Crack Cocaine Addiction
Often depicted in the media as a recreational drug used by individuals living chaotic lifestyles filled with poverty and crime, crack cocaine is a concentrated form of cocaine that is thought to be even more addictive than its predecessor.
Crack cocaine is also known as crack, rock, cloud and boulder. The name ‘crack’ is derived from the sound that the substance produces when heated.
Commonly sold in ‘rock’ form, crack cocaine usually appears as small off-white nuggets that are heated and smoked by users. As the production of crack cocaine is unregulated, other substances may be added in order to create the illusion of bulk – however, some of these substances may be toxic and unfit for human consumption.
The epidemic of crack cocaine has quickly spread across the globe and is particularly prominent in the United States and the United Kingdom, with thousands of people seeking treatment for crack cocaine addiction every year.
What is the difference between cocaine and crack cocaine?
It can be easy to confuse cocaine with crack cocaine, but the two substances are remarkably different in nature.
While cocaine is made from hydrochloride salt and is most commonly ingested in a powder form, crack cocaine is the result of boiling the aforementioned hydrochloride salt in water along with baking soda. This forms a solid substance which is then broken into rocks and smoked through a small pipe.
This process creates an extremely concentrated form of cocaine, making crack cocaine a highly addictive substance. It is also cheaper and often easier to obtain, appealing to a wider range of individuals as a recreational drug.
Is crack cocaine addictive?
Crack cocaine is notoriously addictive, providing an almost instant rush of euphoria and pleasure upon ingestion. However, the body can quickly build up a tolerance to this substance, meaning that greater amounts of crack cocaine are needed in order to achieve the same pleasurable sensations.
While crack cocaine is generally linked to poverty, crime and reckless lifestyles, anyone can develop an addiction to this substance. In fact, one study found that just one hit of crack cocaine can cause changes to the brain and the way it processes dopamine. 
It is thought that the instant and extremely intense effects of crack cocaine are part of what makes this substance so addictive. It’s also a cheaper alternative to cocaine, potentially attracting many cocaine addicts who can no longer afford to support their addiction.
The UK is the primary hotspot for crack cocaine use in Europe, with 65% of all patients undergoing treatment for crack cocaine addiction located in the UK. 
What does crack cocaine do to your brain?
There are a number of reasons for the highly addictive nature of crack cocaine, most notably the intense effects that this substance has on the brain. It also needs to be ingested more frequently as the pleasurable sensations may only last for up to ten minutes at a time.
Crack cocaine is most commonly smoked through a pipe, causing an instant high as it rapidly enters the bloodstream and reaches the brain.
This triggers the brain to release a large amount of dopamine which the substance actively prevents from breaking down, resulting in an intense high that cannot be replicated with natural activities. The ingestion of crack cocaine also activates the area of the brain responsible for memory imprinting, which can cause frequent desire for the substance after the initial exposure. 
Combined, these two effects have resulted in one of the most addictive illegal substances in the world.
Crack cocaine sentencing – what are the laws?
In the UK, crack cocaine is classified as a Class A drug. It is illegal to use, carry, produce, share or sell this substance under any circumstances.
The penalties for breaking this law can vary depending on the amount of crack cocaine recovered and your criminal history. If you are under 18 years of age, police have the right to inform your parent or legal guardian that you have been found to be in possession of crack cocaine. You can still be charged even if the substance does not belong to you.
If you are found guilty of the possession of crack cocaine you can be sentenced to a maximum of seven years in prison and/or an unlimited fine.
The penalties are more severe for those who are found guilty of supplying and producing this substance, with the possibility of life in prison and/or an unlimited fine. 
What are the signs and symptoms of a crack cocaine addiction?
It can be difficult to mask the effects of crack cocaine and it is often clear to others that an individual has been ingesting this substance. An addiction maybe even more noticeable, particularly as the individual may need to ingest the drug frequently due to its fast-acting effects.
There is no way to know exactly how crack cocaine will affect someone physically or mentally, as the effects vary from person to person. However, there are a number of warning signs that may be present when an individual is addicted to this substance.
The clearest sign of addiction is when the individual continues to seek out and use crack cocaine, despite experiencing negative consequences directly related to their drug use. They may also have tried to reduce or completely stop their intake but have been unable to do so.
Physical symptoms of a crack cocaine addiction include:
- A persistent desire to smoke or snort the substance, often every 15 minutes
- Difficulty holding a conversation
- Acting in an aggressive manner
- Burns on fingers
- Cracked, dry lips
- Feeling restless, having difficulty sitting still
- Nausea and vomiting
- Uncontrollable shaking
- Manic behaviour – speaking quickly, eating frantically, appearing euphoric
Psychological symptoms of a crack cocaine addiction include:
- Appearing overconfident
- Feeling paranoid
- Mood swings
- Hallucinations, particularly the sensation of ‘bugs’ under the skin
- Trouble falling asleep and staying asleep
If you have spotted these signs in yourself or someone you care about, reach out to our experienced team at OK Rehab today. Many of us have been in your situation and will be able to guide you and your loved one towards an effective treatment programme, providing support and advice throughout the process of recovery.
What are the long-term effects of a crack cocaine addiction?
Crack cocaine is a powerfully addictive substance that can lead to a lifetime of dependency. While the short-term effects of this drug are often dangerous and unpredictable, extended use is likely to have an extremely detrimental impact on an individual’s life and general wellbeing.
If left untreated, a long-term crack cocaine addiction may result in serious illness or even death. Therefore it is recommended that anyone dealing with a dependency on this substance should seek medical guidance in order to avoid experiencing some of the more severe side effects that come with long-term use.
Long-term risks of a crack cocaine addiction include:
- Legal issues, including prison time
- Financial issues – little to no savings, debt to banks and loan companies
- Strained relationships with friends, family and colleagues
- Loss of employment
- Respiratory problems
- Severe paranoia
- Damaged blood vessels
- Kidney failure
- Damage to heart, lungs and kidneys
While any one of the above conditions could be devastating for both the individual and their loved ones, this does not have to be an inevitable consequence. It is possible to recover from a crack cocaine addiction, no matter how severe the current situation may seem.
Recovery and withdrawal from crack cocaine
The recovery process for a crack cocaine addiction is noticeably different to that of other substances. Often the individual is advised to gradually taper off the dosage until they are no longer ingesting the drug, whereas with crack cocaine it is recommended to abruptly cease the use of this substance under medical care.
Note: It is not advised to abruptly stop using crack cocaine without professional medical supervision.
Once an individual has stopped using crack cocaine, withdrawal symptoms will usually begin to appear fairly quickly. The severity of these withdrawal symptoms may vary depending on the strength, dosage and frequency of the crack cocaine use.
Physical symptoms of crack cocaine withdrawal include:
- Exhaustion and fatigue
- Uncontrollable shaking
- Nausea and vomiting
- Painful, aching muscles and joints
- Excessive perspiration
Psychological symptoms of crack cocaine withdrawal include:
- Intense cravings for crack cocaine
- Feeling depressed and anxious
- Increased feelings of hunger
- Disturbed sleep, including nightmares
- Feelings of extreme paranoia
A doctor may be able to prescribe certain medications that can ease many of the above withdrawal symptoms, such as Clonidine to reduce high blood pressure and Trazodone for insomnia and other sleep disturbances.
Once the physical detoxification process is complete, the individual is able to begin psychological treatment to uncover the root cause of the addiction and learn healthy coping skills. These treatments may include a combination of cognitive behavioural therapy, dialectical behaviour therapy and group therapy, all of which can help to increase the chances of long-term recovery from a crack cocaine addiction.