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Effects of Crack Cocaine

Crack, or freebase cocaine, is a form of cocaine that has been processed to form a solid “rock” that can be smoked. Vapors are produced when the crack is heated and are then absorbed into the blood-stream through the lungs. The moniker “crack” is used because of the crackling sound the rock emits as it is heated. Cocaine is a strong central nervous system stimulant that increases levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine in brain circuits regulating pleasure and movement. Crack cocaine prohibits the dopamine from being recycled back between the neurons and thus creates extreme amounts of dopamine to linger, flooding the brain and causing the euphoric high that is associated with crack. Smoking crack cocaine delivers the drug rapidly to the bloodstream and brain via the lungs, producing a quicker and stronger but shorter-lasting high than snorting.

Crack can cause long-term changes in the brain’s reward system as well as other brain systems, which may lead to addiction when used repeatedly. Repeated use also causes the body to generate a tolerance to cocaine. Crack abusers across the board report that they try, but fail, to achieve as much pleasure as they did from their first time using. And so it follows that users will increase their dosage and regularity in an attempt to intensify and prolong their high. This also escalates the risk of negative psychological and physiological effects.

Crack cocaine in the body: (physiological effects)

dilated pupils

The effects of crack are felt soon after smoking it.

  • constricts blood vessels
  • dilates pupils
  • increases body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure
  • causes headaches
  • gastrointestinal complications (abdominal pain and nausea)
  • decrease appetite (malnourished)
  • heart attack/stroke
  • sudden death

*Studies show that, people who use cocaine also put themselves at risk for contracting HIV, even if they do not share needles or other drug paraphernalia. This is because cocaine intoxication impairs judgment and can lead to risky sexual behavior.

Excessive crack cocaine use tends to leave the abuser anxious, restless, and irritable. Crack abusers may experience severe paranoia (temporary full-blown paranoid psychosis). In this state, they experience hallucinations and lose touch with reality. Cocaine, in any form, is more dangerous when combined with other drugs or alcohol. The combination of cocaine and heroin, aka “speedball”, carries a particularly high risk of fatal overdose. Cocaine-related deaths are often a result of cardiac arrest followed by a cessation of breathing. A recent study found drug users are about six times more likely to suffer a drug-related stroke that may result in death or lifetime disability.

Crack cocaine abusers suffer from a variety of health problems. If crack cocaine addiction has infected your life or the life of a loved one, please seek help. There are treatment centers across the U.S. who specialize is addiction recovery.

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