Crack Addiction and Abuse


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Crack cocaineCrack
cocaine is simply another form of cocaine base. The substance is so
named for the crackling sound that occurs when it is heated. Also
derived from powder cocaine, manufacturing crack cocaine involves
dissolving the powdered form of the drug in a solution of sodium
bicarbonate and water. The solution is heated and a solid substance
separates from the boiling mixture. This solid substance, crack cocaine,
is removed and allowed to dry. The crack cocaine is then broken or cut
into “rocks,” each typically weighing from one-tenth to
one-half a gram. One gram of pure powder cocaine will yield
approximately 0.89 grams of crack cocaine. Crack cocaine purchased on
the street though is not necessarily pure because many times additives
or fillers are used in the manufacturing process.


Home “freebasing” (producing pure cocaine with an
ethyl ether-based distillation process) became popular in the 1970s.
However, after a number of highly publicized accidents—including one
in which comedian Richard Pryor set himself on fire with the ether and
nearly died—the danger of working with ether in an already intoxicated
state became well known. In the mid-1980s it became known that
sodium-bicarbonate or ammonia could be substituted for ether for the
same result with much less hazard. Around this time, drug gangs began to
market the new product vigorously.


Cocaine base (including coca paste, freebase cocaine, and
crack cocaine) is usually smoked in pipes constructed of glass bowls
using fine mesh screens to hold the drug. The user heats the side of the
bowl (usually with a lighter), and the heat causes the cocaine base to
vaporize. Alternatively, crack cocaine can be sprinkled in marijuana or
tobacco cigarettes and smoked. 


Crack has the same effects as other types of cocaine but much
more intense. The effects, however, are also more short lived, and once
the drug leaves the brain, the user experiences a “coke crash”
that includes depression, irritability, and fatigue, a greatly increased
risk of abnormal heart rhythms, high blood pressure, stroke and death.

Long-term consequences include: the coughing of black phlegm,
wheezing, lung trauma and bleeding, hoarseness, parched lips, tongue and
throat from inhaling hot fumes, mental deterioration, psychosis,
suicidal thoughts, social withdrawal and violent behavior.


Physical Dependence: Moderate
Psychological Dependence: Severe
Tolerance: Strong

Crack is a highly addictive substance, at least in the psychological
sense. While the physical withdrawal is relatively short-term, the
psychological cravings associated with withdrawal can last for months.
Crack withdrawal symptoms include intense cravings for the drug, hunger,
irritability, apathy, severe depression, paranoia, suicidal thoughts,
loss of sex drive, insomnia or excessive sleep. Often, more crack is
used to reduce these unpleasant effects. More than one user of cocaine
has said that using the drug was more important than food, sex, friends,
family, or jobs. Their main concern was how to ease the undesirable
effects of being without the drug.

As noted above crack is a highly addictive substance.
Additionally, because of the nature of addiction, the newly recovering
user is often in a somewhat depleted physical state. Because of this,
the first step to treatment is usually a detoxification done in a
hospital or medically supervised setting. After detoxification,
residential treatment or twelve-step programs, such as the ones listed
below are generally recommended.

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