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A solid form of cocaine that produces a hard-hitting, short-lived high, crack cocaine is one of the most addictive illicit drugs in circulation today. Manufactured from cocaine with a baking soda or similar base, crack circulates heavily in urban environments, notorious for its affordable street price and “crackling” sound when smoked. Because of the toxic additives often used in the production, the drug carries physical and mental health risks in addition to those already associated with powdered cocaine.

Crack addiction can be especially tricky to overcome because it is overwhelmingly psychological in nature. This changes the dynamic in recovery because, due to the lack of a strong physical component to cocaine addiction, the focus must turn to the deeply psychological issues that may be encouraging addiction.

It’s an issue that many Americans are struggling with: According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an estimated one million abused this drug in the year prior to the survey and another 4.8 million abused cocaine during the same period. If you are one of these people, there is help available. Contact us at the phone number listed above and let us help you find the rehab that will be able to help you move through this part of your life into a brighter and more hopeful future. Call now.

How an Addiction Occurs

crack cocaine addictionAddiction hits hard and fast, usually acting on the brain within eight seconds of the time it’s smoked. However, the length of a high is relatively short, lasting under 10 minutes in most cases. With even one use, it can become incredibly physically addictive, largely due to its intense effect on one of the brain’s vital chemical messengers called dopamine. This rush of dopamine causes users to immediately feel happy and high and then depressed and restless, causing many users to immediately re-dose. This cycle can continue for days, leaving users feeling simultaneously exhausted and wired.

While underlying personal reasons for addiction can vary, studies have shown that users state their reasons for initially abusing the drug as primarily emotional and economic in nature, according to studies published in European Addiction Research [2007;13(1):11-9]. Two of these studies cited euphoria, a sense of power and a desire to escape family conflicts as some of the main reasons for use. Another study reported that addicts used the drug to escape depression, get an “adrenaline rush,” and to trigger feelings of invincibility. Many studies have also cited crack’s relatively low street price as one of the main reasons for widespread use in urban areas.

It is these feelings and desires that must be addressed during treatment in order for patients to truly move past their addiction and learn how to satiate those needs without drugs and alcohol.

Signs of a Problem

Crack Addiction Signs and SymptomsCrack is a devastating drug that will typically impact a person’s life very, very quickly. In comparison, it might take years and years of abusing alcohol before a problem is noticed while it may take a few days or weeks to notice major problems when it comes to crack.

The drug is consumed incredibly fast. Those who smoke achieve a high when they start, and then spend the bulk of their energy going forward in pursuit of maintaining that high, smoking larger and larger amounts. Despite the fact that a single dose is considerably less expensive than other drugs, it’s not uncommon for those addicted to the substance to spend several hundred dollars within a few hours. Many feel forced to perform criminal acts in order to get more money to continue the flow of the drug – the compulsion to continue smoking once begun is difficult to shake.

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According to the Department of the Interior, some signs of abuse and addiction include:

  • Selling belongings or stealing to pay for more drugs
  • A wide-eyed, paranoid expression while under the influence
  • A continued paranoia after the effect have worn off
  • Restless irritability
  • Violent and erratic behavior
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Inattention to hygiene
  • An inability to maintain conversations or keep up with commitments

Diagnosis of Addiction

Diagnosing addiction is a medical issue outlined in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition. According to the manual, a patient must exhibit three of the following criteria in order to be diagnosed as an addict in need of treatment:

  • A physical tolerance to the drug that requires the user to smoke more and more in order to get high.
  • Withdrawal symptoms as the drug wears off that include agitation, depression and sleep issues that are “cured” when the patient abuses crack.
  • An inability to turn it down when it is offered or available. This generally means that little is left lying around; most addicts use all of their supply until it is gone and do not save any for later.
  • An inability to cut back on the amount smoked daily or to stop using the drug entirely for any significant length of time.
  • A devotion to the pursuit of obtaining and abusing the drug to the extent that other areas of life – relationships, work, school and hobbies – are avoided or eliminated completely.
  • Indulging in criminal acts in order to get the money necessary to buy more of the drug.
  • An inability to maintain a job due to increased absences, being late, or an inability to successfully find or interview for gainful employment.
  • The continued abuse despite the awareness that abuse of the drug is causing mental and physical health problems as well as a slew of other issues that are interpersonal or legal in nature.


Crack Addiction WithdrawalsThere are very few physical withdrawal effects when crack wears off, even when the patient has been abusing the drug regularly for years. The psychological withdrawal symptoms, however, can be significant, according to the College of Pharmacy and the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. Detox is generally devoted to the stabilization of the patient as they work through psychiatric symptoms that include paranoia, agitation, violent responses, hallucinations, delusional thought processes, and suicidal and homicidal thoughts and actions. In some cases, medications may be necessary to calm them. In other cases, it may be clear that there are underlying mental disorders either caused by addiction or that were there prior to the development of dependence; when this happens, long-term medication may be necessary.

Many patients who abuse it or are dependent upon the drug and other drugs as well. The withdrawal process can be complicated when there are physical dependency issues upon other substances. Depending upon the drugs most commonly abused, the physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms can be significant. It is important that patients have the care and supervision of medical professionals as they undergo this process to ensure their physical safety.

