Crack Cocaine Addiction
Crack cocaine abuse and addiction is a serious problem for many people in the United States. According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, around 5.5 million Americans reported using cocaine (which includes crack) in the past year, with 778,000 of those people using crack.1 Not only can crack use cause significant psychological and physical health consequences, but it can be deadly.
Crack is an addictive and dangerous form of cocaine, but it doesn’t have to control your life. If you think that you or someone you care about may have a problem with crack, it’s important to know that treatment is available so that people can overcome their addiction. This article will help you understand crack addiction, symptoms, and explain the treatment and support available for someone with a crack addiction.2
Is Crack Cocaine Addictive?
Crack cocaine is an extremely addictive drug. Crack use increases dopamine activity in the brain by preventing the neurotransmitter from being recycled back into the neuron that releases it. Dopamine is an important neurotransmitter associated with reward, memory, and pleasure; it is released when a person engages in a pro-survival activity, such as having sex or eating food. In this way, it rewards people for activities that promote survival. Chronic administration of crack blocks the normal recycling of dopamine, resulting in a buildup of dopamine, your brain’s “feel-good” reward and reinforcement chemical. Dopamine is responsible for emotional regulation and motivation and influences people to participate in important life-sustaining activities like eating and socialization.2
Because crack use causes high amounts of dopamine to flood the synaptic space, thus rewarding the behavior, crack users are likely to experience intense cravings that reinforce crack use. Chronic crack cocaine abuse can lead to dependence, which is an adaptation to the presence of cocaine in the body. When a dependent person abruptly quits using crack, they will likely experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, such as:3,4
- Increased appetite.
- Slowed thinking.
- Intense crack cravings.
Oftentimes, people will continue abusing crack in efforts to alleviate or avoid these unwanted symptoms. Continued use can ultimately lead to addiction, and since people who use crack often use it in a binge pattern, this can speed up the development of an addiction.3 Addiction is often a progressive condition, which means that it tends to worsen over time as it goes untreated. The sooner you seek help from a professional rehab program, the better.
Checking Your Insurance Benefits
If you are looking for crack cocaine addiction treatment, it can feel overwhelming As you consider your options, knowing exactly what your insurance plan covers can give you peace of mind while you or your loved one is in rehab. You can do the work of getting and staying sober without worrying about unexpected costs or financial struggles. For more information on what your insurance plan covers, call AAC at , click here, or fill out the form below.
What is Crack Cocaine Addiction?
Cocaine is a stimulant, which means it enhances activity in the body’s central nervous system, including in the brain, resulting in feelings of euphoria, energy, and alertness, but it also can cause paranoia, irritability, and anger, especially when its effects wear off.3-5
Crack cocaine and cocaine that is injected appear to have a greater potential for dependence compared with snorting powder cocaine, and people who smoke crack also have a greater risk of negative health consequences.6 All forms of cocaine are classified as Schedule II substances under the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule II drugs are defined as having a high potential for abuse, potentially leading to severe physiological dependence.3 A substance use disorder (SUD) is the general diagnostic term given to people suffering from addiction to drugs or alcohol. Crack cocaine addiction falls under the category of a stimulant use disorder.
Your brain adapts to the dopamine buildup and can result in developing tolerance, which means you need more crack to experience a high. Long-term abuse of crack can also affect your ability to learn, make decisions, remember things, and use good judgment. Despite these negative consequences, people often continue to use, which is a defining characteristic of addiction.2
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Crack Cocaine Addiction?
It may not always be easy to identify when someone is struggling with crack cocaine abuse. However, people who are using crack cocaine may display some of the following behaviors and signs, which can include:7-9
- Talking or moving faster than normal.
- Shaking or twitching.
- Changes in their sleeping or eating habits.
- Paranoid or suspicious behavior.
- Mood changes, like being irritable, aggressive, or angry for no apparent reason.
- Experiencing a “crash” after they’ve used crack, which can cause symptoms like fatigue and sadness.
Physical Effects of Crack
Crack use can cause a range of short and long-term physical effects. The short-term physical effects of crack use include:5,8,10
- Increased energy, mental alertness, and sociability.
- Appetite loss.
- Being hypersensitive to things you see, hear, or feel.
- Dilated pupils.
- Increased body temperature and blood pressure.
