People who struggle with crack cocaine addiction often experience serious side effects that can impact physical and psychological health for years.

Article at a Glance:

  • Crack cocaine abuse can affect many aspects of a person’s life, including finances, relationships and careers.
  • Long-term health effects of crack abuse include tooth decay, stroke, infertility and even death.
  • Long-term psychological effects of crack abuse include hallucinations, paranoia and aggression.
  • Children born with prenatal crack exposure may exhibit many health and developmental problems.
  • Signs of a crack overdose are chest pains, stroke, irregular heartbeat and unconsciousness.

Signs of Crack Abuse

Crack cocaine is a volatile drug that rewires a person’s brain to ensure they crave only one thing — crack. This addiction can cause many changes in a person’s life. To someone on the outside, it may seem like the friend or family member they once knew is gone, replaced by a person who no longer has any ties to former interests.

People who struggle with crack cocaine abuse or addiction often experience problems in these areas:

  • Finances
  • Legal issues
  • Interpersonal relationships
  • Work responsibilities
  • School duties
  • Social interactions

While anyone could experience trouble in these areas, these problems are very common among people who struggle with addiction. Often, addiction to crack cocaine or other substances causes trouble in all of these areas simultaneously.

During this addiction, crack becomes the most important thing in a person’s life. Other parts of their life, including their finances, may suffer as they pursue their next high. 

Signs of financial trouble due to crack addiction include:

  • Loss of employment
  • Spending retirement funds
  • Spending life savings
  • Declaring bankruptcy
  • Selling treasured family heirlooms to make money
  • Continually asking friends or family for money
  • Stealing money

While many financial problems stem from purchasing the drug, people with crack addiction may also experience financial hardship due to associated legal troubles. Hiring a lawyer or paying bail can be very expensive, especially when it becomes a repeated pattern. 

Signs of legal trouble due to crack cocaine addiction are:

  • Arrests
  • Losing a driver’s license
  • Losing child custody privileges
  • Getting a divorce

Signs of interpersonal problems due to crack addiction are:

  • Visiting or speaking with loved ones infrequently
  • Becoming violent with loved ones
  • Fighting with a romantic partner
  • Ignoring parental duties

Signs of work-related problems caused by crack addiction include:

  • Being tardy
  • Missing days at work
  • Taking long breaks while at work
  • Appearing high on the job
  • Exhibiting risky behavior while at work, such as operating machinery without safety gear or getting into a fight with a manager
  • Getting fired
  • Receiving complaints from customers, co-workers or managers

Signs of school-related problems due to crack cocaine addiction include:

  • Tardiness or absences
  • Skipping classes
  • Appearing high at school
  • Exhibiting risky behavior at school, such as getting into a fight with another student or teacher
  • Receiving detention or other forms of punishment for delinquent behavior
  • Earning failing grades
  • Suspension
  • Expulsion
  • Inability to graduate due to low academic performance

Signs of social problems caused by crack addiction are:

  • Avoiding favorite activities and sober events
  • Abandoning hobbies
  • Alienating oneself from family, friends or community

Side Effects of Crack Cocaine

A person will experience immediate side effects when they use crack cocaine. These effects can last for many hours, but some detrimental effects can last a lifetime. Side effects of crack cocaine use include:

  • Blood vessel constriction
  • Increase in heart rate and blood pressure
  • Feelings of euphoria
  • Tremors
  • Vertigo
  • Restlessness
  • Muscle twitches
  • Increased energy
  • Erratic behaviors
  • Anxiety or panic symptoms
  • Disturbance in heart rhythm


What does crack do to your body?

Crack and other forms of cocaine are stimulants that cause the heart rate to increase and blood vessels to constrict. The drug interacts with the dopamine system in the brain, and over time, a person will need to take larger amounts of the drug to get the same high. Crack can cause or worsen lung disorders, perforate nasal passages and reduce sense of smell.

What psychological risks does using crack cocaine involve?

Crack cocaine use can cause:

  • Paranoia
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Panic
  • Anxiety
  • Violent behaviors

Long-Term Health Implications

The longer a person uses crack, the more likely they are to experience more serious side effects. Crack is a dangerous drug that consists of many harsh chemicals, and it is often mixed with other drugs as it’s made. Over time, these negative health effects compound in the body and can cause extreme physical and psychological reactions.

The long-term physical effects of crack abuse include:

  • Tooth decay
  • Stroke
  • Seizures
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Chest pains
  • Endocarditis
  • Heart disease
  • Heart attack
  • Lung damage
  • Respiratory failure
  • Liver damage
  • Kidney damage
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Infertility
  • Malnutrition
  • Abscesses at injection sites
  • Contraction of infectious diseases
  • Hemorrhage
  • Death

The long-term psychological effects of crack abuse include:

  • Psychosis
  • Hallucinations
  • Severe depression
  • Paranoia
  • Aggression
  • Irritability
  • Disorientation
  • Erratic or risky behavior
  • Addiction

Signs and Symptoms of a Crack Overdose

One possible outcome of crack abuse is overdose. Overdose occurs when a person ingests too much of a substance, essentially poisoning themselves. The body is unable to detox the large dose before it causes seriously harmful and often deadly side effects. Overdoses are typically unintentional, but sometimes, people may overdose on purpose.

The risk of overdose increases when someone uses crack and another substance, such as alcohol, at the same time. In these cases, overdose typically occurs because the body is trying to detox two drugs at once and cannot dispel them fast enough to avoid harmful effects.

Signs of a crack cocaine overdose may include:

  • Weak pulse
  • Slowed breathing
  • Clammy skin
  • Vomiting
  • Periodic loss of consciousness
  • Confusion
  • Clumsiness
  • Fidgeting and trembling
  • Excessive itching
  • Irritability or violent behaviors

A crack cocaine overdose is a medical emergency that can have life-threatening consequences. If you believe you or someone you know may be overdosing, call 911. 

If you or someone you love is struggling with a crack cocaine addiction, help is available at The Recovery Village. Contact us today to learn about addiction treatment programs that can work well for your situation.

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Editor – Jonathan Strum
Jonathan Strum graduated from the University of Nebraska Omaha with a Bachelor's in Communication in 2017 and has been writing professionally ever since. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Paula Holmes, LCSW
Paula Holmes is a licensed clinical social worker, psychotherapist and freelance writer who lives and works in midcoast Maine. She received her master's degree in Social Work in 2008 from the University of Maine. Read more

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “What are the long-term effects of cocaine use?” July 2021. Accessed Oct 14, 2021.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “What are the short-term effects of cocaine use?” June 2021. Accessed October 14, 2021.

The University of Arizona. “MethOIDE methamphetamine and other illicit drug education: Medical Complications.” Accessed October 14, 2021.

UC Santa Cruz. “Cocaine and Crack.” November 30, 2015. Accessed October 14, 2021.

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.