Crack Addiction: Abuse Signs, Effects & Treatment

Crack Cocaine Addiction Treatment Guide

Crack cocaine is a type of illegal substance. Its name comes from the fact that it is a type of cocaine that looks like a small rock. The street value of this drug is quite low, which makes it affordable for addicts. Those who use the drug can become volatile and act out, but they may also prefer spending time alone and hate being around others. If you or someone you love struggles with crack addiction, you can learn more about this drug and all of the top treatment options.

Crack Addiction Treatment

What Is Crack Cocaine?

Cocaine is a drug that looks like a fine white powder. Crack cocaine is a different form of that drug. People make it when they mix ordinary cocaine with water and baking soda over low heat. As the temperature of the mixture rises, the powder separates from the mixture and forms a hard substance. They will then break this substance into smaller rocks that they sell as crack cocaine. A single dose of crack cocaine can sell on the street for as little as $10. Cocaine is a purer form of the drug and is usually more expensive.

Effects of Crack Cocaine

Crack cocaine abuse has both short-term and long-term effects. The short-term effects happen as soon as the user takes a dose. Some of the short-term effects include trouble sleeping and a loss of appetite. Many call the sensation of using crack cocaine a euphoric high. Addicts can convulse or have seizures and muscle spasms along with a rapid heart rate. Paranoid feelings are common among some users who also feel anxious and angry. It’s possible for a person to develop a crack addiction after using the drug just once.

Those who use crack cocaine can also develop skin and lip problems because of how they use the drug. Someone who smokes crack cocaine will often develop blisters around their lips and on their tongues. They may also have burns on their fingers because they use pipes that are very short. People addicted to crack cocaine keep using the drug to chase the initial high that they felt. This can result in them using more and more of the drug to feel the same way they did the first time they used it.

Long-term Effects of Crack Use

The long-term effects of using crack cocaine are even more serious because users can develop respiratory problems. Those who smoke crack can do quite a bit of damage to their lungs, which can lead to symptoms like coughing and problems breathing. Users may also suffer from bleeding that causes them to cough up blood. Crack cocaine addicts have an increased risk of suffering from infectious diseases because the drug weakens their immune systems. The more they smoke the drug, the greater their chances are of damaging their hearts and livers.

Is Crack Addictive?

Both crack cocaine and powder cocaine rank on the list of the five most addictive drugs. Roughly 1 million of the people who use this drug on a regular basis admit that they are addicted to it. Crack is a stimulant that leaves the body quickly. When someone smokes it, the sensations that they feel usually only last for a few minutes. They crave another hit to preserve that feeling. Some people abuse this drug for several hours or longer. These users will avoid their loved ones and stay locked in their rooms or with other users as they share crack pipes.

Signs of Crack Addiction

You may feel as though you don’t need help because you can stop using crack whenever you want. As you look for help for a loved one, you might think that they have a minor issue you can cope with at home. It’s important that you look at the common signs of crack addiction to determine if you or someone you love needs help. One common symptom is an intense craving for the drug. Addicts have a hard time walking away from crack and will want to use it as much as possible. If they go a few hours or more without using crack, the need for the drug can become so strong that they have a hard time thinking about anything else.

Another sign of an addiction to crack is when the user does not feel normal when they don’t have access to crack. A crack addict may have a hard time working or even talking to their friends because they haven’t used the drug recently. Some of the other signs of crack addiction include:

• An inability to stop using crack despite showing some serious signs of damage
• Depression
• Weight loss
• Lack of interest in other things

Crack Addiction Treatment

You should never attempt to force anyone to seek treatment because they need to make the decision on their own. Think about what you would do if someone told you that you couldn’t do something that you love like having a cup of coffee in the morning. The odds are good that having a cup would take over your life and leave you unable to focus on anything else. Crack cocaine addicts feel the same way. Once the addict makes a decision to get help, they need to see a doctor who will diagnose their addiction.

Addiction Diagnosis

The crack cocaine addiction diagnosis includes taking a medical history. You will need to tell the doctor about your past usage such as when you started and the last time you used the drug. The doctor will also perform a medical screening to decide the best way to go about getting you treatment. You can also expect a physical exam, which allows the doctor to see if you have any other medical conditions that go along with your addiction. It’s possible for crack addicts to have a mental health disorders such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. In those cases, the doctor will recommend a facility that treats both conditions.


