Crack cocaine addiction is impacting the long-term health of thousands of Americans each year. Treatment at a rehab facility is often the first step to recovery.

Article at a Glance:

Crack is a form of the illicit street drug cocaine, made from a mixture of cocaine, water, and ammonia or baking soda.

Crack has a high potential for abuse, dependence and addiction.

People addicted to crack cocaine can experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms if they stop and long-term effects, including organ damage and hallucinations.

Treatment for crack addiction is available and licensed rehab facilities, and includes a medically supervised detox and inpatient treatment.

Why Is Crack Addictive?

Although crack abuse is waning slightly, the drug is still considered a threat to Americans’ health because of its wide availability and cheap prices.

Like with many other substances of abuse, crack addiction occurs because the substance targets the “feel good” chemical in the brain, dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter that, when triggered, is involved in:

  • Motivation
  • Reward
  • Concentration
  • Memory
  • Mood
  • Body movement

Normally, dopamine attaches to certain receptors in the brain to signal reward and pleasure. Eventually, a dopamine transporter removes dopamine from the receptor, and these positive feelings subside. When a person uses crack, the crack attaches to the dopamine transporter and blocks it from removing dopamine, causing a buildup of dopamine and the intense feelings of euphoria associated with a crack high.

When the high wears off, the individual may feel irritable, drowsy and lethargic. To avoid having to deal with these feelings, an individual may continue to take crack to keep the happy feeling.

This association of pleasure and crack becomes an unstoppable force in a person’s life — causing them to use crack again and again, eventually leading to tolerance, dependence and crack addiction.

Crack Addiction and Abuse Statistics

Since its creation, scientists and researchers tracked crack’s effects on Americans’ health. Given how simple the drug is to obtain and how regularly it’s used, it’s important to educate the public on the severity of the epidemic. Here are a few statistics about crack addiction:

  • An average of 252 people aged 12 and older use crack cocaine for the first time every day.
  • In 2019, 778,000 people aged 12 and older reported using crack cocaine in the past year.
  • In 2020, roughly 16,000 people died from a cocaine overdose.
  • In 2020, 1.6% of 12th graders and 0.9% of 8th graders reported using crack cocaine in their lifetime.
  • Legal consequences for crack possession are harsher than those for powder cocaine possession. Those found in possession of five grams of crack will get a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison. To get the same sentence with powder cocaine, a person would have to be found in possession of 500 grams.

Risks and Dangers of Crack Cocaine Addiction

When a person needs to take more crack to experience the same level of high, they are building up a tolerance for the drug. If they stop smoking crack and begin feeling cocaine withdrawal symptoms, their body is dependent on the drug. Such symptoms can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Excessive sweating
  • Increased appetite
  • Vivid dreams
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability

Eventually, if a person continues using crack, they can develop cravings for crack and might keep using the drug despite experiencing negative side effects. It can take different people varying lengths of time before they develop a crack addiction. For some, it is possible to begin the path to crack addiction after just one use of the drug. Traits that can influence the length of time it takes to develop crack addiction include:

  • Personal history of substance abuse or addiction (such as crack addiction)
  • Family history of substance abuse or addiction (such as crack addiction)
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Weight
  • Dosage
  • Genetics
  • Concurrent drug or alcohol abuse

People addicted to crack don’t just experience struggles within their bodies, but also in their lifestyles. Many individuals struggle financially due to their excessive spending on the drug. Some individuals may lose their jobs, declare bankruptcy or even steal money to afford their addiction. There are also numerous legal consequences that can come with the addiction, since crack is an illegal substance. Individuals can lose their driver’s license, custody of children, or even face arrest and imprisonment.

Physical Effects of Crack Abuse

Individuals who develop an addiction to crack can suffer from a lot of long-term effects that can be difficult to reverse. Some of these physical effects include:

  • Liver damage
  • Kidney damage
  • Lung damage
  • Heart disease
  • Malnutrition
  • Infertility
  • Death

Psychological Effects of Crack Abuse

Along with physical side effects, the mind can be impacted by the intake of crack.  Possible psychological symptoms include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Psychosis
  • Paranoia
  • Panic attacks
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Cognitive impairment

Crack Addiction Treatment

Crack addiction is a medical disease and treatment at a licensed rehab facility is the safest and most efficient way to manage the withdrawal symptoms associated with the detoxification process. Doctors at a rehab facility offer medically assisted detox to help clients wean off crack cocaine safely, then enter inpatient rehab for therapy and treatment that gets to the root of their addiction. During rehab, patients learn to manage cravings and handle triggers that can spur setbacks.

