CRACK ADDICTIONCrack gained national fame during the 1980s when its abuse reached epidemic proportions. Although media attention has since shifted to other substances, an estimated 432,000 Americans still abused crack in 2016. Contrary to many popular depictions, crack is used by people of all genders, races, ages, and socio-economic backgrounds. Crack can be found nearly anywhere in the United States. Crack addiction can have dire effects and it is essential to seek treatment as quickly as possible.
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WHAT IS CRACK?Crack is made by chemically altering cocaine into a “base,” or smokeable form. This process is simple and is often done by users and street dealers. Crack is a purer form of cocaine, however, dealers often “cut” crack with substances similar in appearance to increase their profits. This poses a danger to users, as it is nearly impossible to know what substances have been added. Because smoking crack cocaine allows the drug to be absorbed faster, it creates a fast and intense high. This high lasts less than ten minutes, and leaves users with an intense comedown. This short duration results in extreme cravings. Users will often smoke more and more to avoid the effects wearing off. In effect, users develop tolerances and dependencies quicker than with most substances.
HOW DOES CRACK IMPACT THE BRAIN?Crack creates a fast-acting euphoria that increases alertness and reduces inhibitions. When crack is smoked, a chemical called dopamine is released in the brain. Dopamine is responsible for reward and pleasure, and its release creates crack’s characteristic rush. Dopamine is naturally released when we perform pleasurable activities, such as spending time with friends or eating. Releasing Dopamine is one of the ways our brains tell us that behavior is good and should be repeated. In effect, when the chemical is artificially released during crack use, it reinforces the behavior, tricking users into thinking that crack use is a positive behavior. Over time, those addicted to crack no longer get the same pleasure from natural dopamine levels. Things that once made them feel joy no longer have the same impact because they do not release as much dopamine as the drug. You may notice that things that once made you feel good no longer have the same effect because your brain needs the rush of drugs.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF CRACK ADDICTION?Crack use is accompanied by specific signs. If you suspect that someone close to you is abusing or addicted to crack, there are certain areas to focus on. First, look for behavioral changes. People under the influence of crack may act manic and unpredictable. They often talk too quickly, seem inappropriately upbeat, and are easily distracted. Physical signs, such as dilated pupils, twitching, and shortness of breath are also characteristic of crack addiction. Signs of abuse or addiction may include:
- Noticeable mood swings
- Loss of interest in past hobbies
- Intense depression
- Aggressive behavior
- Blisters and burns on the fingers or lips
- Financial issues
- Legal difficulties
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Crack pipes are easy to spot. These glass tubes are often stuffed with steel wool and will often be cracked and covered in burn marks.
Crack addiction is often accompanied by the inability to manage daily tasks. Neglecting chores declining hygiene are often red flags.
Crack addiction is often accompanied by intense highs and lows. Periods of euphoria followed by depression are warning signs.
When under the influence, crack users rarely sleep. These periods are often followed by a crash that consists of days of sleep.