5 Red Flags of Crack Addiction

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5 Red Flags of Crack Addiction

Although they are derived from the same substance, crack cocaine and cocaine are two different drugs. Crack or crack cocaine is processed cocaine that appears in a crystalized or “rock” form. It is hard and sharp, unlike the soft, powdered form of cocaine. When someone uses crack, they typically smoke it, although there are other ways it is used. Smoking crack leads to a quicker high than one may experience when snorting cocaine. Because the intense and powerful rush associated with crack is quick to appear and quick to fade, frequent use will lead to cravings for larger and more frequent “hits” of the drug. 


What is Crack?

Crack, rock, or crack cocaine is a form of the drug cocaine that appears in rock or crystallized form. Some researchers consider this form of cocaine the most addictive type of cocaine as it offers a very intense yet short-lived high. Crack is a combination of powdered cocaine and a “base” such as baking soda that, when heated, converts the powder to a rock-like form. Crack is usually smoked. However, it can be dissolved in a liquid containing acetic acids, such as lemon juice or vinegar, for injectable use. 


Cocaine vs. Crack

The primary difference between cocaine and crack or crack cocaine is the form of the drug. Cocaine is a powdered form, whereas crack cocaine is a crystallized or “rock” form. As noted above, crack cocaine is “cooked” or made by combining a base substance like baking soda with liquid (generally water). The mixture is then boiled until it crystallizes and a solid is formed. Once the cooked substance cools, it is broken into smaller pieces and sold as crack or crack cocaine. Cocaine is generally a white powder, although it can be shades of tan or light brown, depending on its purity.


Another difference between crack and cocaine is how they are used. Because cocaine is generally in powder form, it is usually snorted through the nose or liquefied and injected into a vein. Crack cocaine, on the other hand, is generally smoked and can also be liquefied and used for injection.


Cocaine vs. Crack cont.

A third key difference between crack and cocaine is the high each form of the drug produces. The intensity and duration of a high one experiences when they use the drug is directly connected to how the drug is used or taken. When cocaine is injected or smoked, its effects are felt more quickly, leading to a shorter yet substantially more intense high. When someone snorts cocaine (the most commonly associated use of the drug), it takes longer to feel its effects; however, those effects also last much longer.


For example, when you snort powdered cocaine, it takes between one and five minutes for the first effects to present. Typically, they peak within twenty minutes and fade entirely within one to two hours. In comparison, crack cocaine takes less than a minute for the first effects to occur. The peak strength of the effects of smoked crack occurs after three to five minutes and lasts up to an hour. Injected cocaine (regardless of whether it is powdered or dissolved crack cocaine) follows the same pattern as smoked crack.


Crack Addiction Statistics?

Statistics provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse suggest nearly 2% (more than 5 million people) of Americans over the age of 12 used cocaine in 2020. Cocaine addiction and its associated challenges are not reserved for adults. The same referenced survey shows that cocaine use and addiction also adversely affect youth, with more than 1% of U.S 12th graders reporting cocaine use during 2021.


Cocaine addiction can occur quickly. In 2020, more than 1 million people were living with a cocaine use disorder that could benefit from treatment at a luxury cocaine addiction treatment program like The Hills. Without comprehensive treatment, including detox and therapy, it is challenging to get sober, and overdose can occur. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows nearly 19,500 people died from an overdose related to cocaine in 2020. 


5 Red Flags of Crack Addiction to Watch For

In addition to the most evident signal of crack addiction, the presence of related drug paraphernalia (spoons, lighters, pipes, etc.), there are several other red flags you can look for if you worry that a friend or loved one is using crack. Understanding these warning signs can help ensure they receive treatment as early as possible to help overcome their addiction. 


Changes in appetite or weight

A common red flag of cocaine addiction is diet or weight change. Similar to opioid drugs, crack leads to appetite suppression. When someone is using crack, they are often not as hungry as they usually would be. This frequently leads to dramatic changes in weight. Conversely, however, if they stop using cocaine or are unable to use it at their regular frequency and amount, they may start to experience withdrawal symptoms. One such symptom is increased hunger. Also, as the body tries to rid itself of any remaining traces of crack, the liver (a primary filtration source in the body) changes how it stores water and fat. This can lead to bloating and weight change as well.


