Addressing Crack Addiction

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Discussions of crack addiction often involve references to the drug epidemic of the 1980s. Unfortunately, the devastation of crack abuse isn’t just a story for the history books. Today, hundreds of thousands of people continue to use this dangerous and highly addictive substance.

What Is Crack?

What is crack cocaine? Crack is the slang term for cocaine that has been processed into what appear to be small crystals or rocks. The name “crack” refers to the crackling sound that these rocks emit when they are heated in order to be smoked, which is the most common way that this drug is ingested. 

As with powder cocaine, crack is a stimulant. When a person uses crack, the drug causes elevated levels of dopamine in the central nervous system. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, or chemical messenger, that is associated with feelings such as motivation, pleasure, and reward.

This crack-associated flood of dopamine can lead to effects such as increased energy, heightened senses, and a sudden rush of euphoria. Someone who smokes crack may experience these effects almost immediately, though they usually only last about five or 10 minutes. 

Why Is Crack so Addictive?

Experts believe that crack’s addictiveness is related to the intensity and brevity of its effects.

As we noted in the previous section, smoking crack can trigger the almost immediate onset of several pleasurable effects. However, after just a few minutes, these effects will begin to fade, often giving way to a physical and psychological crash.

To prolong their recreational high and forestall the inevitable crash, people often use crack over and over again. This is known as a crack binge. Depending on the urges a person feels and the amount of the drug they have, crack binges can last for hours or even days.

When a person finally comes down from a crack high, their body will struggle through a period of dopamine depletion. This can cause lethargy, low motivation, depressed mood, and a virtual inability to experience happiness. 

To overcome these unpleasant feelings, the individual may feel compelled to use crack again. Within a relatively brief period of time, this behavior cycle can cause them to develop a crack addiction.

Signs and Symptoms of Crack Addiction

Substance use disorders (which is the clinical term for addictions) are characterized by an inability to stop using a drug, or even control the amount and frequency of your use. If you have become addicted to crack, you are likely to experience symptoms such as:

  • Having intense cravings for the drug
  • Spending considerable amounts of time thinking about, using, or recovering from the effects of crack
  • Prioritizing crack use over your personal, academic, and work-related responsibilities
  • Developing tolerance, which means that you need to use larger amounts of crack to experience the high that you used to achieve after ingesting smaller doses
  • Using crack in particularly hazardous ways, such as by combining it with other addictive substances
  • Finding it difficult or virtually impossible to stop using crack once you have started
  • Failing to end your crack use even after incurring harm (such as job loss, legal problems, ruined relationships, or physical damage) due to prior use
  • Developing distressing physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms when you try to end or significantly reduce your crack use

If you suspect that someone you know has developed a crack addiction, keep an eye out for the following warning signs:

  • Unexplained financial problems
  • Dramatic changes in mood, attitude, and energy 
  • Drastic unintentional weight loss
  • Lack of attention to their appearance and personal hygiene
  • Agitation and restlessness
  • Uncharacteristic anger, aggressiveness, or recklessness
  • Pulling away from family and friends
  • Declining performance in school or at work
  • Loss of interest in activities or topics that used to be very important to them
  • Secrecy or deceitfulness about how they’ve been spending their time and who they have been associating with

Compulsive crack abuse can also lead to many serious health concerns, including cognitive impairments, malnutrition, cardiovascular problems, damage to the liver and kidneys, extreme tooth decay, sexual dysfunction, seizures, stroke, and exposure to both HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C.

How to Overcome Crack Addiction

Once you’ve become addicted to crack, you may need professional help to stop using it. Effective treatment can take many forms depending on how you have been impacted by your addiction. This is why it is so important to find a provider who will conduct a thorough evaluation and recommend the services that align most closely with your history, needs, and goals.

One of your first treatment-related decisions will likely involve determining which program or programs are best for you. Your options may include:

Some people only receive treatment in one of these programs. Others start in detox or residential treatment, then step down to one or several of the outpatient options for continued support. There’s no right or wrong path – just the path that’s right for you.

Within these various levels of care, effective treatment for crack addiction can include a variety of therapies and services, such as:

  • Individual, group, and family therapy sessions
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
  • Holistic therapies
  • Neurofeedback therapy

If your struggles with crack addiction are related to untreated trauma, you may also benefit from eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy

Also, if you have also developed anxiety, depression, or another co-occurring mental health condition, it’s important to receive care at a center that offers dual diagnosis services. Failing to address the full scope of your mental health needs could quickly undermine your recovery efforts.

Contact Renewal Health Group to Start Treatment for Crack Addiction

Renewal Health Group offers a full continuum of customized care for adults who have become dependent on crack, powder cocaine, and other addictive substances. We also offer dual diagnosis services to patients whose lives have been disrupted by both addictions and co-occurring mental health concerns.

Programming options at our three treatment centers in Southern California include detox, residential treatment, and several outpatient options. Our compassionate experts can meet you wherever you are in your addiction struggle and help you find your path toward improved health and successful, long-term recovery. 

When you’re ready to get started, the Renewal Health Group team is here for you. To learn more or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Contact page or call us today.

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