If you or a loved one are one of the thousands of Americans who live with a crack addiction, it is never too late to seek help. The Recovery Village offers different programs at locations across the nation to assist individuals with their recovery. If you would like to learn more, call one of our representatives. Each call is free and confidential. Begin your journey to a drug-free life today.

Continue reading at Crack Addiction Treatment and Rehab.

Melissa Carmona
Editor – Melissa Carmona
Melissa Carmona puts years of writing and editing experience to work helping people understand substance abuse, addiction and mental health disorders. Read more
Benjamin Caleb Williams
Medically Reviewed By – Benjamin Caleb Williams, RN
Benjamin Caleb Williams is a board-certified Emergency Nurse with several years of clinical experience, including supervisory roles within the ICU and ER settings. Read more


What Is Crack?

Crack is a form of the illicit street drug cocaine. While people generally know cocaine as a white powder, crack is a solid, crystallized form of cocaine. Cocaine is made from the coca plant common in South America. Crack is made from a mixture of cocaine, water, and ammonia or baking soda. Crack is usually smoked in pieces, also known as rocks, in glass crack pipes.

What Is Cocaine?

Cocaine is a stimulant drug derived from coca plant leaves. It enhances the effects of a brain chemical called dopamine, leading to a sense of increased energy and power. The increased impact of dopamine also causes the euphoric and pleasurable sensation of a “high” on cocaine.

Your body works as at an increased rate with the strain caused by overstimulation from cocaine, which can cause side effects, including:

  • Alertness
  • Excitation
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Heart attack
  • Sudden cardiac arrest
  • Seizures
  • Stroke
  • Death
What is The Difference Between Crack And Cocaine?

Made from cocaine, crack comes in a large, crystal form and is heated and smoked, rather than snorted. Crack is often considered a more dangerous drug than cocaine because smoking the substance delivers a more immediate and intense high than snorting the drug. Crack is also more potent than cocaine because it is derived directly from the drug itself, also commonly called freebase.

What Is Crack Cocaine Made Of?

Crack is a mixture of powder cocaine, water and baking soda or ammonia.

What Does Crack Cocaine Look Like?

Crack is usually white or off-white and looks like small rocks, chunks or chips of crystal. Some describe crack as similar in appearance to rock candy. The drug is opaque. When purchased from a drug dealer, crack often comes tied up in a small plastic bag. When the crack crystals are heated, they emit smoke that can be inhaled.

What Are The Symptoms of Crack Overdose?

Crack overdose symptoms are similar to those resulting from traditional cocaine use. One key difference: these symptoms may onset much faster in the case of crack. Here are several self-classifiable symptoms to be wary of:

  • Feeling feverish or otherwise hot to the touch
  • Excessive chest pain, especially around the heart
  • Rapid heartbeat even while resting
  • Uncontrollable energy, agitation, or manic behavior
  • Nausea or weakness
  • Beginning of hallucinations

While in the middle of a crack cocaine binge session, it can be difficult to separate feelings associated with the high and objective reality. Oftentimes, users will mistake actual overdose symptoms with the uncomfortableness of the crash they’ve felt dozens of times in the past.

What Are The Signs of A Crack Overdose?

Signs to look out for include the following:

  • Weak pulse or blood pressure
  • A marked decrease in respiration rate
  • Clammy or sweat-covered skin
  • Vomiting in excess, or the action of vomiting without bile coming out
  • Hyperactivity
  • Confusion
  • Clumsiness
  • Trembling and fidgeting
  • Irritability or violent behavior
  • Paranoia or abstract thought processes
  • Excessive itching or scratching due to feelings of ‘bugs on the skin’
  • Coma or coming in and out of consciousness periodically

In addition to the above bullets, signs of a crack overdose can veer into the extreme. It is not unlikely that a stroke, heart attack, or seizure may occur — especially if emergency care is not sought immediately.


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Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.