Why is Crack so Addictive?
Crack is the crystal form of cocaine, which is derived from the Coca plant native to South America. It’s a powerful and addictive stimulant, but why? Why is crack so addictive and why is it so cheap?
The answer could be in the high crack produces. It’s intense and short-lived, usually lasting around fifteen minutes. This short-term euphoria is very pleasurable and people can become addicted very quickly [i].
There are two chemical forms of cocaine that are abused: the water-soluble hydrochloric salt, and the water-insoluble cocaine base (or freebase). This base form is produced by mixing cocaine with ammonia or baking soda, and heating it to remove the hydrochloride. The term “crack” comes from the cracking noise freebase cocaine makes as it’s smoked.
The Effect of Crack on Dopamine Levels
Crack is a strong Central Nervous System (CNS) stimulant, which increases the amount of the neurotransmitter dopamine in parts of the brain that regulate pleasure and movement[ii]. In a normal brain, dopamine is released as a response to a potential reward and then reprocessed into the cells that released it. This causes the signals between neurons to shut down for a period of time.
Crack prevents dopamine from being reprocessed into the producing cell. This causes large amounts of dopamine to build up in the area between neurons, also known as a synapse. This build up of dopamine causes the intense euphoria mentioned above.
The euphoria crack produces actually changes the brain. The dopamine reward pathway becomes less sensitive to natural reinforcement (think getting a promotion at work or getting a new significant other). It also becomes less sensitive to the drug itself. In turn, the user requires more and more crack to produce the same effect and natural reinforcement begins to have almost no effect.
This is one answer as to the question “why is crack so addictive?” It literally rewires our brains!
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The Truth about Crack Addiction Stories
Crack addiction stories vary from person to person. In the US, crack is stigmatized as a low-class drug, while cocaine is viewed as a middle to high-class drug (think Wolf of Wall Street, etc.) As with most addiction stigmas, crack is pretty misconstrued.
I remember living in South America and seeing people whose nostrils had merged into one as a result of cocaine abuse. As with most drugs, once a person is addicted their upbringing goes out the window and their lives become a constant chase of the next high. In the US, crack is a cheaper alternative to cocaine, which is probably where its stigma comes from.
However, as with the progression from pain pills to heroin, the cocaine to crack succession might be the result of a worsening addiction. As a user’s cocaine habit becomes increasingly hard to support, they may turn to the cheaper alternative, crack.
Getting Help for a Crack Addiction: How to Get Off Crack
There is an entire twelve-step fellowship devoted to cocaine and crack addiction known as Cocaine Anonymous. They’re a serious fellowship and take the stance of being free from all mind altering substances, including alcohol.
Increasingly, we see addicts show up in men and women’s treatment centers as poly-substance addicts. This means they’re addicted to more than a single drug. Think the alcoholic who smokes crack, or the heroin addict who smokes weed.
These poly-substance addicts share stories of cocaine being a gateway into harder substances, including crack and heroin. This is another answer to the question “why is crack so addictive?” – because users don’t stumble upon it until they’re already deep into their addiction.
Are you or a loved one suffering from crack addiction? At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, we’ve been there.
In fact, many of our staff are in long-term recovery. We know what it’s like to be unable to stop binge drinking or compulsively using drugs. Let us show you another way, a sober way.
Call Lighthouse today at 1-844-I-CAN-CHANGE or 1-(561)-381-0015. You’ll be connected to a caring and expert outreach and admission coordinator who can help start the process of recovery.
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