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5 Signs Of Crack Cocaine Use

Brenda Munnerlyn, RN, BSN

Medically reviewed by

Brenda Munnerlyn, RN, BSN

March 11, 2019

Crack cocaine users exhibit extreme bouts of energy, mood shifts, oral and respiratory problems, and will likely have paraphernalia for drug use on hand or close by. Crack addiction is best treated within a comprehensive drug rehab program which utilizes behavioral therapies.

What Is Crack Cocaine?

Crack is an intensely potent form of cocaine which can form a physical dependency and addiction after only one use. Like cocaine, the high from crack is relatively short-lived.

When smoked these sensations last only five to 15 minutes, leading many users to quickly return to the drug. Using crack in back-to-back doses like this is referred to as “binging.” While cocaine is a dangerous drug, crack cocaine is even more so, a risk made far more dangerous by binging.

Crack is created when cocaine is chemically altered to produce a whitish, crystalline, rock-like drug, also referred to as “freebase cocaine.” The drug’s name derives itself from the sound which is created when users heat the drug.

To create a high or rush, crack users most commonly smoke the drug, though some users do attempt to inject or snort it. Like many types of illicit substances, crack may be combined with other drugs to create an altered and more extreme high. Examples include heroin, benzodiazepines, and various other drugs of abuse, according to the Center for Substance Abuse Research.

What Are Five Signs Of Crack Cocaine Use?

If you suspect your loved one is dabbling with crack cocaine or presently addicted, learning how to spot the signs of abuse will help you to connect them to treatment options in a more timely way.

Due to crack’s extremely addictive nature, signs of crack abuse will become more prevalent as use persists and addiction takes over. What follows are some of the most common signs of crack abuse, though other side effects and risks may also be present as each individual’s health and life is uniquely affected by the drug.

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1. Overstimulation And Excess Energy From Crack

Crack is a central nervous system stimulant. This means it speeds up certain life-sustaining systems within the user’s body, including breathing, heart, temperature, and blood pressure rates.

As these systems are overstimulated, rates climb, sometimes to dangerous and deadly extremes, as within overdose. But even if a person doesn’t overdose, you may witness more rapid breathing and/or they may complain of being overly warm or having a racing heart.

But along with this, crack can also stimulate additional physical systems, as well as certain mental ones, resulting in some fairly obvious changes.

When using crack, a person will likely exhibit excessive or increased:

  • Energy
  • Focus
  • Hyperactivity
  • Physical activity
  • Restlessness
  • Talkativeness

In addition, jitters, trembling, or tremors may accompany a person’s constant need to move.

While under the influence a person on crack may not feel as if they need much, if any, sleep. During binges this can result in prolonged periods of wakefulness accompanied by little to no sleep. But once the user stops using crack they might become supremely exhausted, sleeping for long periods and even several days at a time.

2. Mood Shifts From Crack Use

Crack causes large amounts of the neurotransmitter dopamine to be released in a person’s brain. This creates an immense sense of reward and pleasure. It can also vastly alter a person’s mood.

When this occurs a person may become overly confident, exhilarated, and happy. They may also experience a sense of power, all the while being overcome by the intense euphoric state crack elicits. But these feel-good effects are fleeting.

While using crack a person’s moods may become highly variable. Certain mood shifts are more apt to occur after prolonged exposure to crack. A person may swing from the aforementioned states, becoming anxious, defensive, paranoid, aggressive, and volatile.

Throughout these periods a person may become obsessive, fixating on small details, concepts, or situations, a characteristic which can endanger a person or those around them when accompanied by paranoia.

3. Oral Problems Caused From Crack Cocaine Abuse

Crack is heated at a very hot temperature, which means the pipe itself becomes quite hot. Repeated exposure to this hot surface can damage a person’s mouth, leading to blistered, burned, chapped, or bleeding lips. Prolonged crack abuse can also cause dental damage and severe tooth decay.

4. Respiratory Problems From Crack

Crack enters your lungs at very hot temperatures. In addition to this, crack itself is full of toxins and poisonous chemicals. Through chronic use these elements in combination can damage a person’s lungs.

Habitual smokers may have a chronic cough or even develop “crack lung.” Crack lung is said to resemble pneumonia and may be accompanied by chest pain, coughing, fever, trouble breathing, and, in the most severe cases, respiratory failure.

5. Drug Paraphernalia

When purchasing, transporting, or storing crack, users may use aluminum foil or baggies.

When smoked, crack is administered through either a glass handpipe or waterpipe. Some individuals may purchase a “love rose” (artificial rose in a slender glass tube) from a convenience store or gas station so that they can use the glass encasing as a temporary pipe.

If snorted, you might notice a powdery residue on hard surfaces like mirrors or dresser tops; razor blades or credit cards (to draw the crack into lines); and dollar bills, hollowed out pens, or other tube-like items for inhalation (or insufflation as some refer to it).

For injection, a user would have syringes or needles; lemon juice, vitamin c, or vinegar to prepare the drug for injection; cotton swabs; metal spoons for “cooking;” and a belt or rubber tubing to “tie off” with.

Additionally, some crack abusers believe that they have bugs crawling beneath their skin. This unsettling phenomenon is called formication, or, more commonly, “coke bugs.”

Risks And Dangers Of Crack Abuse

No matter how you abuse crack you’re exposing yourself to crack-related adverse health effects (including heart attack, stroke, cardiac arrest, and sudden death), a declining quality of life, addiction, and overdose. Within patterns of polydrug abuse, these risks climb.

As crack abuse morphs into addiction the drug can easily become the most important thing within a user’s life, creating tension and damage within careers, family lives, educational pursuits, and other sources of personal fulfillment.

How Do You Treat Crack Cocaine Addiction?

Crack addiction has serious and life-threatening consequences. Prompt and comprehensive treatment can prevent further damage from the ravages of this drug, while also protecting your life or that of a loved one.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse notes that cognitive-behavioral therapy, contingency management, motivational incentives, and therapeutic communities are also useful behavioral therapies for managing a crack addiction.

Get Help For Crack Abuse And Addiction Today

If you’re watching your life give out beneath weight of a crack addiction, don’t delay in asking for help. We can help you or someone you care about find individualized treatment for crack abuse and addiction today. Contact for more information and resources.

Center for Substance Abuse Research - Crack Cocaine

National Institute on Drug Abuse - What is cocaine?

Radiopaedia - Crack Lung

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