Crack is the freebase form of cocaine. It is smoked, and it is the most addictive form cocaine. The reason it is so addictive is because smoking crack gives the user a short but very intense high. Smoking is second only to IV injection in terms of how quickly the drug hits your system, and a very close second at that. The more quickly a drug reaches your brain, the more likely it is that you will become addicted.
Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant drug. Cocaine’s addictive properties are related to its effect on the body’s reward pathways. It is a strong central nervous system stimulant that increases levels of dopamine, a brain chemical associated with pleasure, in the brain’s reward circuits. This release of dopamine causes the euphoric “high” that users experience when cocaine is ingested. The “reward” effect causes powerful cravings of the drug. Studies in mice found that if you give mouse cocaine every time it hits a lever, it will continue hitting the lever until it has overdosed, not stopping to eat, drink, or sleep. Because smoking crack reaches your blood stream more quickly than snorting cocaine, it causes an even more extreme reaction on the bodies reward pathway.
Crack is often purchased in its rock form, but it is not uncommon for those engaging in crack drug abuse to cook cocaine into crack themselves. It is a process that can be carried out using common household items. Some users also buy crack and break it down back into cocaine so that it can be injected using lemon juice or white vinegar. “Shooting crack”- IV use of crack- is actually a misnomer, because when crack is broken back down into a liquid form, it is actually cocaine.
Crack increases alertness, causes feelings of euphoria, and enhances energy. Anxiety, paranoia, and restlessness are common, with tremors and convulsions occurring at higher doses. Abusing crack has a wide range of effects on the body. Crack constricts blood vessels and increases heart rate and blood pressure. It decreases appetite, so long-term users can become malnourished. Crack drug abuse can also cause gastrointestinal problems and headaches. Crack addicts can also experience extreme paranoia and hallucinations. Crack-related deaths are often the result of heart attacks or seizures.
Due to the surge of pleasurable chemicals in the brain during use and sharp decrease after the drug wears off, long-term effects of crack use include depression and psychosis. Your brain experiences a rapid high, followed quickly by a “crash.” The high from crack use is very short when compared to other drugs. Usually the high lasts less than five minutes. This is why crack is often used in binges (repeated use at increasingly higher doses). Repeated binges can cause the user to have a complete break with reality- a condition known as “cocaine psychosis.”
Another of the long-term effects of crack drug abuse is damage to the respiratory system. Smoking crack can cause permanent lung damage. Long-term crack drug abuse can also cause bronchospasm and asthma.
Long-term crack drug abuse can also result in gangrene in the GI system and the extremities. Over time, crack use restricts blood flow to the hands and feet to the point that the tissues actually begin to die from lack of oxygen. In males, crack can even cause gangrene to develop in the scrotum. In the gut, lack of oxygen causes ulcers and even perforation of the stomach lining.
Brain damage is also one of the possible long-term effects of crack drug abuse. Crack restricts blood flow to the brain, which can result in bizarre and violent behavior. High doses can restrict brain blood flow to the point that it causes seizures or strokes. This can happen even in young people without any other risk factors for stroke.