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Crack Addiction: History, Signs, and Symptoms

If you were alive (and watching the news) during the late 1980s and early 1990s, you almost certainly saw reports about “the crack epidemic.” Crack began to appear in the United States around 1981. By the end of the decade, crack addiction had become a national concern. Though the widespread panic about this drug subsided by the turn of the century, crack did not disappear. Today, hundreds of thousands of Americans continue to struggle with crack abuse and addiction.

What is Crack? 

Crack is a derivative of powder cocaine. It produces an intense but short-lived high, which prompts people to abuse it multiple times in rapid succession. It is highly addictive. 

What’s the Difference Between Crack and Cocaine?

In terms of their chemical composition, crack and cocaine are virtually indistinguishable. The primary differences between crack and cocaine are their appearance, how they are used, and the impact of their effects.

  • Appearance: Cocaine is a fine white powder. Crack looks like small rocks. To create crack, people combine cocaine with water, baking powder, and other fillers. When this substance solidifies, it is broken into pieces.
  • Use: Cocaine is typically ingested by snorting it through the nose. Crack use usually involves heating the rocks in a small pipe or other device and then inhaling the fumes. 
  • Effects: Cocaine users usually feel the drug’s effects within a few minutes. These effects may last from 10 minutes to about half an hour. The effects of crack are usually felt almost immediately after breathing the fumes. These effects rarely last longer than 10 minutes.

Two other differences between crack and cocaine are the street price of the drug and the penalty for possessing it. Crack is usually much cheaper than cocaine. However, the legal penalty for possessing crack is usually much higher than for possessing an equal amount of powder cocaine.

History of Crack Cocaine

Demand for powder cocaine increased dramatically in the United States in the 1970s. But by the early 1980s, so much of the drug was being produced and imported that there was an overabundance. This led to falling prices for this previously expensive drug. 

To protect their investment, many cocaine dealers began to transform the drug from powder into crystallized rocks. This allowed them to sell smaller amounts of the drug to more people, which fueled a resurgence in their profits. It also provided greater access to the drug to people who could not previously afford it.

Why is Crack so Addictive?

Both powder cocaine and crack are highly addictive substances. Here are a few reasons why people can quickly become addicted to crack:

  • Crack produces very powerful immediate effects.
  • These effects don’t last very long, which prompts people to binge the drug (using it over and over again within a very short period of time).
  • After the effects of crack wear off, a person will often experience a physical and emotional crash. A desire to avoid these negative effects is another reason why people often binge the drug. 
  • The more a person uses crack, the more likely they are to develop tolerance. This means they will need to use larger amounts of the drug to achieve the high they are seeking.
  • When a person becomes dependent on crack, they can develop powerful cravings for the drug when they can’t use it or when they try to stop using it. They may also become agitated, irritable, and paranoid. Physical symptoms of crack withdrawal may include headaches, disrupted sleep, nausea, and vomiting.

The powerful urges to repeatedly use the drug, combined with the pain associated with stopping, can quickly push a person into a downward spiral of active crack addiction.

Signs and Symptoms of Crack Addiction

The following signs may indicate that a person has become addicted to crack:

  • Extreme bursts of energy, followed by overwhelming fatigue
  • Dramatic changes in mood
  • Dangerous or reckless behaviors
  • Disrupted sleeping patterns
  • Frequent itching and scratching
  • Lack of attention to appearance and hygiene
  • Tooth decay
  • Significant weight loss
  • Possession of small glass pipes
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Unexplained financial problems

It is difficult to overstate the destruction that untreated crack addiction can cause. Anyone who exhibits the signs above should consult with a qualified healthcare provider immediately. Completing an assessment and receiving an accurate diagnosis are essential steps on the path to treatment and recovery from crack addiction.

Treatment Options for Crack Addicts

Treatment for crack addiction often begins with detoxification, or detox. Crack withdrawal can cause immense physical and psychological distress. If you try to stop using crack on your own, the symptoms you experience can quickly become overwhelming. When you enter a detox program, you will be cared for by a team of professionals. These experts can provide medication and therapeutic support to keep you safe and ease the pain of withdrawal. 

Detox for crack addiction is a short-term experience. Once you complete detoxification, you can transition directly into the next phase of treatment.

Depending on the severity of your crack addiction, your treatment may include residential and/or outpatient programming. At both levels, you can participate in several forms of therapy. Therapy sessions can help you identify your triggers, or the circumstances that may threaten to push you back into active crack abuse. Therapy can also help you develop healthy ways of avoiding or responding to triggers without resorting to substance abuse. 

If you have a co-occurring mental health disorder, your comprehensive crack addiction treatment plan can address this concern as well.

Treatment for Cocaine Addiction in Nashville, TN

Crack addiction can be devastating – but is it is important to remember that it is a treatable condition. Brentwood Springs Detox provides customized care in a safe environment for adults who have become addicted to crack and other forms of cocaine. With our help, you can stop abusing this dangerous substance and learn how to live a drug-free life. Visit our admissions page or call today to learn more.

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