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What Is Crack, How Does It Affect Users, and Can You Overcome Crack Addiction?

What is crack? Although you’ve likely heard of crack, you may not know many details about the drug. It’s essential for users and those who care about them to understand how devastating crack is and that recovery from crack addiction is possible.

Clean Recovery Centers want to help you break free of crack addiction. In addition to physical recovery, they want to assist you in finding the underlying reasons you turned to crack and develop a new, healthy, and clean lifestyle. Their approach treats the mental, physical, social, and spiritual components that make a whole person.

What Is Crack?

Crack is a form of cocaine. Straight cocaine is a powdered hydrochloride salt derived from coca plants. Makers create crack by combining water and a reactive substance, typically baking soda or ammonia, with cocaine powder and boiling it. Once it cools, it’s a hard, solid substance.

Crack gets its name from the crackling sound that burning it produces. Other slang terms for crack include base, candy, dice, nuggets, and rocks.

Crack is a stimulant that affects the body’s central nervous system. It also has other devastating physical, psychological, and life-altering effects.

As if crack doesn’t have enough dangerous consequences on its own, it sometimes includes other potentially harmful substances, such as:

  • Benzocaine
  • Ephedrine
  • Glucose or sucrose
  • Levamisole
  • Lidocaine
  • Ritalin
  • Talc

Dealers sometimes mix additives or adulterants like these into crack to produce specific effects or to make the product’s mass greater, meaning that dealers can make more money for less actual crack.

What Does It Look Like?

Crack is generally found in small, irregularly shaped chunks or pellets. The color is usually white, off-white, yellow, or brown. Adulterants or additives can alter the color of the crack.

What Does It Feel Like?

Because users typically smoke crack, it causes an almost immediate high. It makes users feel things intensely while thoughts race along with their heart rate. It can also produce:

  • Aggression
  • Anxiety and stress
  • Confidence
  • Decreased inhibitions
  • Elation or “rush”
  • Hyperactivity and hypersensitivity
  • Increased alertness

Crack smoke or vapors can reach your brain in eight seconds or less. The high peaks after only 10-15 seconds, but it doesn’t usually last more than 15 minutes.

As high as crack can make you, coming down from it can produce dramatic lows. Users begin to crave another dose intensely not long after the high evaporates.

Users can experience paranoia and depression as a result of losing their high. The paranoia produced by crack can cause users to make unprovoked attacks, creating danger for themselves and others around them.

What Does It Smell Like?

Users burn crack to inhale the smoke or vapors. The odor it produces has a strong chemical smell. Some say that the aroma of burning crack is similar to that of burning plastic or rubber.

How Is It Used?

Crack is a solid form that users usually smoke or freebase. Freebasing is a process that liquefies the crack, and users inhale the vapor as they melt it.

The composition of crack means it melts at lower temperatures. Smoking or inhaling crack vapor introduces the drug into the lungs, where it quickly enters the bloodstream. Because of this, users get high faster than if they snorted powdered cocaine.

How Long Does It Stay in Your System?

There are multiple ways to test a person to see if they have used crack. The most common methods are by using blood or saliva, hair, or urine. The times listed are typical, but several factors can make crack stay in a body’s system longer.

Blood or Saliva

Blood or saliva tests can show crack for 48 hours. Blood tests, along with urine tests, rarely produce a false positive.


Surface contact or close proximity to crack can leave traces of it in your hair, so freshly washed hair is ideal. Hair follicle tests can show crack evidence for months or years after the last dose, although they also show recent use.


Urine testing is the most common way to test for recent crack usage. For those who occasionally use crack, urine tests can detect crack traces as long as 72 hours after a dose. For frequent users, this type of test can find crack for a maximum of two weeks.

Factors That Can Affect These Tests

If any of these apply to you, crack will likely remain in your system longer:

  • Alcohol consumption at the same time as crack usage can substantially increase crack levels in the blood.
  • Changes in your urine’s pH levels can show that crack is in your system longer.
  • Higher dosages of crack and frequent usage cause it to remain in your system longer.
  • Kidney damage can cause crack to stay in your body for extended periods.
  • Slower metabolisms and higher percentages of body fat can make your body retain crack for longer periods.

What Does It Do?

Crack has an intense stimulating effect. It changes how the body’s brain and nervous system perform. Although abusers experience a fleeting sense of euphoria, it is false. Unfortunately, most users become addicted to that high and seek more of it.

How Does It Work?