Once a crack addict gets an official diagnosis, they can enter a treatment facility and start the detox process. Crack withdrawal can begin almost immediately after the person last used the drug. Though some experience symptoms for as little as one day, others have symptoms of crack withdrawal that last for up to a week. Detox usually lasts for at least one weekend after you choose a treatment center. Doctors and other medical professionals will help you withdraw safely and ensure that you are comfortable before you begin therapy.

Therapy for Crack Cocaine Addicts

In a single year, more than 5% of addicts who sought help did so for cocaine addiction. More than 60% of those users had problems with crack cocaine and at least one other substance. Therapy is one of the more common treatment options. Also known as behavioral interventions, they help addicts change the way they think about crack, which also changes the way their brains react to the substance to help them stop using.

Cognitive-behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a possible treatment for crack cocaine addiction. Also known as CBT, it helps addicts identify the reasons they began using the drug. They also learn how to change the behaviors they have in regard to the drug. Treatment centers usually offer both individual and group therapy. During individual sessions, the addict meets with a therapist in a private setting. Group sessions allow them to talk with other addicts who went through similar problems in the past.

Contingency Management

Another type of therapy that has some benefits is contingency management. This is when the addict receives some type of incentive when they do not use drugs. Your therapist will help you choose rewards that matter to you. These rewards are only available when you leave the facility. You might get a day at your favorite amusement park or restaurant when you go a week without using crack and a night of hanging out with friends when you abstain from crack for a full month.

Inpatient and Outpatient Treatment

Crack cocaine addicts can choose between inpatient and outpatient treatment options. When many people think about drug addiction treatment, they think about inpatient centers. An inpatient center requires that you spend a certain amount of time living there. Programs can range from one weekend to 28 days. We can also help you find centers that offer long-term care for six months to a year. If you worry that you can’t stay away from your dealer or anyone you used crack with in the past, an inpatient center is your best option. These centers also allow you to focus on your specific needs without the real world getting in your way.

Outpatient centers give you the freedom to come and go on a daily basis. You can choose one that has classes you take during the day along with therapy sessions. Once you finish your work for the day, you can head home and sleep in your own bed. Other centers ask you to spend the night. You have the day free to work or go to school and spend time with your family. Many of these centers have a curfew and require that you check-in at a certain time. You will meet with your therapist and attend classes before you go to bed.

Community Treatment

An alternative to outpatient treatment is community treatment. This is a good option for clients who cannot dedicate a large portion of their day to the treatment they need. Instead of living in a facility, you attend a few meetings a week. The most common type of community treatment is a 12-step program. These programs have 12 steps and ask you to work on one step at a time. You start with an admission that you have no control over your drug usage. Many clients find that they like knowing what steps they will complete in the future and that these programs let them work on their addictions a little bit at a time. We often recommend that our clients get treatment from a dedicated facility first and then use a 12-step program to work on their recovery after they leave.

Crack and Crime

There is a clear link between crack cocaine usage and criminal activities. More than 5,400 people plead guilty to crimes relating to crack cocaine usage in a single year in federal court. A large number of those individuals engaged in drug trafficking, which involves carrying drugs for others with the intent for them to sell the crack cocaine. Using crack cocaine reduces your inhibitions and makes it more likely that you’ll engage in risky activities or behaviors when using it. Not only can this include criminal activities, but it may include risky sexual activities too, such as having unprotected sex with another crack user.

Get Help for Crack Cocaine Addiction

It can take as little as one week for a person who never used crack to develop an addiction to the drug. In some cases, users become addicted after the first time they smoke it. Whether you started using crack cocaine in the recent past or are a long-term user, you can get help to get away from the substance. We can help you look at all of the treatment options for crack cocaine addiction and pick one that works for you. You’ll also get help choosing the right rehab center and finding one that is close to your loved ones. Get help for you or a loved one battling an addiction to crack cocaine when you call us today.

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Reviewed By:

Dr. John Elgin Wilkaitis

Dr. John Elgin Wilkaitis completed medical school at The University of Mississippi Medical Center and residency in general psychiatry in 2003. He completed a fellowship in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in 2005. Following this, he served as Chief Medical Officer for 10 years of Brentwood Behavioral Healthcare a private health system including a 105-bed hospital, residential treatment, and intensive outpatient services.

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