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FAQ About Crack

Crack addiction is one of society's greatest problems today. Individuals addicted to crack will do almost anything to get the drug. It has penetrated all levels of our society; rich, poor, and everyone in between. Family members connected to individuals with a crack addiction live in chaos and confusion, not understanding the underlying mechanics of crack addiction. At Narconon we do understand crack addiction. Narconon United Kingdom is a leader in the field of crack addiction treatment since 1966. If you have a loved one addicted to crack, we can help.


Q.) What is crack?

A.) The chemical cocaine hydrochloride is commonly known as crack. Some users chemically process cocaine in order to remove the hydrochloride. This process is called "freebasing" and makes the drug more potent. "Crack" is a solid form of freebased cocaine. It is called "crack" because it snaps and cracks when heated and smoked.

Since crack is a prepared form of freebased cocaine, the user does not have to buy the equipment or be exposed to the explosive chemicals associated with freebasing. Crack is most often packaged in vials or plastic bags and sold in small quantities, usually 300-500mg or enough for two to three inhalations.

In the 1970s cocaine was expensive and considered a "status" drug. The introduction of inexpensive crack increased the accessibility of this substance, and crack has become the drug of choice for many drug users, especially for inner-city disadvantaged youth. Crack's convenience, ease of concealment, wide availability, and low cost has increased its use. The fact that crack is smoked rather than snorted or injected (ingestion methods associated with the stigma of being a "junkie") has contributed to its popularity.

One gram of pure powder cocaine will convert to approximately 0.89 grams of crack. The Drug Enforcement Administration estimates that crack rocks are between 75 and 90 percent pure cocaine.

Q.) What is the difference between crack and cocaine?

A.) Crack is made from cocaine in a process called freebasing, in which cocaine powder is cooked with ammonia or sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) to create rocks, chips, or chunks that can be smoked. The term crack refers to the crackling sound that is heard when the mixture is smoked. Crack is usually smoked in a pipe. Because it's smoked, crack cocaine effects are felt more quickly and they are more intense than those of powder cocaine. However, the effects of smoked crack are shorter lived than the effects of snorted powder cocaine.

Cocaine is produced as a white chunky powder. It is sold most often in aluminium foil, plastic or paper packets, or small vials. Cocaine is usually chopped into a fine powder with a razor blade on a small mirror or some other hard surface, arranged into small rows called "lines," then quickly inhaled (or "snorted") through the nose with a short straw or rolled up paper money. It can also be injected into the blood stream.

Q.) How is crack used?

A.) The same way that freebase is used, namely, by placing the substance in a glass pipe (or hash pipe) with a fine mesh screen under it, then heating it and inhaling the vapours. The vapours of the crack are absorbed through the lungs, into the bloodstream, and transported to the brain within 10-15 seconds. One inhalation will produce a degree of intoxication usually lasting 10-15 minutes.

Q.) Why is crack such a dangerous drug?

A.) Crack is inhaled and rapidly absorbed through the lungs, into the blood, and carried swiftly to the brain. The chances of overdosing and poisoning leading to coma, convulsions, and death are greatly increased. Crack's rapid rush - 5 to 7 minutes of intense pleasure - quickly subsides, leading to depression that needs to be relieved by more crack. This cycle enhances the chances of addiction and dependency. Because of the brief high, users are constantly thinking about, and devising ways to get more crack. Psychologically, the drug reduces concentration, ambition, drive, and increases confusion and irritability, wreaking havoc on users' professional and personal lives. Habitual use may lead to cocaine psychosis causing, paranoia, hallucinations, and a condition known as formication, in which insects or snakes are perceived to be crawling under the skin. The paranoia and depression can instigate violent and suicidal behaviour. The side effects of adulterants increase cocaine's risks. The drug is often cut with one or more of any number of other substances, such as the cheaper drugs procaine, lidocaine, and benzocaine, and substances that pose no serious risks, such as sugars (mannitol and sucrose), or starches. However, when quinine or amphetamines are added, the potential for serious side effects increases dramatically.

Q) What is crack addiction?

A) Once an individual has tried crack, they may be unable to predict or control the extent to which they will continue to use. Crack is probably the most addictive substance that has been devised so far. Crack addicts must have more and more crack to sustain their high and avoid the intense "crash" or depression that follows their binges. They become physically and psychologically dependent on crack, which is often a result of only few doses of the drug taken within a few days. This dependence can lead to addiction.