When crack reaches the brain, it produces excessive levels of dopamine. This chemical is naturally found in the body and produces a feeling of happiness. For those who use crack regularly, their bodies become unable to produce dopamine. This results in dependence on crack to feel happy.

Crack abusers can begin to feel withdrawal symptoms as soon as 30 minutes after a dose. These are quite unpleasant and urge the user to get more crack to make the unpleasantness go away.

What Is Crack Withdrawal Like?

Abusers have both physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms.

Acute symptoms that users experience in the first stages of withdrawal include:

  • Anxiety, panic, or nervousness
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Inability to focus or concentrate
  • Irritability
  • Mood shifts
  • Nightmares or bad dreams

Those in recovery may experience longer-lasting symptoms such as:

  • Anger
  • Cravings
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Insomnia or other sleep issues
  • No motivation
  • Restlessness and shaking
  • Volatile emotions

Unfortunately, the problems don’t stop there. Abusers can have many long-term health consequences that can profoundly affect their lives, such as:

  • Asthma
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Heart problems
  • Inability to smell
  • Increased risk of serious diseases and infections
  • Respiratory problems

Several factors affect how long withdrawal takes for those who stop using crack. These include the abuser’s metabolism, the severity and length of the addiction, age, and other drug abuse.

What Is the Difference Between Cocaine and Crack?

Cocaine and crack have the same basic chemistry and produce similar results. Either substance can have additives, and crack inherits the substances added to the cocaine used to create it.

Cocaine is a powder that is usually snorted, swallowed, or injected. These delivery methods mean that it takes longer for a user to feel the effects of the drug, but the high lasts longer.

Crack is a solid, more concentrated and potent form of cocaine that produces an almost immediate but short-lived high. Crack is much cheaper than cocaine, so users spend less money at first. That rapidly changes because the addiction is often so intense and difficult to resist that abusers wind up spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on crack.

What Are the Side-Effects of Crack?

Users often experience adverse side effects even when they’re not high.

Some of the many short-term side effects of crack are:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Dilated pupils
  • Headaches
  • Paranoia

Long-term side effects include:

  • Crack bugs (a hallucination that mimics bugs crawling under or on the skin)
  • Delirium
  • Increased tolerance
  • Psychotic tendencies, such as paranoid delusions, hearing things that aren’t there, and hallucinations

How Does It Negatively Impact Health?

Using crack even once has multiple health risks and can be fatal. It increases the likelihood that users will have a seizure, heart attack, stroke, or stop breathing.

Besides addiction and potentially fatal complications and overdose, crack affects many facets of abusers’ health.

Appetite Loss, Malnutrition

Stimulants reduce appetite. When crack users do eat, it’s not usually healthy food. They can experience electrolyte imbalances and dehydration.

Arterial Disease

Extended crack use can cause the accumulation of plaque inside renal arteries. These arteries transport blood to your kidneys from your heart. These heavy plaque deposits may lead to atherosclerosis, which is an arterial disease.

Blistered or Cracked Lips

The potency of crack smoke is short-lived, so users typically smoke it using a very short pipe. Because the pipe gets extremely hot, it often burns, blisters, and cracks lips.

Convulsions or Seizures

Crack can decrease the blood flow in your brain and cause permanent limbic system damage. When abusers use crack regularly, each additional dose can gradually lower their threshold for seizures. High individual doses of crack increase the risk of seizures and convulsions.

Heart Damage

Using crack typically reduces the oxygen levels in the heart while raising blood pressure and heart rate. This makes the heart need to work harder, and the stress can cause a stroke or heart attack.

Crack addicts may have a higher risk of developing a hardened aorta, thick heart walls, hardened arteries, irregular heartbeats, coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, and high blood pressure. Any of these conditions increase the likelihood that the abuser will suffer a heart attack or stroke.

Infectious Diseases

Over time, crack can affect the user’s immune system, making it more difficult for the body to fight infections. Abuse often leads to exhaustion, which also suppresses the immune system.

Drug users often pass the pipe or other paraphernalia around. If one person has an infection, it will likely spread to others because of this contact.

Kidney Damage

Kidneys are responsible for removing waste, fluids, and toxins from the body through urine. Repeated crack use can create a layer of dead tissue on kidney surfaces, which causes kidney damage and malfunction.

When the kidneys aren’t working correctly, they can’t rid the body of the toxins found in crack. Symptoms of crack-related kidney damage include abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting.

Memory Loss

Crack can reduce the abuser’s cognitive functions. If a person isn’t thinking clearly when they do something, they’re not likely to remember that action clearly either.