Alternating energy and fatigue

Someone who is under the influence of crack may experience alternating bursts of energy followed by overwhelming fatigue. Periods of excessive energy may indicate that the person is currently high. This may be even more noticeable if combined with hyperactivity, abnormally excitable behavior, and dilated pupils. When someone uses crack cocaine, it triggers the release of a chemical called dopamine. 


Dopamine is a chemical in the body that serves several purposes, including controlling emotions and energy levels. High amounts of dopamine in the body will also increase one’s heart rate leading to a temporary rush in energy level. However, brief energy bursts are usually followed by high levels of fatigue. So, if you notice a friend or loved one frequently fluctuates between being up and then down, it may suggest an addiction.



These are related to excessive energy and hyperactivity mentioned above. Twitches are general periods of restlessness, hyperactivity, and twitching. Twitches can occur not only from crack cocaine use but also as someone begins to withdraw from it. Crack is a stimulant. Therefore, when someone uses it, they struggle to sit still. Someone who is addicted to crack may not only move about frequently but also experience seizures, involuntary muscle spasms, and movements they cannot control.


Oral health problems

Crack cocaine is acidic. It is even more so when acids are used to liquefy the rock form of cocaine for injectable use. The high levels of acids in cocaine can lead to damage to the tissues in the mouth, including the gums, cheeks, tongue, and taste buds. Smoking crack can also lead to tooth decay and tooth loss. 


Dilated pupils

As previously mentioned, crack use triggers the brain to release various chemicals, including dopamine and certain endorphins. It also inhibits the release of norepinephrine. The human pupil responds to changes in light. When exposed to low light, they will dilate naturally to allow more light in, helping you to see. When levels of norepinephrine change, it can also cause the pupils to dilate. Depending on the amount of crack used, the pupils may remain dilated for up to 30 minutes. In someone who uses crack frequently, the pupils may struggle to return to “normal” size. This is sometimes referred to as “cocaine pupils.” 


How to Treat Crack Addiction

The first step towards recovery from crack addiction is comprehensive detox in a medically supported detox program like The Hills. The physical symptoms of crack cocaine withdrawal can be complex and challenging to manage without support. The type, duration, and severity of withdrawal symptoms will vary from person to person based on several factors unique to their crack use, such as how much, how often, and for how long they have been using. 


Examples of common symptoms experienced during crack withdrawal include:

  • Appetite changes (increased hunger)
  • Tremors
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Depression
  • Problems with memory and thinking
  • Nightmares

Once detox is complete, it is possible to begin therapy. The best crack treatment programs involve a combination of individual and group counseling, peer support services, and holistic interventions. The goal of therapy is to help you or a loved one understand the root causes of their addiction while developing coping tools that can help if they are faced with cravings or other triggers in the future. 


How to Treat Crack Addiction cont.

Another common element of crack addiction treatment are 12-step or peer support programs similar to Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. These programs provide a safe and supported environment to practice and reinforce coping tools learned during therapy. They also offer an opportunity to develop friendships with a group of peers who will support you in your sobriety. 


Although some drug addiction treatment programs involve the use of medications, there are currently no FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved medications for crack cocaine addiction. Researchers are now exploring the effectiveness of medications used to manage other substance addictions. However, more study is needed. Also, no drugs are available to reverse the effects of a cocaine overdose. Narcan, a highly effective drug used to address opioid overdoses, will not work for cocaine. Unfortunately, there is no similar drug for non-opioid substances. 


If you or a loved one are living with the complications and challenges of crack addiction, it is not too late to seek help. Our luxury Los Angeles addiction treatment center’s team of medical and mental health providers will help you take your first steps toward lasting freedom from addiction. To learn more about The Hills and how we can help you quit crack cocaine, contact a member of our admissions team today. 








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