What Is Crack Cocaine?

Crack is a stimulant drug that is the freebase form of cocaine – meaning that it can be inhaled or smoked. It presents as irregular white chunks of various sizes. Although the drug itself doesn’t have a distinct smell, the method it’s used typically produces a burning or smokey odor.

Crack’s popularity is largely due to its appeal for drug users seeking an inexpensive, powerful, fast-acting high. The term “crack” comes from the sound that is produced by the burning rock-shaped chunks.

Other names for the substance include:

  • Rocks
  • Nuggets
  • Jelly beans
  • Gravel
  • Dice
  • Candy or Cookies
  • Base

As a potent stimulant, crack use can invoke a rapid, euphoric high. It increases the speed of various mental and physical processes, serving to boost energy and give the user a sense of control. As a smoked form of cocaine, crack use results in nearly instantaneous effects because the drug is breathed into the lungs where it is then rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream.

The effects peak quickly and subside after less than 20 minutes. Because the high is so brief, users often abuse in a binge and crash cycle that heightens the risk of dependence, tolerance, and addiction.

Why Do People Abuse Crack?

Those who abuse crack do so to achieve the following effects:

  • An intense feeling of euphoria
  • Inflated sense of self and increased self-importance
  • Increased alertness and hyperactivity/stimulation
  • Decreased appetite

As with other intoxicating substances, with regular use, the desired effects are quickly taken over by adverse symptoms.

What Is Crack Cocaine? Signs and Symptoms

Crack is a very dangerous and potentially life-threatening drug.

It’s unlikely that a person can use crack cocaine recreationally for any significant length of time, due to its addictive nature. Moreover, any use of crack should be taken seriously.

Crack is addictive due to the intense euphoric rush it produces but fades quickly, leaving the user wanting more. When the high subsides, the user feels a strong desire to smoke more crack because he or she enters withdrawal and becomes agitated, restless, paranoid, or anxious.

Physical signs of crack use include:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Reduced sleep or insomnia
  • Increased heart rate
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Suppressed appetite and weight loss
  • Muscle twitching
  • Nosebleeds

Psychological signs may manifest that indicate a person is abusing crack cocaine. These signs may include the following:

  • Aggression and mood swings.
  • Psychotic symptoms, including hallucinations and paranoia.
  • Persistent thoughts about obtaining and using crack/strong cravings.
  • Inability to stop using despite a desire to do so.
  • Smoking crack at the expense of finances, relationships, and other important aspects of life.

Tolerance and Withdrawal

Someone who regularly engages in crack use can quickly build a tolerance to the drug. Tolerance occurs when the body grows accustomed to the presence of crack the system and requires an increasing amount to achieve the same effect. If a person is not satisfied with a small amount of crack and feels a need for larger and larger amounts, he or she has developed a tolerance.

Once tolerance has manifested, addiction may follow soon after, and the person may begin to engage in risky, dangerous, or problematic behaviors in order to obtain and use the substance. In the throes of an addiction, the person will likely become much less rational and logical.

The occurrence of withdrawal symptoms is another sign of crack use. As tolerance develops, a physical or chemical dependence may also develop, meaning the brain comes to heavily rely on the drug and adapted to its presence.

Without it, the person may suffer from withdrawal symptoms such as the following:

  • Depression.
  • Increased anxiety.
  • Irritability and agitation.
  • Strong cravings for more crack.

Risks of Crack Abuse

Those who abuse crack often put themselves and others in harm’s way due to dangerous and compulsive drug seeking behaviors. Crack abusers may engage in the following:

Risky Sexual Behaviors

Crack use increases sexual desire and reduces inhibitions. Those high on crack could be more likely to engage in sex with multiple partners and to have unprotected sex. In addition, some may exchange sex for the drug.

Violent Tendencies

Crack cocaine use intensifies emotions, including agitation and anger. People who are high on crack may be more violent toward others or may harm themselves intentionally or accidentally.

Engaging in Risky Behavior to Obtain and Use Crack

Crack users often enter unsafe areas or agree to do risky things to obtain the drug. Crack addiction can be a very powerful motivator, and many individuals entrapped by it are willing to do nearly anything in exchange for some more of the substance.

Neglect of Responsibilities

People in active crack addiction often prioritize drug use over responsibilities such as paying bills, attending work or school, maintaining relationships with family members, or even caring for children.

Law Breaking

Many addicted to crack steal to help support their habit. They also may commit robberies or participate in other illegal activity to obtain the money needed to buy crack. Crack possession itself is also illegal, so some face legal trouble for possessing it even if they don’t engage in these behaviors.

Effects of Crack Abuse

In both the short- and long-term, crack use can result in a number of side effects that can substantially compromise one’s health.

Short-term risks of crack use include:

  • Cardiovascular risks including increased heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature.
  • Higher breathing rates.
  • Nausea.
  • Odd or bizarre behaviors, delusional behavior or paranoia.
  • Anxiety and panic.

The above adverse effects can occur after only one use at a high dose.

Crack’s Long-Term Effects

Long-term effects can occur after a prolonged period of consistent abuse. These include:

  • Chronic cardiovascular issues that may include heart disease, cardiac arrest, and stroke.
  • Malnutrition due in part to significant weight loss.
  • Marked cognitive decline.
  • Confusion and delirium.
  • Psychosis and hallucinations.
  • Damage to the lips, mouth, and teeth.
  • Major depression, anxiety, and irritability.
  • Seizures.

