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Over the past few decades, addiction to crack cocaine has become a growing problem in the United States. In fact, according to the United States government, as many as one million Americans suffer from crack addiction. This drug is derived from cocaine and produces a powerful euphoria that, in many cases, leaves the user instantly addicted in a psychological sense. Over time, cravings for this drug can lead to severe consequences to physical, psychological and emotional health as well as legal, financial and relationship difficulties. The following is an in-depth look at addiction to crack cocaine, which includes information on symptoms, complications and available treatment options.

Symptoms and Warning Signs

Crack CocaineBecause of the powerful effects of crack cocaine, many symptoms and crack cocaine side effects of addiction are obvious. Others, however, may be more difficult to detect.

Common signs and symptoms of crack addiction include the following:

Physical Signs of Crack Cocaine Addiction

  • Restlessness, fidgeting and/or insomnia. Crack cocaine increases heart rate and often leaves the user feeling restless or on edge.
  • Dilated pupils. Due to the effects crack has on several brain chemicals, users’ pupils may dilate to more than twice their normal size.
  • Rapid breathing. Because of the effects of crack on the central nervous system, users often experience rapid breathing and increased body temperature.
  • Burns on the mouth and/or hands. Typically, crack cocaine is inhaled through the use of glass or metal pipes. These devices often leave burns on lips, fingers and hands.
  • Decreased appetite and weight loss. Because of the stimulant properties of crack cocaine, most users experience decreased appetite and dramatic weight loss.

Behavioral Signs of Crack Addiction

  • Depression. Caused by decreased levels of dopamine in the brain, prolonged use of crack cocaine often leads to severe, long-term depression.
  • Paranoia. This warning sign is common among drug users of many types, but is usually even more pronounced in those addicted to crack cocaine. In fact, in some cases, the paranoia associated with crack addiction can even lead to hallucinations and other dangerous complications.
  • Violent behaviors. Addiction to crack cocaine can lead to violent tendencies in addicts under the influence as well as those in withdrawal from the drug.
  • Severe mood swings. The fluctuations in mood associated with crack cocaine addiction are similar to those seen in patients with bipolar disorder.
  • Risky behaviors. Addiction to crack can lead to dangerous behaviors such as stealing, prostitution, promiscuity, driving under the influence, etc.
  • Loss of interest. Addicts often exhibit a loss of interest in daily activities. Most often, this includes decreased interest in relationships, careers, hobbies and personal hygiene.

Complications of Crack Cocaine Addiction

Crack addicts often experience harmful complications to both physical health and general well-being.

Physical complications of crack addiction may include the following:

  • Damage to the heart. The stimulant properties of crack cocaine can have devastating effects on the cardiovascular system. Because of this, individuals who use crack cocaine are at an increased risk of heart attack, stroke and other potentially fatal complications.
  • Brain damage. With extended use, crack can have lasting effects on brain chemistry. Long-term users often experience severe depression, paranoia, difficulties concentrating, anxiety and more.
  • Complications during pregnancy. Using crack while pregnant can lead to serious problems for both mother and baby. Complications associated with drug use during pregnancy include increased risk of miscarriage, birth defects, low birth weight, premature labor and addiction in infants.
  • Disease. Studies show that crack addicts are at an increased risk of contracting AIDS, Hepatitis C and other STDs and infections.
  • Decline in overall health. Due to factors like poor diet and limited access to healthcare, crack cocaine addicts often experience a steady decline in overall health until treatment is sought.

In addition to physical complications, crack addiction can have lasting consequences on psychological health and personal well-being.

For example, crack addicts often experience the following:

  • Legal and financial troubles. In order to fund a costly drug habit, many users resort to theft, robbery and other illegal activities. Further, it’s not uncommon for crack cocaine addicts to drain their savings or sell personal items with the intent of supporting their addiction.
  • Deterioration of relationships. Crack cocaine often plays a role in divorce and estrangement as well as the dissolution of friendships and business relationships.

Treating Crack Cocaine Addiction

Thankfully, treatment for this type of addiction is available. And although treatment can be administered on an outpatient basis, most experts agree that inpatient treatment is most effective when dealing with the symptoms and complications associated with crack addiction. The structured, intensive care provided at residential treatment facilities will provide the addict with the tools necessary to achieve sobriety and live a life free of crack cocaine and other illicit substances.

Although crack rehab centers and treatment may differ, most offer methods like the following:

Medical Detox

This process rids the body of crack cocaine and other addictive substances. For crack addicts, detoxification may lead to intense withdrawal symptoms that are best treated by medical professionals. Inpatient facilities often ensure patients’ comfort and safety throughout this difficult process.


Due to the psychological aspects of crack addiction, one-on-one psychotherapy is essential to long-term recovery. During counseling sessions, patients will explore their addictions at length and work to formulate strategies that will promote maintained sobriety. Psychotherapy can also help patients address any underlying issues that may have contributed to their problems with illicit drugs.

Group therapy

Like individual therapy sessions, group counseling encourages patients to explore their addictions and other issues. However, group sessions provide the added benefits of peer support, shared knowledge and accountability.


Because of the health problems faced by addicts, most rehab facilities provide general healthcare. This often includes screenings and examinations as well as medications used to treat physical illness.

Continued Care

Most residential facilities offer aftercare to recovering addicts. Continued treatment can enforce lessons learned during initial treatment as well as provide support in the interest of sustained recovery.

Staying Sober

Unfortunately, relapse is common among crack cocaine addicts.

However, the following tips can significantly increase the odds of maintained sobriety:

  • Diet and exercise. Regular exercise and a healthy, balanced diet can provide numerous benefits to addicts in recovery. For one, exercise can fight the depression and anxiety often associated with relapse. Plus, a nutrient-rich diet provides energy and improved body function, which are both helpful to recovering addicts.
  • Staying busy. For individuals in recovery, idle time should be avoided as much as possible. Volunteer work, hobbies and other projects can help addicts achieve their goal of lifelong recovery as well as improve self-esteem and overall well-being.
  • Seeking help. When the desire to use drugs strikes, seeking immediate help is essential to recovery and overall health.

Although crack cocaine addiction can have devastating effects on addicts and their loved ones, recovery is possible. Through the proper methods, crack cocaine addicts can achieve sobriety, restore health and significantly enhance quality of life.

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