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Crack: The Most Addictive Form of Cocaine and How It Affects the Brain

Crack: What You Need to Know About This Deadly Drug

Crack is a form of cocaine that is smoked and produces a powerful and short-lived high. It is also one of the most addictive and harmful drugs in the world. In this article, we will explore what crack is, how it affects the body and mind, what causes crack addiction, and how to treat it.



What is Crack?

Crack is a freebase form of cocaine that is made by processing cocaine powder with water and either ammonia or baking soda. The resulting solid crystals, also known as rocks, are heated in a glass pipe and inhaled. Crack can also be mixed with tobacco or marijuana and smoked in a cigarette or joint.

Crack has various street names, such as rock, base, hard, freebase, or candy. It was first developed in the early 1980s as a cheaper and more potent alternative to cocaine powder. It quickly became popular among drug users, especially in low-income urban areas. The rapid increase in crack use and availability led to a social crisis known as the "crack epidemic" in the mid-1980s to early 1990s. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), about 1.3 million people aged 12 or older reported using cocaine or crack in the past month in 2019.

What are the Effects of Crack?

Crack has both short-term and long-term effects on the body and mind. Smoking crack delivers a large dose of cocaine to the brain very quickly, creating an intense rush of euphoria, confidence, alertness, and energy. However, this high only lasts for about 5 to 10 minutes, followed by a crash that can cause depression, anxiety, irritability, and cravings for more crack.

Some of the short-term effects of crack include:

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  • Dilated pupils

  • Increased heart rate

  • Increased blood pressure

  • Increased body temperature

  • Decreased appetite

  • Nausea

  • Tremors

  • Muscle twitches

  • Paranoia

  • Psychosis

  • Aggression

  • Violence

Some of the long-term effects of crack include:

  • Lung damage

  • Asthma

  • Coughing

  • Bleeding

  • Infections

  • Chest pain

  • Heart problems

  • Stroke

  • Seizures

  • Kidney failure

  • Liver damage

  • HIV/AIDS or hepatitis from sharing pipes or needles

  • Tooth decay

  • Skin infections or abscesses from picking at imaginary bugs

  • Mood disorders

  • Cognitive impairment

  • Memory loss

  • Hallucinations

  • Delusions

  • Addiction

  • Overdose

  • Death

[assistant](#table) Short-Term Effects Long-Term Effects Dilated pupils Lung damage Increased heart rate Asthma Increased blood pressure Coughing Increased body temperature Bleeding Decreased appetite Infections Nausea Chest pain Tremors Heart What Causes Crack Addiction?

Crack addiction is a chronic and relapsing brain disorder that is characterized by compulsive and uncontrollable crack use despite negative consequences. Crack addiction is caused by a combination of biological, psychological, and environmental factors that influence how crack affects the brain's reward system.

The brain's reward system is a network of neurons that release dopamine, a neurotransmitter that regulates pleasure, motivation, and learning. When a person smokes crack, the drug blocks the reabsorption of dopamine, causing a buildup of the chemical in the synapses. This creates a surge of euphoria and reinforces the behavior of crack use. However, repeated crack use also alters the brain's reward system, making it less sensitive to natural rewards and more dependent on crack to feel good. This leads to tolerance, withdrawal, and addiction.

Some of the factors that contribute to crack addiction include:

  • Genetics: Some people may have a genetic predisposition to addiction or mental illness that makes them more vulnerable to crack use and abuse.

  • Personality: Some people may have personality traits such as impulsivity, sensation-seeking, low self-esteem, or poor coping skills that make them more likely to use crack as a way of escaping or self-medicating.

  • Stress: Some people may experience high levels of stress due to trauma, abuse, violence, poverty, or other life challenges that make them more susceptible to crack use and addiction.

  • Peer pressure: Some people may be influenced by their friends, family, or social environment to try or continue using crack.

  • Availability: Some people may have easy access to crack due to its low cost and widespread distribution.

Some of the signs and symptoms of crack addiction include:

  • Craving and seeking crack despite negative consequences

  • Using more or longer than intended

  • Failing to cut down or quit

  • Neglecting other responsibilities or interests

  • Isolating from others or lying about drug use

  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not using

  • Developing tolerance and needing more to get high

  • Suffering from physical or mental health problems

  • Engaging in risky or illegal behaviors to obtain or use crack

  • Having problems with relationships, work, school, or finances

How to Treat Crack Addiction?

Treating crack addiction is not easy, but it is possible. Quitting crack can have many benefits for the individual's health, well-being, and quality of life. However, quitting crack also involves many challenges, such as overcoming withdrawal symptoms, cravings, triggers, and relapse risks. Therefore, it is important to seek professional help and support for recovery.

The first step in treating crack addiction is detoxification, which is the process of clearing the drug from the body. Detoxification can be done in an inpatient or outpatient setting, depending on the severity of the addiction and the availability of resources. Detoxification can help reduce the physical dependence on crack and prepare the individual for further treatment. However, detoxification alone is not enough to treat crack addiction. It must be followed by rehabilitation, which is the process of addressing the underlying causes and consequences of the addiction.

Rehabilitation can be done in various settings and formats, such as residential or outpatient programs, individual or group counseling, 12-step or alternative support groups, etc. The goal of rehabilitation is to help the individual develop coping skills, relapse prevention strategies, self-esteem, and motivation for change. Rehabilitation can also help the individual deal with any co-occurring mental health issues or medical conditions that may have contributed to or resulted from crack use.

Some of the evidence-based therapies and medications that can help treat crack addiction include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is a type of psychotherapy that helps the individual identify and challenge negative thoughts and beliefs that fuel crack use and addiction. CBT also helps the individual learn new ways of thinking and behaving that support recovery.

  • Contingency management (CM): CM is a type of behavioral therapy that uses positive reinforcement to encourage abstinence from crack. CM involves providing vouchers or prizes for each drug-free urine test or other verifiable evidence of sobriety.

  • Motivational interviewing (MI): MI is a type of counseling that helps the individual explore and resolve ambivalence about quitting crack. MI uses open-ended questions, reflective listening, affirmations, and summaries to elicit and strengthen the individual's own reasons for change.

Motivational incentives for enhancers of drug abuse recovery (MIEDAR): MIEDAR is a type of pharmacotherapy that combines motivational incentives with a me


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