8 Horrifying Crack Cocaine Side Effects
Whether you smoke it or inject it, crack cocaine is one of the most dangerous drugs affecting Americans today. It rapidly enters the bloodstream, creating an intense high in seconds. But, because the high is brief—between five and 15 minutes—and the drug is very addictive, users are pushed to use repeatedly and compulsively, experiencing a host of crack cocaine side effects, including sudden death. Learning about these horrifying side effects of cocaine can help you recognize the need to seek addiction treatment before it’s too late.
Crack Cocaine’s Contribution to the Overdose Epidemic
In the United States, cocaine is associated with more visits to hospital emergency rooms than any other illegal drug.
In 2011, approximately 40.3% of ER visits related to illicit drugs were due to cocaine, as opposed to only 20.6% for heroin.
Cocaine-related deaths were at their highest between 2004 and 2007, then declined between 2008 and 2011. Then, starting in 2012, fatal cocaine overdoses started increasing, contributing to the current overdose epidemic in the United States.
While the effects of crack cocaine resemble the effects of other stimulants like crystal meth, the experience can vary widely due to the inconsistent quality and purity that results from the drug being manufactured in unregulated ways. Euphoria is typical of the crack cocaine high, although this blissful rush can quickly turn to paranoia or depression as the drug wears off, adding emotional motivation to the physical cravings for more crack, which always set in after the high passes.
8 Horrifying Crack Cocaine Side Effects
1. Easy, extreme addiction
Smoking crack cocaine can instantly produce a powerful rush of bliss. The first high someone experiences from crack will be bigger and better than any subsequent high they can experience from the drug, as the brain will immediately begin to adapt to the substance, creating a tolerance to its effects.
The high is over quickly—between five and 15 minutes later—and is immediately followed by strong cravings to use again. Just one time experimenting with crack cocaine can lead you to compulsively seek out and use the drug thereafter, driven by the craving for a high that can never again be repeated. This will lead to frequent, escalating dosages of crack, rapidly causing a seriously entrenched addiction, and putting you at a very high risk of overdose. Crack cocaine addiction is amplified by how quickly withdrawal symptoms set in after the drug wears off, pushing you to use again to avoid suffering the depression, anxiety, and various other painful symptoms that result.
2. Reproductive and sexual problems
Using crack cocaine will cause a wide range of reproductive and sexual health issues, which is ironic, as many people are initially drawn to cocaine because it is known as a sex-enhancing drug. Cocaine got this reputation because it increases the sex drive, frees users from inhibitions, makes them more alert and confident, and, because cocaine prevents the reabsorption and recycling of the neurotransmitters designed to reward humans for survival behaviors like having sex, the pleasure felt during sex can be greatly amplified by the drug—at least at first.
The positive effects of crack cocaine wear off quickly, causing a rebound effect of erectile dysfunction and the inability to feel pleasure for both women and men. Crack cocaine use increases the likelihood of unprotected sex and sexual assault—in fact, any sexual contact that occurs while one or both participants are high can be considered assault or rape. Cocaine can impact fertility in men by decreasing sperm count, reducing the sperm’s ability to move, and increasing the number of abnormalities found in sperm. In women, cocaine impacts fertility by physically damaging the fallopian tubes, and by chemically interfering with a woman’s hormonal balance and menstrual cycle, at times suppressing ovulation altogether.
3. Crack lung
Smoking crack triggers inflammation in the lungs, causing a host of breathing problems known as crack lung syndrome. Crack lung can resemble pneumonia on its own, but can also cause bronchitis, emphysema, and a severe form of pneumonia that is life-threatening. Damage caused by chronic exposure to smoke, carbon and other by-products, the cocaine itself, as well as the range of other contaminants and additives that can be present in crack smoke, leads to frequent coughing, severe chest pain, infections, breathing difficulty, and high fever. Sometimes capillaries in your lungs can hemorrhage from smoking crack, causing you to cough up black or bloody phlegm. Crack lung can even cause respiratory failure, which can lead to brain damage, organ damage, and death.
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4. Serious dental health issues
Drug use can cause a range of oral health problems, including increased tooth decay and gum infections. Cocaine encourages tooth grinding, which can lead to tooth breakage and loss. Smoking crack also often leads to sores and burns on the face, the lips, and the inside of the mouth. These wounds are not only painful, they increase your risk of contracting blood-borne diseases like HIV—a risk that may already be higher due to risky behaviors like unprotected sex, or if you inject crack intravenously.
