuse of the substance. However, when this high starts wearing off, the user will usually feel an increasing urge to smoke more - because coming off it causes irritability, paranoia, restlessness, and agitation.
Consider the following signs and symptoms of crack use and abuse:
a) Physical Symptoms
As a parent or loved one of someone who could potentially be addicted to this drug, it might be useful for you to know the warning signs of such an addiction. Therefore, you should consider watching out for the following signs and symptoms of crack use, abuse, tolerance, dependence, and addiction:
- Dilated pupils
- Fasciculation or the twitching of the muscles
- Increased heart rate
- Suppressed appetite
- Weight loss
b) Behavioral and Psychological Symptoms
- Drug cravings, which are characterized by obsessive and persistent thoughts about using crack
- Inability to stop abusing it in spite of a strong desire to quit
- Psychotic symptoms, including paranoia and hallucinations
- Smoking the drug while some important aspects of life - including finances, work, and relationships - continue suffering
- Tendency to give an inexplicably high priority on getting and abusing it
- Volatile mood swings
Crack Tolerance And Withdrawal
The best way to tell that someone is addicted to crack is by observing their behavior. To this end, if they tend to engage in problematic, dangerous, and/or risky behaviors just so that they can continue obtaining and abusing the drug, it is highly likely that an addiction is present.
Among the key signs and symptoms of persistent crack use is that the user will build tolerance to the drug. This is because their bodies will be adapting to the drug being in their system.
On the other hand, tolerance will require that you take greater amounts of crack to achieve the desired effects. As a direct result, if small amounts of it do not satisfy you, you will feel an intense need to take larger amounts of it. At this point, you could be said to have become tolerant to the drug.
Once tolerance manifests itself - and you start abusing increasing amounts of crack to deal with it - your addiction will mostly follow. Once addiction sets it, you may start engaging in problematic, dangerous, and/or risky behavior so that you can continue obtaining and abusing the drug. This means that you might engage in risky sexual behavior, illegal activities, and/or violence as a result of your crack abuse.
Once you are deep in your addiction, it is also highly likely that you will be less logical and rational than you normally would. At this point, you may have increasing challenges to maintain relationships as a result of the effects of crack in your life.
After tolerance developments, you might experience withdrawal any time you go for a couple of hours without the drug. In fact, withdrawal is another one of the signs and symptoms of crack use, abuse, tolerance, dependence, and addiction.
Withdrawal mostly manifests itself in the form of unwanted symptoms whenever your body and brain lack the substance for a period. Some of these crack withdrawal symptoms include:
- Increasing stress
- Intense cravings for the drug
Risks And Dangers Of Crack Abuse
In most cases, when you abuse crack and become addicted to it, you may start placing yourself (as well as others around you) in harm's way. This is because of the dangerous and compulsive drug seeking actions you are likely to start engaging in.
Some of these risky and dangerous behaviors include:
a) Breaking the Law
Most people who are addicted to crack tend to break the law to support their growing habit. Whereas some are likely to steal, others commit robberies. Some users might also start engaging in illegal activities like prostitution to get the money to buy the drug.
Additionally, you should keep in mind that the law has banned crack possession. This means that you might be apprehended with the drug and have trouble with the law even if you did not engage in other illegal acts.
b) Risky Situations
In some instances, trying to obtain the drug might get you in risky situations. Crack users, in particular, tend to find themselves in dangerous neighborhoods or streets just because they need another hit. Others will agree to engage in risky activities so that they can get more of the drug.
This is because addiction to crack is such a powerful motivator that most people end up being ensnared and enslaved by it - meaning that they may be willing to do just about anything just so that they can obtain the drug.
On the other hand, crack may increase your tendencies towards violence. This is because it intensifies all emotional experiences you may feel when you are high on it - including rage and anger.
When you take crack, therefore, the risk of abusing your spouse, significant other, child, or anyone else close to you will be heightened. The drug might also cause you to harm yourself - either intentionally or unintentionally.
The more you sink down the rabbit hole of crack addiction, the easier it will be for you to start forgetting and/or neglecting any other responsibilities you have. Your interest in obtaining and abusing the drug means that you may stop caring about paying your bills, going to work, maintaining active and productive relationships with your loved ones, or even taking care of your children and family.
e) Risky Sexual Behavior
Last but not least, crack use may intensify your sexual desire and remove any inhibitions you would normally have. While undergoing its effects, therefore, the likelihood of having sex without protection and with multiple partners will be heightened.
Apart from these risky behaviors that you may engage in any time you are influenced by the drug, it is also highly likely that you may start choosing to trade sexual favors to get the drug.
The effects of smoking crack tend to be immediate, and may include:
- Bizarre, erratic, and violent behavior
- Contracted blood vessels
- Dilated pupils
- Disturbed sleep patterns
- Fast breathing rate
- Paranoia and/or hallucinations
- Hyper excitability
- Hyper stimulation
- Increase blood pressure
- Increased body temperature
- Increased heart rate
- Intense drug craving
- Intense euphoria
- Loss of appetite
- Overdose, accompanied by seizures, convulsions, and ultimately sudden death
In the long term, the drug may also be accompanied by the following effects:
- Abscesses and infectious diseases if taken intravenously
- Confused exhaustion
- Damage to the kidneys, liver, and lungs
- Heart attacks
- High blood pressure
- Mood disturbances
- Permanent damage to the blood vessels in your brain and ears
- Respiratory failure
- Severe chest pains
- Severe depression
- Severe tooth decay
- Sexual problems
- Tactile and auditory and tactile hallucinations
- Weight loss
Crack Abuse Treatment
In most cases, treatment for crack use, abuse, and addiction will begin with detox to control the withdrawal symptoms. As far as possible, you should only undergo this form of treatment at an accredited detox center so that you can be monitored for any severe physical withdrawal symptoms - especially if you experience post-acute withdrawal symptoms.
After detox, you should transition to an inpatient or a residential rehabilitation center - or any other form of addiction treatment. Here, your treatment will focus on all the remaining psychosocial aspects of your crack addiction. You may also receive individual, group, and family therapy as well as attend support groups - like NA (Narcotics Anonymous). Once you are fully recovered, you may check out and enroll in an aftercare program - such as outpatient drug treatment.
As far as possible, you might want to get started on treatment process as soon as possible. This is the only way you may be able to escape some of the more adverse dangers of crack addiction - including organ damage, heart attack, seizures, overdose, and sudden death.
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