Crack is the freebase form of Cocaine and is a highly addictive substance. Crack cocaine acts as a local anesthetic (pain reliever) and numbs the part of the mouth or tongue where it is inhaled. Long-term crack cocaine abuse ultimately leads to a crack cocaine addiction in individuals who have developed a tolerance to, and dependence on, the drug.
Effects of Crack Cocaine
Users who smoke crack experience extreme confidence, loss of appetite, euphoria; heightened alertness, insomnia, increased energy; paranoia, psychosis, and a strong craving for more crack cocaine. Crack cocaine releases a large amount of dopamine, a chemical in the brain responsible for euphoria. A crack cocaine high lasts from five to ten minutes, after which the dopamine levels in the brain drastically decrease, leaving the individual low, lethargic and depressed. Chasing a more intense high easily leads to addiction.
Crack Cocaine Withdrawal
While the preliminary effects of a crack cocaine high are short-lived, the withdrawal symptoms can be very long lasting. The psychological and physiological effects of crack cocaine withdrawal can range from temporary anxiety, lethargy and tremors, to more acute depression, psychosis and hallucinations, to years-long health complications such as seizures, respiratory dysfunction and cardiac arrhythmia. Crack cocaine abuse can also severely weaken vital organs such as the heart, lungs and liver. Deaths from crack cocaine overdoses are attributed to sudden cardiac or respiratory arrest.
One of the most difficult withdrawal symptoms however is the phenomenon of craving. The user’s body is so accustomed to operating with the presence of crack cocaine in its system that it literally cannot function without the substance. When crack cocaine is no longer present in the body of the user, the body sends signals to the brain, demanding that the addict use again to regain homeostasis. Strong though the physical cravings for crack cocaine may be, the psychological craving for the drug is enough to cause a user to relapse and remain actively addicted. To the crack cocaine addict, life is not worth living without the drug. To overcome this stage of withdrawal, the user must wait out the body’s desire to resupply the chemicals from crack cocaine. The addict must learn ways to deal with life issues and stress without using crack cocaine.
Other withdrawal symptoms include feelings of loneliness and mourning the loss of the drug, much like experiencing the death of a loved one; agitation, irritability, restlessness; hyperactivity, increased stress hormones that cause the phenomenon known as broken heart syndrome, and chest pains that resemble a heart attack. With this withdrawal symptom the heart enlarges due to stress, also known as cardiomyopathy. Long lasting crack cocaine induced psychosis can include frightening visual and auditory hallucinations.
Overcoming Crack Cocaine Addiction
Recovery from a crack cocaine addiction, and the subsequent withdrawals, can be extremely difficult. Drug addiction treatment centers can help improve the chances of kicking this powerful addiction. Under careful monitoring of withdrawal symptoms and medical support, those addicted to crack cocaine have the potential to regain control of their lives and successfully live drug free.