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Crack Cocaine Addiction and Treatment

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In the United States in 2020, roughly 657,000 people used crack cocaine in the previous year.1

Crack cocaine is a dangerous illegal drug with a high risk of addiction. In this article, you will learn about the dangers and effects of crack cocaine and how to seek help for crack cocaine addiction.

The Difference Between Crack and Cocaine

Cocaine is a stimulant drug that people use to get high and feel intense pleasure, or euphoria. On the illegal drug market, cocaine is often found in two forms:2–4

  • Cocaine powder, a white powder that is most often snorted or injected, though it can also be smoked or taken orally (for example, rubbed on the gums or swallowed). It’s often cut with non-drug substances like cornstarch or baking soda, or other substances such as fentanyl and amphetamines.
  • Crack (cocaine base or freebase) is cocaine that has been processed into white or off-white rocks or crystals and is smoked. It gets its name from the sound the crystals make when they are heated and start to pop, or crack.

Chemically, crack and cocaine are the same substance. But some key differences between them include:4–7

  • Intensity. When snorted, cocaine can take as long as 5 to 10 minutes for the high to be fully felt, while smoking crack produces a relatively more intense high within seconds.
  • Length of high. With the faster, more intense high of crack comes a shorter duration. A crack high may last only 5 to 10 minutes, compared to 15 to 30 minutes for cocaine.
  • Health effects. Studies suggest that stronger cravings, addiction, psychosis (hallucinations, beliefs that aren’t real), violent behavior, and cognitive problems (poor judgment and decision making) are more common with crack use compared to powder cocaine.
  • Cost. Crack cocaine is cheaper to make and to buy.

The Effects of Crack Cocaine

People use crack cocaine for its positive effects, which include:4,7

  • Extreme happiness.
  • Feelings of excitement.
  • Increased alertness.
  • Increased confidence.

But along with these pleasurable effects come many negative effects as well. These include:2,4,7,8

  • Anxiety and panic attacks.
  • Paranoia (extreme distrust of others).
  • Feeling restlessness and irritable.
  • Increased body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure, which can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.
  • Muscle twitches.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Violent or erratic behavior.
  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Lung problems, such as pneumonia and asthma.

Signs of Crack Overdose

Overdose is a possibly deadly risk of crack cocaine use. Your risk of overdose can be higher if you use crack with other substances, such as alcohol or opioids. It’s possible to use crack that’s laced with opioids or other dangerous substances without even knowing it, as many dealers cut crack cocaine with other substances to keep costs down and increase profits.4

Crack cocaine overdose can result in devastating outcomes such as heart attack and stroke. Signs of crack cocaine overdose include:2,4,9

  • Severe anxiety or agitation.
  • Altered mental status.
  • Irregular heart rate.
  • Dangerously high blood pressure.
  • Chest pain or pressure.
  • Trouble breathing.
  • Extremely high body temperature.
  • Seizures.

Crack Cocaine Addiction

With regular crack use, you can develop dependence, which means you need the drug to feel normal and may have withdrawal symptoms when you stop using.2

Crack addiction is a chronic, relapsing brain disease involving compulsive drug use, no matter the harms it causes. In many cases, dependence is related to addiction development because it can fuel the cycle of use. When a person needs to use crack to feel normal and function, they may keep using it to prevent withdrawal symptoms. Even if they temporarily stop using, people may struggle with troublesome withdrawal symptoms, and many start using again (relapse).10

Crack Cocaine Withdrawal

Crack cocaine withdrawal can be uncomfortable and unpleasant. Though there may be a risk of suicidal thoughts in association with withdrawal-related depression, stimulant withdrawal is not typically life-threatening. Crack withdrawal symptoms may include:2,11 

  • Feeling exhausted.
  • Dysphoria (depression and negative thoughts or feelings).
  • Increased appetite.
  • Slowed thinking and movements.
  • Nightmares and sleep changes.
  • Crack cravings.

Crack Cocaine Addiction Treatment

Your crack addiction doesn’t define you, and recovery is possible. Crack cocaine addiction is generally treated with behavioral approaches such as:4

  • Contingency management, which offers rewards for positive behavior changes.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which teaches you the skills you need to avoid relapse.
  • Recovery groups that offer peer support, such as Cocaine Anonymous and SMART Recovery.

Treatment plans will vary from person to person, but crack cocaine addiction can be treated in both inpatient and outpatient settings. Which setting is right for you depends on a number of factors, such as how often and how much you use and your overall health. Your doctor or mental health professional can help you choose the setting that’s right for you.4

Does your insurance cover treatment at Desert Hope in Las Vegas? 

Check your insurance coverage or text us your questions to learn more about treatment by American Addiction Centers (AAC).

How to Get Help for Crack Cocaine Addiction

Ready to get help for crack cocaine addiction? American Addiction Centers (AAC) is a leading provider of addiction recovery services in Nevada and nationwide. We offer individualized treatment plans and compassionate staff who know exactly what you are going through. When you’re ready to put crack cocaine use behind you, we’ll be standing by. Call our free, confidential helpline at or text us any time of day or night to learn about your recovery options.