All to often, the process of crack addiction goes something like this: The "soon to be addict" takes their first hit. Upon inhalation of this powerful drug, the users body instantly begins the addiction process. The individual's mental and emotional being is soon to follow, but for now just their body suffers from the initial stages of crack addiction. After the first few times using the drug, their mind slowly starts the addiction process. This grows stronger and stronger until, mentally, the addict believes that they cannot live without the drug. They now are entangled in a full fledged crack addiction. Shortly after this occurs, crack takes complete control over their emotions.

Once the individual's emotions have been overridden by cocaine, they no longer feel normal without being intoxicated. When this occurs they feel the need to use more crack just to feel normal. In order to get high they have to take an immense amount of the drug. Their crack addiction has infiltrated all areas of their life. They can no longer function physically, emotionally, or mentally without crack. This cycle of addiction continues until the individual either quits using or dies.

The above process of crack addiction demonstrates the potential power of this insidious drug. Even though death lurks around the corner, individuals with an addiction to crack continue to use with no regard for their life or anyone else's.

Q) How does crack produce its effects?

A) Crack works on the automatic nervous system. The automatic nervous system controls the sympathetic system which speeds everything up such as heart rate and breathing. The autonomic nervous system also controls the para-sympathetic system which does the exact opposite (slows things down). This explains why people become hyper when the smoke crack. Crack works by causing the brains neuro transmitters to release all the dopamine at once (dopamine is a chemical in the brain which releases feelings of pleasure). When we laugh, a slight amount of dopamine is released and this makes you feel good. After this dopamine has been released, crack can block the re-uptake of the dopamine in some cases. If this happens, the person will now make it a mission to get any sort of pleasure.

Q) How does crack effect the brain?

A) The use of crack alters the processes of the brain by causing a change in the way neurons in the brain communicate. Nerve cells, called neurons, communicate with each other by supplying the brain with chemicals called neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters allow information in the form of electrical impulses to be passed through the body. This process works by neurotransmitters attaching themselves to certain areas in the brain. One of the neurotransmitters affected by crack is called dopamine. Dopamine is released by neurons in the part of the brain that controls feelings of pleasure and well-being. This area is in the limbic system of the brain. Normally, once dopamine has transferred to a nerve cell's receptors and caused a reaction in a cell, it is transferred back to the neuron that released it.

Crack cocaine causes damage to this system and blocks the process of transfer. Dopamine then builds up in the gap synapse between neurons. As a result, for crack cocaine users, dopamine keeps affecting a nerve cell after it should have stopped. That's why someone who uses crack cocaine feels an extra sense of euphoria and pleasure. Although crack cocaine may bring on intense feelings of pleasure while it is being used, crack cocaine can damage the ability to feel pleasure in the long run. Research suggests that long-term crack cocaine use may reduce the amount of dopamine or the number of dopamine receptors in the brain. When this happens, nerve cells must have crack cocaine to communicate properly. Without crack cocaine, the brain can't send enough dopamine to the receptors to create a feeling of pleasure.

Q) When are the effects felt from smoking crack?

A) Facilitated by the large surface area of the lungs' air sacs, cocaine administered by inhalation is absorbed almost immediately into the bloodstream. It takes only 19 seconds to reach the brain. However, only 30 to 60 percent of the available dose is absorbed due to incomplete inhalation of the cocaine-laden fumes and variations in the heating temperature.

Crack smokers achieve maximum physiological effects approximately two minutes after inhalation. Maximum psychotropic effects are attained approximately one minute after inhalation. Similar to intravenous administration, the physiological and psychotropic effects of inhaled cocaine are sustained for approximately 30 minutes after peak effects are attained.

Q) What are the short term effects of crack?

A) The short term effects of crack can be felt upon the users initial hit. The individual begins to feel the effects of crack immediately. The user experiences an increase in energy, body temperature, mental alertness, heart rate, constricted blood vessels, as well as a decrease in appetite. These temporary effects of crack are as short lived as the users high. Because crack is smoked, causing it to travel through the blood up to the brain much faster than cocaine which is snorted, the user experiences these short term effects more intensely. The duration and intensity of these short term effects of crack are based on the amount of crack that is used.