Risks of Abuse

Crack affects the sympathetic nervous system which speeds up the body’s physiological processes such as heart and breathing rates. Additionally, it changes the chemistry of the brain. The neurotransmitter known as dopamine causes feelings of pleasure when it is released in the brain. It causes excessive amounts of dopamine to be released simultaneously causing the euphoric effects craved by those addicted to the drug.

Crack is generally smoked in a glass pipe. Upon inhalation of the drug, it is absorbed through the lungs, travels through the bloodstream and hits the brain as quickly as 10 seconds after it is smoked. The high from it comes on rapidly and leaves just as quickly in comparison to other drugs. The intensely intoxicating effects felt from smoking it last only about five to 10 minutes on average. This causes the user to crash into depression. These hopeless feelings drive the individual to seek relief through the use of more. Since the high is so short in duration, you can see how debilitating this rollercoaster ride of the mind can become.

The initial risks of crack abuse caused by this process are clear: overdose that results in seizures or stroke, suicide caused by depression, and addiction when the cycle of abuse becomes too difficult to stop. Other risks are at issue as well, according to the National Drug Intelligence Center, and include:

  • Restlessness/insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Formication – feeling of insects or snakes moving under the skin
  • Alterations in vital signs (blood pressure, heart and breathing rates)
  • Inflammation of mucous membranes
  • Injury to nasal passages
  • Weight loss due to lack of appetite
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Miscarriage/stillbirth
  • Infertility
  • Seizure
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Lung failure
  • Stroke
  • Coma
  • Death

Benefits of Treatment

Those who are living with a dependence upon crack and/or cocaine will gain a great deal from enrolling in a formal rehabilitation program staffed by providers who specialize in the treatment of crack addiction. Some of the benefits include:

Physical Detoxification +

Often performed at the outset of treatment (or in cases of outpatient settings, prior to enrollment), detox provides a drug-free supervised environment in which patients can cease use safely. Vital signs are monitored by medical staff to avoid complications that can arise during the withdrawal phase. Detox withdrawal symptoms can be treated with non-addictive medications and psychiatric prescriptions, while the body resumes its natural production of dopamine to regain its chemical balance. Once the body has begun to return to its natural state, cravings will recede as the physical addiction subsides.

Supervised environment +

Professional treatment provides a supervised and secluded environment in which to heal from drug addiction. Patients receive treatment in a calming, sober atmosphere customized to promote physical, mental and social health. Structured activities, meals and exercise regimes are planned for patients alongside mental health therapies in order to help create a sense of order as enrollees are guided through the healing process.

Dual Diagnosis treatment availability +

Many instances of addiction arise due to individuals’ attempts at self-medicating psychological issues. Involving a wide range of mental health conditions spanning from depression, anxiety and ADHD to more severe diagnoses such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, Dual Diagnosis cases can be difficult to successfully treat. Some addiction treatment centers have the capacity to treat both addiction and mental health issues alongside one another – the method with the highest success rate for those with co-occurring disorders, according to Medline Plus.

Intensive therapy +

While it remains highly addictive, the development of addiction often involves deeper emotional and psychological issues, beyond the physical. For many individuals, emotional trauma, physical assault, childhood neglect, stress management issues or anger problems contribute to the formation of a crack cocaine addiction. In the majority of cases, addiction has a psychological component regardless, as the user feels an emotional need for the drug. As a result, intensive counseling – both in individualized and group settings – can help recovering addicts recognize underlying causes for addiction, acknowledge triggers for drug use, and discuss stressors and feelings that may engender relapse if unaddressed.

Physical wellness +

During the course of rehabilitation, physical healing is often an integral part of treatment. Exercise, sleep and nutrition have often been neglected over the course of addiction – allowing the body to begin physical recovery during rehab. Additionally, diagnostic testing for secondary medical conditions that may have arisen over the course of addiction – such as respiratory problems, digestive conditions or dental issues – can be properly treated during recovery at a rehabilitation center.

Aftercare assistance +

Once a drug rehab program has been completed, aftercare specialists can meet with patients to help them plan for a sober future. By identifying triggers for use – including environmental, social and psychological cues that may engender drug use – aftercare specialists can help create actionable plans for continued sobriety. Additionally, aftercare specialists can help locate physicians, therapists and 12-step meetings on a local level, so graduating patients can return home to a strong and ongoing support network.

Who to Call When Rehab Is Necessary

If you or someone you love needs help to stop abusing, contact us today. We have professional counselors standing by around the clock to answer your questions and assist you in connecting with a rehab that fits your personalized needs. All information is confidential. Give us a call and let us help you get your life under control.


Rehab International is a service provided by Foundations Recovery Network. As part of the Foundations Recovery Network, our goal is to provide science-based treatments to individuals suffering from issues of addiction and mental illness.

When you call you will be connected to a member of the Foundations Recovery Network who will assist in providing you with any questions you may have regarding the treatment process.

The treatment directory on Rehab International is created using resources made available in the public domain. If you would like a listing removed or edited please contact us. If you are trying to reach a resource listing on one of the pages, please contact them directly through their website or contact information provided.

JCAHO The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) is the national evaluation and certifying agency for health care organization and programs in the United States. JCAHO strives to improve health care for the public. FRN is proud to be affiliated with several JCAHO accredited facilities.

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