5. Heart attack and stroke
Common side effects of crack cocaine include problems with the circulatory system, such as an increase in blood pressure, a thickening of the heart muscle (which can cause heart rhythm abnormalities and poor circulation), and a constriction of the arteries (which can potentially block blood flow to the heart and brain, causing heart attack or stroke). A study presented at an American Heart Association meeting in 2012 demonstrated that cocaine is the “perfect heart attack drug,” even if you only use it socially, a few times a year. Death by heart attack and stroke can happen suddenly and without warning after smoking crack, leaving crack users without enough time to seek medical attention.
Crack cocaine effects can be fatal; get help today!
6. Violent paranoia and psychosis
Unpredictable and violent behavior, paranoia, and even psychosis that causes you to lose touch with reality are all side effects of crack cocaine. The drug may cause you to become so paranoid that you attack innocent people you mistakenly believe are following you, breaking into your house, or otherwise trying to hurt you. This paranoia can be amplified by auditory hallucinations that back up your paranoid delusions. A psychotic break caused by crack cocaine is frightening and emotionally painful to experience, and could easily lead you to harm yourself and others through risky acts or uncontrolled violence.
7. Neurological damage
Crack cocaine addiction causes imbalances in the dopamine system that lead to depression and other mental health problems. It also repeatedly excites the nervous system, eventually burning it out, which results in memory loss, unregulated temperature, uncontrolled muscle movements, and seizures. This neurological damage can also cause movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease. While some of these neurological problems can be healed with time, such as the depression caused by dopamine imbalances, most other types of damage are likely to be permanent.
You can avoid permanent health issues by seeking help. Call now to discuss crack cocaine detox options with a caring treatment specialist.
8. Scary behavioral changes
Crack cocaine does not only cause physical and mental side effects, it can change the way you act until you hardly recognize the person you’ve become. Risky sexual behavior is common among crack users, both because the drug removes inhibitions and intensifies desire (at least until it starts causing sexual dysfunction), but also because crack users might choose to exchange sex for drugs when they feel desperate. The emotional and mental effects of crack can make a peaceful, loving person violent and abusive towards the people they care about most. Financial problems are common among people addicted to crack, as it is difficult to stay employed while caught in the destructive cycle of cocaine addiction. Criminal activity is more common among crack users as well. Crack itself is illegal, and users may steal or commit other crimes to obtain money for drugs. Furthermore, all of these behavioral changes tend to drive away family and friends who have been hurt and betrayed too many times, which leaves the addicted individuals lonely and desperate unless they can commit to changing their lives through addiction treatment.
Get Help Before Hitting Rock Bottom
Don’t wait until after you develop serious, irreversible mental and physical health problems to seek out addiction treatment. If you continue to use crack cocaine despite suffering negative consequences related to your drug use, then you have an addiction that requires professional help. Take the time to carefully consider this list of cocaine side effects, recognizing that this kind of suffering is in your future if you remain active in your addiction. Use this as motivation to change your life before your brain and body are damaged beyond repair, or you lose your life altogether.
Crack Cocaine Detox
Unless you regularly combine cocaine with alcohol, the physical withdrawal symptoms of crack cocaine should not be too serious. The psychological symptoms can be quite severe, however, and are best dealt with at an inpatient treatment center with 24/7 medical and psychological monitoring. Anxiety, depression, aggression, paranoia, and psychosis can arise during a crack cocaine detox, and drug cravings will be powerful. Detoxing on your own at home will make it too easy for you to relapse, and puts you at risk of harming yourself or someone else. There are no FDA approved medications to treat cocaine withdrawal, but there are many medications that can help, such as antidepressants. Antipsychotics may be necessary for patients who are hallucinating or suffering an extreme break from reality. Other medications, such as disulfiram, can be taken to aid the withdrawal process.
Once you’ve made it through the acute phase of detox, it’s time to focus more intensely on counseling and peer support groups. Therapists can help you work through trauma and mental health issues, as well as teach practical coping skills, and guide you through the process of setting and planning for goals. Group therapy is a great way to connect with others in recovery and learn from their experiences. Family therapy, which can include any important member of your support system regardless of blood relation, can help you repair damaged relationships, improve communication skills, and teach you ways of creating a better, more supportive home environment.
Practical life changes are also important for maintaining long-term abstinence from drugs. A healthy life requires the stability of a regular income, so vocational training or career counseling may be necessary. Some rehab centers offer these kinds of services as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. Seeking out community resources for after treatment and making connections with other individuals recovering from addiction will also help keep you on track. Work with your treatment program on an aftercare plan for relapse prevention well before you are actually discharged from treatment.
Recovery is a lifelong journey that cannot begin until you admit you have a problem and open yourself up to outside help. Detox.com can guide you through your treatment options and clear up any confusion you may have about recovery. You can send an email, chat with a treatment advisor online, or call the hotline at 800-483-2193(Who Answers?). Our advisors are always available to help, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. No matter what time it is now is always the perfect time to start changing your life.