As if crack cocaine weren’t already dangerous enough, a new threat is plaguing cocaine users throughout the country. WebMD recently released a story about a development that could create a  new norm in the drug world: Fentanyl-laced crack cocaine is circulating in the United States.

In Philadelphia, 18 people were admitted to the hospital for an apparent opioid overdose, even though they’d been smoking crack cocaine. It’s clear the users didn’t intend to consume opioids, but today, all categories of drugs are being laced with fentanyl.

On its own, crack cocaine is an extremely dangerous drug with a quick onset and a short high. Crack makes users want another hit within 15 minutes, which creates troublesome circumstances. In fact, one story details a woman attempting to trade her daughter for crack cocaine.

These extreme acts show the grip that crack can put on a user. In some cases, all it takes is a single hit for the user to realize they’re going to become addicted to it.

Crack cocaine became popular in Los Angeles in 1984. It was created to be a cheaper, more addictive alternative to “the rich man’s drug,” powder cocaine. In some instances, crack cocaine boasted an 80 percent purity level at a fraction of the cost, which made it extremely popular in urban communities. However, the popularity and low cost have caused many to learn firsthand why crack is now called “the devil’s drug.”

Crack cocaine is widely believed to be one of the most addictive drugs in existence, which means it has very deadly consequences. In 2015, 913,000 people were diagnosed as having a cocaine use disorder, and 5,000 of those people died due to a cocaine overdose. Since the emergence of crack laced with fentanyl is even more troubling for law enforcement officers and first responders, now is the time to stop using it.


What Is Crack Cocaine?

Crack is a crystallized form of cocaine, which typically comes in powder form. It also can appear in solid blocks or crystals that vary in color, but it’s typically off-white. The reason it’s called crack is because of the noise it makes when it’s heated and then smoked. Crack is one of the purest forms of cocaine, often registering a purity level that’s between 75 and 100 percent. In other words, it’s far more potent than the powder form, which is often cut with adulterants to increase a drug dealer’s profit.

Smoking crack also provides a more instantaneous high than snorting cocaine, as it reaches the brain much quicker. The result? An intense and immediate but extremely short-lived high, which only lasts about 15 minutes from consumption until its ending point (the comedown). Overall, smoking crack is much deadlier than snorting cocaine.

As time progresses during a crack binge, each hit becomes less and less intense, since the levels of dopamine the body produces start running dangerously low. The brain requires time to replenish dopamine, and crack demands the body to keep producing it at an unnatural pace.

Eventually, none is left, so the user will start experiencing dopamine withdrawal, which can cause paranoia, restlessness, irritability, and insomnia. The DEA states in a guide it has released, “During heavy use, all other interests become secondary to recreating the initial euphoric rush.”

What Are The Signs Of Crack Cocaine Addiction?

If you suspect that you or your loved one has fallen victim to a crack cocaine addiction, there are several signs that indicate a growing substance use disorder.

Here Are Some Signs To Look For:

  • The user leaves tiny plastic bags around the house with small off-white rocks.
  • “Brillo” pads are lying around, which are used as screens to protect the user’s throat.
  • Broken crack pipes (stems) are lying around.

Some Immediate Bodily Signs Include:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Dry mouth
  • Loss of appetite
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Mood swings
  • Hallucinations
  • Confusion
  • False sense of confidence
  • Premature aging
  • Theft

If the user hasn’t been able to get a “hit” in a while, they will start having intense cravings, which can be exhibited by the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and irritability. Users can also experience psychosis and a complete loss of reality during withdrawal, which are both very dangerous.

How Does Treatment For Crack Use Work?

There is no cure for addiction, but research about it has led to higher rates of recovery. Addiction specialists have tirelessly worked to develop therapies and study the ways addiction affects the brain. This research has resulted in the understanding that addiction is a chronic brain disease, which has caused exponentially improved treatment results.

Treatment may not resolve cravings because some crack users can experience them for the rest of their lives. However, it will offer a variety of therapies to help alter adverse behaviors when they do occur. Cognitive behavioral therapy is now widely used and accepted in the community as a successful way to treat addiction.

Addiction treatment follows a continuum of care that begins during the most intensive phase:  detoxification.  Medical professionals will continually monitor your health 24/7 throughout your stay. You could be in the detox for three to seven days, depending on the severity of your addiction and other medical problems that may be present. During your stay, you will become prepared for the level of care you’ll complete after detox.

Depending on the severity of the client’s addiction, they could be placed in either residential or outpatient treatment. When determining the outcome, the variables include the history of relapse, the safety of the living environment, and the severity of addiction. If the client needs more intensive treatment, they will be placed in an inpatient treatment facility for up to 30 days or more.

Again, this decision will depend on the severity of the addiction. They will be treated with various therapies that get to the root of their addiction and will learn coping mechanisms to deal with their cravings.

Perhaps the team determines their addiction is not much of a threat, and they have no history of relapse. If so, they will be placed in an outpatient program that allows them to leave after therapy concludes.

They will still attend the same kinds of therapies they would receive in residential, but they will have a chance to integrate back into society sooner. This path is a good choice for someone who still has a career or is in school.

Types Of Therapy To Overcome Crack Addiction

Each client that goes through treatment for crack addiction will have a unique set of needs. Psychologists will work to use different types of techniques that address the mental component of treating and helping the individual recover from crack addiction. The American Psychological Association highlights the most strongly supported treatments for drug addiction, which include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This therapy helps to teach clients how they can stop harmful thoughts and behaviors by recognizing how those thoughts start. It will then help them to determine how to replace them with a better approach. Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most widely recognized therapies in addiction treatment.
  • Motivational Interviewing. A therapist will increase the clients’ motivation to kick their habit by helping them understand how much better their lives are without crack cocaine. It uses positive psychology and enforcement to set the scene for their sober future. Motivational interviewing has been shown to be extremely effective in treating crack addiction.

Detox and therapy allow for physical and psychological stabilization for the clients. Unfortunately, once someone leaves the confines of a treatment center, there will be stressors and triggers that will reignite their urges to use crack cocaine.

No matter how many lessons, skills, and philosophies that are learned during treatment, the client still requires help to overcome the temptations to relapse. When life gets tough, lonely, or even dull, the user will look to crack to cope with these feelings. These are viewed as “didn’t see it coming relapse triggers.”


The Road Ahead & Peer Support

Crack cocaine is a severe public health threat around the United States, and the reason why it has spread is complicated. Fortunately, treatment exists and works. Each year thousands of lives are saved because they sought out the right help and had friends and families that supported them during recovery.

The road ahead requires support from peers and family members to help them overcome their addiction. It is possible with foundational lessons learned in treatment.

How Dangerous Is Crack Addiction?

All drugs can be dangerous, but with the emergence of fentanyl, the risks with crack are even more significant.

Any type of smoking can irritate and harm your lungs, but crack causes more significant damage than cigarettes. The stimulating properties put stress on the heart and can cause high blood pressure after excessive, repeated use. Crack cocaine can also damage major organs, such as your heart, lungs, and brain.

Because of its short high, the possibility of overdosing on crack cocaine is very high. The drug can also cause psychological problems, including psychosis and an inability to tell the difference between reality and fantasy.

Crack Cocaine Statistics

  • 86.7% of female prostitutes had never been paid to have sex before they started using crack.
  • 33% of women who smoked crack were involved in prostitution within a year of their use.
  • 37 million people age 12 have used cocaine.
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