Because crack reduces blood flow and oxygen levels in the brain, it kills brain cells. Dead brain cells can cause permanent memory loss and other serious conditions.

Liver Damage

The liver’s primary function is to filter your blood to separate nutrients from other substances. Crack usage can decrease the blood flow to the liver and overall blood pressure and cause renal failure or viral hepatitis.

Dangerous additives found in crack can further reduce the liver’s ability to filter out toxins.

Lung Damage

Crack constricts the lungs’ blood vessels. This prevents proper circulation and can result in scarring and permanent damage. This condition, known as crack lung, may cause chest pain and breathing problems.

Oral Health

Crack addicts often stop brushing their teeth. In addition, since the harmful substance enters the body through the mouth, it can lead to broken, decayed, or discolored teeth and infection.

Pregnancy Complications

Crack usage during pregnancy can cause several risks to the unborn fetus and the mother. These include:

  • Central nervous system issues for the baby
  • Crack in the baby’s body, which stays longer than in the mother
  • Increased risk of miscarriage
  • Low birth weight, shorter length, and smaller head
  • Placental abruption
  • Premature delivery
  • Withdrawal symptoms and issues for newborns

If you have used crack during your pregnancy, tell your doctor. Physicians can perform screenings and tests to determine if some of these conditions are present. You should also inform your pediatrician so they can make preparations to care for your newborn’s potential crack withdrawals and other related issues.

In addition, don’t breastfeed if you use crack. It exposes your baby to crack and can cause intoxication and other harmful issues such as breathing problems, choking, high blood pressure, seizures, and vomiting.

Sexual Dysfunction and Fertility Problems

Prolonged crack usage can reduce sexual desire, cause erectile dysfunction, and decrease the likelihood of reaching orgasm and ejaculation. Because crack often disrupts women’s ovulation cycle and lowers men’s sperm count, fertility issues are common.

Sleep Deprivation

Crack is a stimulant, and one common effect that stimulants have is that users don’t think they need to sleep or are unable to sleep. The increased dopamine levels caused by crack keep the body alert, making sleep difficult for many.

Although insomnia is common, others experience hypersomnia. This condition makes people feel very tired all the time and unrefreshed by any sleep they get. They also find waking up difficult.

Systemic Toxicity

Ammonia and other potential cutting agents or additives to crack can have toxic effects on your body. Systemic toxicity means that the effects are spread throughout your body, not to a single localized area.

Is It Addictive?

Crack is highly addictive. Although unusual, users can become addicted after the first time they smoke it. It typically takes users two or three weeks for addiction to take hold, but it becomes mind-consuming when it does. They lose interest in other things and stop performing daily tasks.

It doesn’t take long for abusers to need more crack to get the same kind of high. That means they need higher dosages more often. Crack is extremely potent, and the effects don’t last long.

Users who continue to chase the high are at a dangerous level of risk for a fatal overdose. People with high blood pressure or kidney problems can have fatal complications if they use crack.

Signs of an overdose are:

  • Aggressive behavior
  • Anxiety
  • Chest pain or fast heart rate
  • Dilated pupils
  • Hallucinations
  • Nausea
  • Stroke

What Are Other Negative Effects of Crack Use?

Besides the health risks and long-term consequences of using crack, it can also cause several other changes and problems for abusers. If you notice someone with these or other erratic behaviors, they might be a crack addict and need help.

Prolonged crack use can make abusers experience:

  • Disinterest in activities or hobbies, careers, and personal relationships
  • Financial difficulties due to buying more and more crack
  • Lying and secretive behavior
  • Moodiness and mood shifts
  • Neglect of basic hygiene
  • Risky behaviors, including other illegal or promiscuous sexual activities
  • Sleep pattern changes
  • Suicidal thoughts

For those addicted to crack, the desire for it consumes their lives. Many do things they would never consider doing otherwise.

How Can Clean Recovery Centers Help?

Crack addiction is extremely difficult to overcome. The drug is potent, and withdrawal symptoms are often excruciating. Abusers who want to stop using crack benefit from a guided medical detoxification and rehabilitation process.

What is crack addiction, and how can you overcome it? Clean Recovery Centers understand how profoundly crack addiction can affect your life, and their services have helped numerous other addicts stop using crack and other harmful substances.

Treatment plans differ because everyone has specific needs. If you or someone close to you needs help overcoming crack addiction, let Clean Recovery Centers help you take the first step toward recovery. Call (888) 454-2897, chat with them online, send an email, or submit their online form. Their experienced, compassionate staff is waiting.

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