Crack cocaine is the same chemical product as powdered cocaine, but with a different delivery system. Powder cocaine is a water-soluble “salt” form of the chemical, while crack cocaine is a fat-soluble form that is absorbed more readily and more quickly into a user’s body when it is smoked. Crack’s effects are felt more quickly and more intensely, but those effects disappear equally quickly, often within fifteen minutes of inhaling crack cocaine vapors. The speed of its effects and the intense high that are produced by crack cocaine make it one of the more addictive and dangerous drugs that is currently being used and abused.
Crack users report that their cravings for more crack begin as soon as this intense high wears off. The intensity and short duration of a crack high can lead to increased usage, which leads to severe consequential mental and physical health issues. Initially, because crack cocaine vapors are inhaled through short pipes, the heat from those pipes and from the vapors themselves can burn and scar a crack user’s hands, lips and mouth. In extreme situations, the crack product itself or its byproducts can catch fire and cause second or third degree burns if that fire spreads to the crack user’s body.
Crack users will pursue their crack high to the exclusion of regular care for their health and well-being, leading to malnutrition and loss of appetite, lack of regular sleep, and paranoia, psychosis, hysteria and hallucinations. Crack users who question whether crack cocaine can result in psychotic hysteria need look no further than Richard Pryor’s experience with crack in 1990. While on a crack-induced high, the now-deceased comedian poured rum on himself and lit himself on fire. He later used this episode in his life as a cautionary tale to others who were tempted to try crack.
The constriction of a crack user’s blood vessels can also lead to circulatory, respiratory and cardiac problems. Prevalence of these problems in crack users is the primary reason why crack users are three times more likely to suffer a premature death than non-crack users.
In its current iteration, the United States criminal justice system imposes stricter penalties on crack users and distributors than it does on cocaine users. Whether this is a sound policy remains up for debate, but the fact remains that a person who is arrested for possession of as little as one ounce of crack cocaine can receive the same jail sentence as a person who is in possession of several pounds of powder cocaine. Lengthy prison terms for possession and use of crack have adversely affected the physical and mental health of thousands of convicts.
Individuals who have succumbed to crack cocaine addiction will also experience severe physical and mental withdrawal symptoms when they make a commitment to stop their substance abuse habits. Withdrawal symptoms can last up to three weeks and can include severe depression, sleeplessness, disorientation, anxiety, and in more extreme cases, physical seizures. Abuse counselors rightly focus on the chemical changes that occur in a crack user’s brain as crack addiction takes hold of his life. The physical changes and damage to a crack user’s body and physical well-being are no less destructive.
If you are concerned over your crack cocaine use or you fear that you are addicted to crack, please contact the staff and counselors at the Lead Recovery Center at 1-800-380-0012. We can provide additional information about what crack cocaine is doing to your body and we will help you get motivated to end your crack habit.