- Restlessness and irritability.
- Tremors or muscle twitches.
- Fast or irregular heartbeat.
- Heart attacks.
What are the Health Risks of Crack Cocaine Abuse?
There are various health risks associated with crack cocaine abuse. The long-term physical effects of chronic crack use may include:5,10,11
- Lung damage.
- Worsening of asthma.
- Significant weight loss and malnourishment.
- Inflammation to your heart or aortic ruptures.
- Chronic cough.
- Higher risk of infections such as pneumonia.
- Respiratory distress.
- Intracerebral hemorrhage, or brain bleeding.
- Neurological problems, like Parkinson’s disease.
- Impaired cognitive functioning, such as memory loss, inability to pay attention and difficulty controlling inhibition.
Additional risks associated with crack cocaine use may include the following:3
- Constricted blood vessels.
- Risk of cardiac arrest.
- Risk of seizure.
- Acute respiratory problems (including lung trauma and bleeding).
- Aggressive and paranoid behavior.
Take Our “Am I Addicted to Crack Cocaine?” Self-Assessment
Take our free, 5-minute “Am I Addicted to Crack Cocaine” self-assessment below if you think you or someone you love might be struggling with crack cocaine addiction. The evaluation consists of yes or no questions that are intended to be used as an informational tool to assess the severity and probability of a substance use disorder. Substance use disorders should be diagnosed by professionals using these diagnostic criteria after thorough patient assessment. This self-assessment is free and confidential and may serve as an indicator of a potential addiction but should not replace a diagnosis from a professional treatment provider.
How Do I Get Help for Crack Cocaine Addiction?
Calling a crack addiction hotline can be a helpful first step to help you understand your treatment options. Effective treatment is available to help people abstain from crack use and learn ways to avoid relapse.12
Treatment can take place on an inpatient basis at a residential treatment facility, in which you live at a rehab for the duration of treatment, or outpatient treatment facilities, in which you live at home and travel at least once a week to a nearby facility for treatment. Regardless of the setting, it’s important that you receive an individualized treatment plan based on your unique needs, and that it is adjusted throughout the duration of treatment as necessary.12
Common therapies that are usually offered at both inpatient and outpatient rehabs include:5,10,12,13
- Behavioral therapies, like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or the Matrix Model, which are offered as a part of individual counseling or group therapy sessions.
- Treatment for any co-occurring mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder.
- Although there are no currently approved FDA medications for crack cocaine addiction, research into different medications is ongoing; you may also receive medication to treat symptoms of co-occurring disorders.
- Long-term follow-up and relapse prevention care. This may include ongoing counseling, living in a therapeutic community (drug-free residences to help people in recovery), or participation in mutual-help groups like Narcotics Anonymous or SMART Recovery.
There are also support groups that can help you as you work toward becoming sober and maintaining that sobriety. Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is a mutual support group that offers people the opportunity to use peer bond, sponsor relationships, and self-expression to work toward sobriety. There are also non-12-step programs available that offer alternatives to NA.
Where Can I Learn More about Treating Crack Cocaine Addiction?
For more information about crack cocaine abuse and addiction treatment, you may want to reach out to your doctor. Or you can contact one of our admissions navigators at for the information and support you are looking for as you look for crack cocaine abuse treatment.
There are various treatment programs and strategies available for crack cocaine addiction, so don’t give up if the first program you check out doesn’t meet your individual needs. To learn more about crack cocaine addiction treatment, click here.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2020). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. PEP19-5068, NSDUH Series H-54). Rockville, MD: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Understanding Drug Use and Addiction DrugFacts.
- National Drug Intelligence Center. (n.d.). Crack Cocaine Fast Facts.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2020). MedlinePlus: Cocaine.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2021). Cocaine DrugFacts.
- Hatsukami, D. K. & Fischman, M. W. (1996). Crack cocaine and cocaine hydrochloride. Are the differences myth or reality? JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, 276(19), 1580–1588.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). Signs of Cocaine Use.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). Effects of Cocaine on Brains and Bodies.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2021). MedlinePlus: Substance use – cocaine.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Commonly Used Drugs Charts.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). Cocaine Research Report: What are the long-term effects of cocaine use?
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). DrugFacts: Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction DrugFacts.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). Cocaine Research Report: How is cocaine addiction treated?