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crack cocaine addiction treatment

What is Crack Cocaine? Addiction Signs, Withdrawal & Treatment

Cocaine and crack are highly addictive substances derived from the coca plant. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that nearly 15% of adults in the U.S. have used cocaine at least once during their lifetime. While crack cocaine is essentially cocaine, there are some differences to consider.  Once a rich man’s drug, cocaine quickly went from lavish parties to the streets. Let’s learn more about crack cocaine and how to recognize the signs of addiction in a loved one. 

Differences Between Crack and Cocaine

Cocaine and crack might look different on their surface, but these drugs have no pharmacological differences. Still, there are differences between crack and cocaine Cocaine is hydrochloride salt in its powder form. In this state, people can snort it, inject it, or swallow it. This delivery method instantly affects how the body reacts to the substance and how it affects the brain.  Crack is powdered cocaine mixed with other substances, usually baking soda and water. Crack cocaine can only be smoked, which produces quicker onset of effects. Also, sometimes dealers combine it with other addictive substances to give consumers a more powerful“high” that keeps them coming back for more. The effects of crack might differ depending on the purity of the cocaine, who manufactures it, and what additives they use to make crack. Eventually, crack and cocaine has similar effects; the difference is that crack users will feel these more intensely:

  • Euphoria
  • Heightened alertness
  • Dilated pupils or cocaine eyes
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased heart rate
  • Intense cravings 

Crack reaches the brain quicker and in a more intense matter because it’s smoked. The effects can start within the minute of smoking crack, peak in 5 minutes, and last 30-60 minutes. When cocaine is snorted, its effects happen after 5 minutes, peak within 30 minutes; and last for about 2 hours. When cocaine is injected, though, its effects are similar to crack.

Which One Is More Addictive?

Since crack and coke are identical in their pharmacology, neither is one or more addictive than the other. Still, according to a 2017 SAMHSA report, 40.6 million individuals admitted to at least using cocaine once and 9.6 million individuals admitted to at least using crack once.  Crack reaches the brain more intensely, and it is also faster than cocaine. However, it all depends on the method of administration. For example, those who smoke cocaine are also more likely to crave more. The perception of which drug is more dangerous is also associated with legal penalties. For example, crack-possession penalties are more severe than cocaine-possession ones. The ratio for the discrepancy is 18 to 1. For instance, if someone holds 28 grams of crack, they’ll receive the same sentences as having 500 grams of cocaine. 

Signs of Crack Addiction

To satisfy the criteria for the diagnosis of cocaine dependence, only 3 of the following conditions must be present according to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders:

  • Developing a tolerance for the euphoric effects of the drug
  • Constant worries for obtaining and using cocaine
  • Continuous use of crack despite adverse consequences
  • People experience withdrawal symptoms
  • Inability to reduce the amount of cocaine used
  • Job loss increased absenteeism, or inability to find work due to their crack cocaine use
  • Using crack in large doses when available

Addiction to crack cocaine can have detrimental long-term effects on someone’s well-being. Most cocaine users may experience:

  • Cardiovascular problems may develop and include heart attack, stroke, and heart disease
  • Malnutrition may also result from long-term use
  • Cognitive deterioration
  • Confusion, psychosis, or delirium
  • Hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or feeling things that are not present) are also common side effects
  • Major depression, anxiety, and irritability are psychological disorders

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Statistics of Abuse

Crack cocaine produces a short-lived, intense high. According to some studies, crack could effectively rewire the brain after a single use. Abuse can start as soon as people ingest crack. It strikes its dopamine system, forcing the production of dopamine or feel-good hormone. Here are some statistics about crack and cocaine abuse you should know:

  • Cocaine remains the second most used drug in the United States  
  • The 2006 US National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that 8.6 million Americans aged 12 and older reported having used crack
  • The 2007 US Government’s Monitoring the Future survey found that among high-school students, 3.2% of twelfth graders had used crack cocaine at some point in their lives
  • Crack cocaine represented 71% of all primary cocaine admissions to treatment in 2006
  • Over 97% of crack cocaine traffickers are United States citizens. Crack cocaine is a local problem
  • Cocaine addiction is slowing down. However, the decline is slow, with an estimated 821,000 Americans still addicted as of 2011
  • Between 30% and 60% of people who use cocaine combine it with alcohol


Everyone’s withdrawal from the cocaine timeline is different. It all depends on the length of use of cocaine, the amounts consumed, and other things like co-occurring substance abuse. Most people will experience a three-phase withdrawal process. Most people will experience, or more of these withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Cocaine cravings
  • Drastic mood changes
  • Fatigue and discomfort
  • Sleep problems and unpleasant dreams
  • Increased appetite and cravings
  • Physical slowing
  • Agitation
  • Suicidal thoughts

Phase 1

The infamous “crash” can appear even within a few hours after someone’s last dose. For people that don’t use cocaine so often, it might take a few days. Most symptoms of withdrawal during this phase include irritability, exhaustion, increased appetite, and anxiety.

Phase 2

The second phase is when the actual withdrawal process begins. Sometimes withdrawal symptoms can last up to 10 weeks. After that, people struggle with persistent anxiety and irritability, lethargy, intermittent sleep problems, intense cravings, poor concentration, and depression.

Phase 3

Also known as “extinction,” in this cocaine withdrawal phase, people often experience dysphoria and occasional cravings. This last phase can last up to 28 weeks and sometimes longer. Long-term cocaine addicts might struggle with post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS) for up to six months to a year. Because cocaine withdrawal leads to cravings, there is a chance people will go back and use higher doses or that their bodies will react differently to a new amount. When this occurs, they’re at risk of a potentially fatal overdose. This is why a medically supervised detox is vital for recovery.

Get Help for Addiction Today

Anyone struggling with crack cocaine addiction needs to seek addiction treatment. Remember, quitting potent drugs like cocaine alone can be life-threatening. Therefore, it’s essential to have the support and supervision of drug addiction specialists by your side. At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, our Boynton Beach rehab center specializes in cocaine addiction recovery. We offer personalized treatment plans that address your unique needs. From detoxification programs to group meetings and behavioral health therapies, every service we offer helps you win the battle against addiction. 

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