Crack is widely considered to be the most addictive form of the narcotic cocaine. Unlike its powdery relative, crack is usually smoked rather than snorted into the nasal cavity. When asking what does crack look like, a crack ‘rock’ can take several forms, with purer varieties taking the appearance of a crystal-like plastic compound.
Once ingested, crack creates a short-burst euphoria in seconds. This high lasts only 10 minutes, or even as little as five — a stark difference to a 30-to-60-minute cocaine high. But its short high is part of why crack is so habit-forming in the first place. Individuals are likely to develop a substance use disorder faster than regular cocaine, because a shorter high means that users will consume more of the drug throughout the course of the day. This accelerated abuse cycle makes crack a heavily binged narcotic. Binge, crash, binge, crash: the sequence can continue uninterrupted even by sleep for days on end. Cocaine and crack cocaine contribute to thousands of overdose deaths per year. In 2015, the number of fatalities was as high as 7,000 individuals in that year alone.
This cocaine variant also has a troubling history. While traditional cocaine is expensive, crack is immensely cheap in comparison. This, along with its addictive nature, has made it a catastrophic force in neighborhoods of lower socioeconomic status across the United States. Its affordability also means that its victims skew on the younger end of the scale.
Using crack is one of the most dangerous ways of achieving a cocaine high. Crack’s cyclical use makes both abuse and overdose likely outcomes. Like cocaine, certain signs and symptoms are a common occurrence when a crack overdose strikes, and are easily identifiable with a little prior knowledge.
Table of Contents
Crack Overdose Symptoms
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. As one may imagine, this mistake can have lethal results. Fighting the urge to binge on crack — and allowing for the body to recover some semblance of normal functioning — may be difficult, but it could allow you to see the warning signs of overdose. Do not hesitate to request medical attention once this discovery is made.
Signs of a Crack Overdose
Signs of a crack overdose are much in the same vein as symptoms of regular use. However, these signs might actually be easier to identify if they are seen by someone else and not an intoxicated victim. 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
- 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.
What To Do During a Crack Overdose
A crack overdose is a medical emergency. Seek medical attention immediately if a crack cocaine overdose is suspected.
- Call 911 immediately.
- Gather information to provide to emergency responders, including age, pre-existing conditions, drug allergies, drug/alcohol use and the amount of cocaine taken.
- Lay the person on their side. This helps with breathing and helps prevent them choking on their own vomit.
- If the person feels overheated, try to keep their body temperature down with cold compresses.
- Keep the individual in a safe environment, away from anything that can potentially injure them in the event of a seizure, such as objects with sharp edges.
- Stay with the person until emergency workers arrive.
Crack Overdose Treatment
This brings us to proper treatment of said crack cocaine overdoses. Crack overdose victims differ from many others in that they may exhibit some violent, erratic tendencies without realizing it. If this turns out to be the case, never put yourself or another in harm’s way. There are professionals trained to handle these scenarios. The best any passerby can do for a supposed overdose victim is to contact the proper authorities.
Because heart attack, stroke, seizures and respiratory issues can result from an overdose, medical first responders will usually address these issues first. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation is often the go-to method to save victims from overdose complications. Once the breathing and heart function are restored, physicians can focus their attention elsewhere in the treatment process.
Crack Overdose Death
It comes as no surprise that death is a possible result of a crack cocaine overdose. Like the rapidity of the drug itself, these deaths can occur quickly. In fact, some 75 percent of all crack overdose deaths happen within just five hours of smoking the drug.
Just how much crack it takes to overdose depends on myriad factors — tolerance being chief among them. Chronic usage, especially due to bingeing, both increases the risk of addiction and tolerance alike. While a first-time user could die from one use, an experienced user could potentially use as much as 5 grams in a day before succumbing to the effects.
Beyond this, an overdose on crack can lead to lasting damage to kidneys, muscle tissue and central nervous system, and may even cause paralysis or chronic psychosis. The lasting impacts on users are oftentimes unavoidable.
The best way to prevent crack overdose is to stop using the drug altogether. But breaking an addiction isn’t always as easy as deciding to quit. That’s where we come in. The Recovery Village offers the evidence-based treatments and compassionate care needed to help you or someone you love to step foot on the road to recovery. Reach out to an intake coordinator today to learn more.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a 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 provider. View our editorial policy or view our research.