The short term effects of crack include but are not limited to:

  • Magnification of pleasure, euphoria
  • Alertness and in some cases - hyper-alertness
  • Increased and sometimes a grandiose sense of well being
  • Decreased anxiety
  • Lower social inhibitions: more sociable and talkative
  • Heightened energy, self-esteem, sexuality and emotions aroused by interpersonal experiences
  • Appetite loss; weight loss

Q) What are the long term effects of crack?

A) The long term effects of crack affect the user physically, mentally, and emotionally. An individual's long term effects from crack vary from person to person depending on their length and intensity of abuse. In general, the long term effects of crack include restlessness, mood change, irritability, auditory hallucinations, extreme paranoia, and eventually and rather quickly, addiction.

The long term effects of crack include but are not limited to:

  • Extreme euphoria - "mental orgasm"
  • Uninhibited
  • Impaired judgment
  • Grandiosity
  • Impulsivity
  • Hyper sexuality
  • Hyper vigilance
  • Compulsivity
  • Extreme psychomotor activation/agitation
  • Anxiety; irritability; argumentative
  • Transient panic
  • Paranoia
  • Terror of impending death
  • Poor reality testing; delusions
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Chronic sore throat
  • Hoarseness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Bronchitis
  • Lung cancer
  • Emphysema and other lung damage
  • Respiratory problems such as congestion of the lungs, wheezing, and spitting up black phlegm
  • Burning of the lips, tongue, and throat
  • Slowed digestion
  • Weight loss
  • High incidence of dependence
  • Blood vessel constriction
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Brain seizures that can result in suffocation
  • Dilated pupils
  • Sweating
  • Rise in blood sugar levels and body temperature
  • Disability from drug-induced health problems
  • Suppressed desire for food, sex, friends, family, and social contacts
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Death

Q.) What are the side effects of crack?

A.) Below is a list of side effects due to crack addiction:

  • Changes in blood pressure, heart rates, and breathing rates
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Convulsions
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite leading to malnutrition and weight loss
  • Cold sweats
  • Swelling and bleeding of mucous membranes
  • Restlessness and anxiety
  • Damage to nasal cavities
  • Damage to lungs
  • Possible heart attacks, strokes, or convulsions

Q.) What are the dangers of mixing other drugs while using crack?

A.) When people mix crack and alcohol consumption, they are compounding the danger each drug poses, and unknowingly forming a complex chemical experiment within their bodies. NIDA-funded researchers have found that the human liver combines crack and alcohol to manufacture a third substance called cocaethylene that intensifies crack's euphoric effects, while possibly increasing the risk of sudden death. Sudden death takes place when the users' body chemistry is imbalanced to the slightest degree. This releases toxic chemicals into their body creating a reaction within the individual resulting in cardiac arrest. This negative reaction to crack's toxic chemicals is the cause of "sudden death".

Q.) What are the symptoms of crack withdrawal?

A.) Crack withdrawal symptoms include but are not limited to:

  • agitation
  • depression
  • intense craving for the drug
  • extreme fatigue
  • anxiety
  • angry outbursts
  • lack of motivation
  • nausea/vomiting
  • shaking
  • irritability
  • muscle pain
  • disturbed sleep

Q) What are the symptoms of a crack overdose?

A) Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of crack usage is the high risk of overdose. Since crack is more potent than street cocaine, it enters the bloodstream more quickly and in higher concentrations. This is particularly risky since smoking the drug makes it difficult to estimate dosage. The most frequent overdose that people experience from smoking crack cocaine is mild and is felt as a very rapid heart beat and hyperventilation. These reactions are often accompanied by a feeling of impending death. Although most people survive, several thousand are killed by overdosing on crack every year. All forms of cocaine and crack cocaine use have been linked with heart failure in users. This also includes otherwise healthy users.

Q) What complications are associated with smoking crack during pregnancy?

A) Crack and Pregnancy:

  • increased incidence of still births
  • increased incidence of miscarriages
  • premature (often fatal) labour and delivery
  • in males, the cocaine in crack may attach to the sperm causing damage to the cells of the foetus.
  • babies exposed to cocaine experience painful and life threatening withdrawal, are irritable, have poor ability to regulate their own body temperature and blood sugar and are at increased risk of having seizures.

B) Effects of Crack on the Foetus:

  • seizures or strokes
  • cerebral palsy
  • mental retardation
  • vision and hearing impairments
  • urinary tract abnormalities
  • autism and learning disabilities

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