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  • Crack cocaine is a modified, freebase form of cocaine hydrochloride, or powder cocaine, which is derived from the leaves of the coca plant in South America. It is illegal to possess or use in the United States outside of a medical setting.

    Crack cocaine is a potent form of the drug that is smoked rather than injected or inhaled. This results in a euphoric stimulant high, with a high risk of negative mental and physical side-effects if the drug is used long-term.

    Short-Term Effects Of Smoking Crack Cocaine

    Crack is smoked by placing rocks in the bulb of a glass pipe or in some other form of container, and then heating it. The drug vaporizes and the fumes are inhaled, allowing the drug to enter the bloodstream via the lungs and quickly diffuse throughout the body and brain. 

    Immediate Effects

    When crack is smoked it causes an immediate, intense dopamine rush and high that typically lasts between 15 and 30 minutes.

    Other short term physical effects of a stimulant high from smoking crack may include:

    • burns to the lips, nose, or fingers
    • increased heart rate
    • constricted blood vessels and high blood pressure
    • dilated (wide) pupils
    • increased body temperature
    • loss of appetite
    • increased energy and alertness
    • anxiety
    • headaches
    • nausea
    • restlessness
    • symptoms of drug addiction, even after first-time use

    Comedown Effect

    After the effects of the drug wear off, you may experience a comedown or crash that can cause you to feel exhausted, depressed, restless, and irritable. You may also have difficulty sleeping soundly. 

    Long-Term Effects Of Smoking Crack Cocaine

    Long-term crack addiction can cause the body to develop a physical dependence on the drug, contributing to compulsive and addictive behaviors, and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms once you stop drug use.

    Crack abuse can also push you to withdraw from loved ones, interests, and passions and to increasingly neglect your education, employment, family, and other responsibilities. 

    Health problems resulting from crack cocaine substance use include:

    Respiratory Damage

    Those who smoke crack may develop severe respiratory issues including: 

    • chronic coughing
    • shortness of death
    • bleeding or fluid buildup in the lungs
    • increased severity of asthma symptoms

    Organ Damage

    Cocaine’s stimulating effects lead to long-term wear and tear on most organs, notably:

    • heart damage, including inflammation of the heart muscle, decreased heart function, irregular heartbeat, and aortic ruptures
    • digestive dysfunction, leading to tears and ulcerations in the gastrointestinal tract
    • liver and kidney damage or failure, particularly when cocaine is used with alcohol
    • reproductive system dysfunction, including erectile dysfunction and infertility
    • increased risk of heart attack and stroke
    • intense abdominal or chest pains

    Neurological Effects

    Long-term crack cocaine use exploits the brain’s natural reward pathway and damages brain structure and function, changing how a person thinks and what they value. 

    Crack cocaine use can lead to:

    • lack of interest or pleasure from other natural rewards (food, water, sex, or family)
    • risky or self-destructive behavior to get more of the drug
    • headaches
    • severe depression
    • irritability and mood disorders
    • memory issues
    • attention issues
    • impulse control
    • brain bleeding
    • movement disorders, including Parkinson’s Disease

    Other Effects

    Cocaine use disorder is heavily associated with increased risk of exposure to infectious diseases including hepatitis and HIV/AIDs. Crack use can also lead to fatigue, malnutrition, and dehydration, as an individual neglects self care and suppresses necessary physical urges.

    Effects Of Binging On Crack Cocaine

    Because cocaine comedowns are so unpleasant, it’s common for some to binge on the drug, using as much as they can until they run out or become unable to use any more. 

    A binge may last for several days, usually with little or no food or sleep taken during this period.

    Binging leads to increasing irritability, restlessness, panic attacks, and paranoia as the drug is smoked over and over with less potency each time. 

    Eventually, as the drug loses its effect entirely, you may lose touch with reality and experience full-blown psychosis including hallucinations, delusions, and delirium.

    A crash following a cocaine binge may last well over a week with days of unbroken sleep as the body and mind recover. Cocaine binges are known to cause symptoms of severe depression, pain, discomfort, cravings, and suicidal impulses.

    Treatment For Cocaine Use Disorder

    Crack cocaine is a powerfully addictive drug.

    However, recovery from cocaine addiction is achievable. With the help of a qualified, inpatient or outpatient cocaine addiction treatment program, staff members can:

    • guide you through detox and withdrawal
    • help you examine the roots of your addiction
    • help you improve your mental health
    • give you the tools to achieve a lasting recovery

    To learn more about our substance abuse treatment programs, contact Ark Behavioral Health today.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2023 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.

    City of New York - Cocaine Abuse & Addiction
    National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) - What are the long-term effects of cocaine use?
    National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) - What are the short-term effects of cocaine use?

    Medically Reviewed by
    Davis Sugar, M.D.
    on June 28, 2022
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