Treatment For Crack Cocaine

Treatment for crack abuse often begins with a detox – a supervised, controlled withdrawal usually performed at a detox center. Medical staff monitor patients for severe physical symptoms of withdrawal and help manage intense psychological effects such as mood swings, agitation, anxiety, and depression during this period.

After detox is complete, many patients transition to a rehab center such as Harmony Treatment and Wellness for residential or partial hospitalization programs. Treatment then largely focuses on the psychological aspects of addiction, and patients receive individual and group therapy and may attend ongoing support groups.

An inpatient or residential rehab stay is often followed by outpatient treatment and a period of ongoing aftercare, in which patients begin to return to their daily lives but also continue to visit the center regularly to undergo continuing therapy and other needed treatment. Some patients transition back to their regular lives while they reside in a halfway house or sober living facility.

We ensure our patients receive the support that they need through the entire recovery process to achieve long-lasting sobriety, and therefore, provides aftercare planning services that serve to find local resources for former patients after treatment has been completed.

You can regain the life you deserve, full of happiness and wellness – and we can help!

What is the Speedball Drug?

Speedball Drug

People who battle with speedball drug addiction often spend a copious amount of time chasing the next high, in the hope that it will be better than the one before. Sometimes, in order to get it, they combine multiple drugs together.

While abusing a drug creates a myriad of physical and psychological risks to begin with, mixing different drugs together can result in dangerous situations, such as overdose, or other extreme symptoms or effects that can risk the individual’s health, safety, and life.

Speedballs are one such combination – a powerful mixture that can result in serious consequences, including death, even for those who try it just once.

Elements of a Speedball Drug

A speedball is a slang or street name for a combination of two different drugs: one is a depressant and the other a stimulant. Most frequently, the combination involves heroin and cocaine, both powerful illegal drugs that are risky when taken alone, but far more unpredictable and dangerous when taken together.

Other combinations, which may sometimes be referred to as speedballs can include:

  • Methamphetamine or amphetamine as the stimulant
  • Other opioid or opiate drugs instead of heroin
  • Benzodiazepines (i.e. Xanas) instead of heroin

When a speedball is administered, the heroin and cocaine are mixed together and injected in a single shot, so their effects are felt rapidly and intensely.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), at first glance, the combination appears to be a way of avoiding some of the worst side effects of both drugs, while at the same time experiencing a unique euphoric, relaxing, and energizing response that comes from combining the drugs. The going theory is that the energizing effects of the stimulant can counteract the adverse aspects of the depressant while heroin can mitigate some of the unwanted physical symptoms of the stimulant. The reality, however, isn’t quite that simple.

Effects of the Speedball Drug Combo

The full potential effects of heroin and cocaine on each another are not known. However, one thing we do know is that this combination is not just the equivalent of joining the effects of two individual drugs together.

Moreover, the speedball combination has a significant effect on the dopamine system, which is part of what reinforces the desire to keep using this drug combination. This is probably due to the fact that both cocaine and heroin heavily impact the dopamine system, resulting in an aggregate effect rather than a reaction affected by one drug or the other.

This powerful action on dopamine offers reinforcement for the continued use of speedballs, which can be very risky due to the combination of the two drugs, how they act on the body, and the potential physical and emotional consequences of using the drugs in conjunction.

Risks of Speedball Drug Use

Using speedballs can also increase a person’s risk for mental health conditions, such as:

  • Depression
  • Severe anxiety
  • Suicidal thinking
  • Psychosis
  • Addiction

One of the greatest risks of using speedballs, according to NIDA, is due to the fact that the effects of cocaine subside much faster than heroin. Because the primary reason for using the two drugs together is to minimize the negative effects of each, people who use speedballs mistakenly believe they can use more of each drug than would normally be possible with just one drug.

As a result, if the individual uses much more heroin than their system can handle, the body can invoke an overdose response when the cocaine effects abate, leading to severe physical and mental consequences. The person’s breathing can slow, become labored, or stop to a degree that can put the person’s life at imminent risk.

Long-Term Effects

The greatest potential long-term effect of speedball use is the increased risk of overdose or other complications from the combination of drugs involved. These effects can create a number of dangers for the person’s health. As a result of long-term use, the person can experience:

  • Overdose, resulting in a fatality
  • Damage to veins and circulation
  • Limb damage or loss due to poor circulation
  • High fever
  • Infection
  • Back pain or other pain
  • Coma or death

These and other symptoms can lead to life-changing circumstances in addition to brain damage and anhedonia, a condition in which the person is unable to experience pleasure due to severe damage to the dopamine system.

Treatment for Addiction

According to an article from NIDA, one challenge when approaching speedball abuse is that treatments used heroin addiction are only somewhat effective in helping those who use speedballs. There is no medication for the treatment of cocaine addiction, and the drugs indicated for heroin addiction can be difficult to discontinue and not particularly helpful in achieving recovery from speedball abuse.

However, there are some psychotherapies and other treatments that do not involve medication that can help people learn to handle their addictions. These therapies have been shown to be effective, especially when employed in long-term addiction treatment programs, including inpatient, partial hospitalization, and intensive outpatient formats.

Harmony Treatment and Wellness offers these treatment modalities and more in partial hospitalization and outpatient formats. We employ highly-trained, caring staff to facilitate services to the patient with compassion and expertise. We aim to provide our patients with all the tools they need to achieve a full recovery and go on to sustain long-lasting sobriety, happiness, and wellness.

⟹ READ THIS NEXT: Signs of Heroin Addiction