Crack Cocaine Addiction, Abuse, Withdrawal & Treatment
Of all the psychoactive drugs in the stimulant category, crack cocaine is one of the most widely abused. Besides being one of the most addictive drugs, it has severe physical and psychological side effects and is one of the hardest to stop.
Psychoactive drugs are chemical substances that interfere with the functioning of the brain and the Central Nervous System (CNS). Other names used to refer to crack cocaine are rock, cavvy, base, crack and hard iron.
There are three categories of psychoactive drugs: stimulants (such as cocaine and methamphetamine which speed up the functioning of the brain and produce energized body and mind reactions), depressants (like alcohol and all Opioids which slow the CNS inducing a sluggish reaction to all body functions) and hallucinations (such as marijuana that distort thinking).
Use and Abuse of Crack Cocaine
Stimulants generally produce an energizing effect in the body and mind and are used to treat body and mind disorders such as people with Attention Deficit Disorder. While crack cocaine is illegal in many countries and its legal use is almost unknown, and it is still widely available and people take it for the intense and fast Crack Cocaine effects that it induces in the body and mind. Major effects experienced in the body and mind are: a surge of energy, rise in body temperature, a euphoric feeling in addition to increased alertness and concentration. These are the experiences that drive people to start and continue taking the drug.
Tolerance, Dependence and Addiction
Crack cocaine produces intense and fast effects of increased alertness, euphoria and an increase in energy. However, these effects wear out fast and are replaced by the reverse effects quickly. For instance, in place of euphoria, the person will immediately or after a few minutes of taking the drug experience depression. This state of events causes the abusers to crave for more in order to chase that feeling. As a result, taking crack cocaine becomes a habit fast and with this continued habit, tolerance and dependence develop.
Tolerance is a state of having to take more of the drug to experience the same effects as before, for the previous amount taken is no longer able to produce (in the body or mind) the same level of effects. Dependence is whereby the body gets hooked on the drug and constantly needs it. Crack cocaine addiction on the other hand is not as mild as dependence; it’s not just a craving but a perpetual need for the drug. When one is addicted, absence of the drug causes the body and mind discomfort/pain from the withdrawal. These discomforts are referred to as withdrawal symptoms.
Crack Cocaine Administration into the Body
Cocaine is found in a solid, crystal like and powder form and thus the means of administration in the body vary.
The several means of administering crack cocaine in the body are:
- Insufflation/ inhalation – powdered cocaine is insufflated/ inhaled through the nose where it is absorbed into the blood stream from the thin nasal tissues. The effects of the drug are fast felt due to the fast absorption of the drug into the blood stream and the proximity of the nose to the brain.
- Smoking – crack cocaine is at times cooked in a spoon and the fumes inhaled.
- Injection – crack cocaine is heated in water and bicarbonate where it melts, leaving the purer form of cocaine floating on the water. The greasy cocaine is drawn with a pin to solidify and then diluted with water to make the liquid that is injected into the veins. Alternatively the unheated crack cocaine, which is less soluble in water, is dissolved in vinegar or any acidic drink to make the solution that is injected in the body.
Side Effects of Crack Cocaine
- Craving for more crack cocaine. This is generated by coming down and feeling things like depression and a need to get the feeling from crack again
- Increased heart beat due to constricted blood vessels, forcing the heart to work faster
- Depression: shortly after taking a hit of crack, dopamine production nose dives and the euphoria is reversed to depression
- Raised body temperature
- Irritability, paranoia and restlessness may be experienced with frequent use of high quantities of the drug
- Cardiac arrest: the increase in heart beat may become too intensified as the vessels become narrower and narrower and the heart might stop altogether
- Increased breathing rate: cocaine causes the reduction of volume of lungs and constricts trachea, forcing one to breath faster to try and get enough oxygen
- Formication: a feeling of being infested with crawling insects
- Blurred vision caused by dilated pupils
- Confusion, hallucinations and schizophrenia
- Numbness in the tongue, nose, mouth and everywhere the smoke or solid crack cocaine passes
- Dry, itchy and clammy skin that may get acne
Rehabilitation is the process of helping someone who is already addicted or dependent on the drug to quit it. It involves detoxification (which is cleansing the body of cocaine by denying it the drug and treating withdrawal symptoms) and therapy (which is counseling in individual or groups to address underlying factors).
Prolonged use of crack cocaine develops tolerance; increasing need to use more of the drug to reach the desired state or experience a certain level of feeling. With this ever increasing need for an increased amount of the drug, one continues to take larger and larger amounts and they might at one time take more than their bodies can handle. The side effects of a crack overdose are serious and medical attention is required immediately.
Interaction with Other Drugs
Crack cocaine’s effects may be intensified or worsened by the presence of other drugs. One substance that it has adverse reactions to when combined is alcohol. The kidney combines it with alcohol to form Coca ethylene, which is more dangerous than either cocaine or alcohol and which could easily lead to death.
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