Why Do People Smoke Crack?

Crack cocaine is a stimulant that is made from powdered cocaine. Water and ammonia or baking soda are mixed with cocaine and boiled until a solid substance forms. The solid is then removed and left to dry. Once dry, the solid is broken into white chunks (rocks) and then is smoked by the user. It is typically smoked in a glass pipe or tube, called a crack pipe. Crack is easy and inexpensive to make, which makes smoking crack affordable and obtainable for many people.

Smoking crack delivers the drug straight to the lungs, which gives the user an immediate high. When the drug reaches the brain, it causes excess amounts of dopamine – a neurotransmitter linked with movement and pleasure. The high can last from 5 to 15 minutes, but once the rush abates the user will feel a desire for more of the drug. This leads to a crack addiction. Short term effects of smoking crack include hyper-stimulation, dilated pupils, constricted blood vessels, aggression, paranoia, increased breathing rate, and intense euphoria.

Difference Between Crack and Cocaine

Chemically, crack and cocaine are identical, so they produce closely matching results. The main difference is in the way they are consumed. Cocaine is usually snorted, injected, or swallowed. When cocaine is snorted, it must travel from the blood vessels in the nose to the heart, then to the lungs to be oxygenated, and then the oxygenated blood with the drug is pumped throughout the body, finally reaching the brain. Crack is smoked, skipping some of this process and going straight to the lungs, giving the user an immediate rush. However, the effects of crack do not last as long.

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Smoking Crack

Smoking crack is a fast and easy way to become seriously addicted to the drug. It can destroy your physical and mental health, and even first-time users can have heart attacks and seizures. Some crack addicts are unable to function sexually without the drug. The opposite is true as well; some crack cocaine addicts are unable to function sexually while using crack cocaine. Many crack users turn to prostitution, stealing, or drug dealing to be able to afford their habit. Crack and cocaine have been a major factor in many car crashes, burns, falls, drownings, and suicides. Because the drug targets the reward center of the brain, it is possible to become addicted from smoking crack one time. Some of the long-term effects of smoking crack are:

  • Delirium or psychosis
  • Hallucinations, both auditory and with the sense of touch
  • Reproductive damage
  • Severe depression
  • Frequency of risky behavior
  • Death

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Crack Addiction

Some signs that you or someone you know is suffering from a crack cocaine addiction are behavioral signs like changes in motivation level, academic performance, social groups, and overall attitude. Other signs include deteriorating relationships with family and friends, depression, hostility, and carelessness with grooming. According to a study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, smoking crack has a greater propensity for dependence and more severe consequences, compared to snorting cocaine. After entering into treatment, people who snorted cocaine had better outcomes than smokers. They remained in treatment longer and achieved longer periods of sustained abstinence than smokers. However, there was no difference in how severe the drug negatively impacted their lives.

The Prevalence of Smoking Crack in Society

A national survey states that in American adults 26 and older, 4.1% of them have tried crack in their lifetime. Only .3% have smoked crack in the past year, and .2% in the past month. The numbers are higher for snorting cocaine: over 16% of American adults have tried cocaine in their lifetime, with 1.60% of them using it in the past year. Despite the drugs being chemically identical and having similar negative effects on life, many people believe snorting cocaine is somehow better for you than smoking crack. Regardless of the way the drug is consumed, it holds the same dangerous and addictive properties.

Crack and Cocaine: Disparity in the Law

In 1986, basketball player Len Bias was selected to play in the NBA for the Boston Celtics. Hours before the draft, he died of a drug overdose. The media latched on to this story, upset and focusing on the drug that took away his bright future. The drug suspected was crack cocaine. This urged Congress to pass the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 which mandated a minimum sentence time for certain quantities of cocaine. The problem was the humongous difference in sentencing times for powdered cocaine versus crack cocaine. The sentence was a 5-year minimum for a person caught with 500 grams of powdered cocaine. For crack cocaine, it was 5 years for only 5 grams of crack. However, Bias didn’t use crack cocaine. He snorted powdered cocaine. It was too late, and the fear of crack had spread across the country, conveniently ignoring the other form of cocaine.

This created the 100:1 ratio, sending millions to prisons and jails based on the form of cocaine they used, while others walked free. Because crack is less expensive than cocaine, this law targeted lower income Americans while letting affluent drug users face less harsh punishments. Experts all agreed that crack and powdered cocaine are the same chemically, have the same effects, and one is not more dangerous than the other, but the law stayed in place for the next 24 years.

In 2010, Congress passed the Fair Sentencing Act (FSA) which reduced the sentencing disparities from 100:1 to 18:1. And in 2011, they let the FSA apply to people who were sentenced before the law came into place so a judge could review their case. Regardless of if the drug is smoked, snorted, injected, or swallowed, any form of cocaine is dangerous and addictive.

Crack Withdrawal

Unlike alcohol and heroin withdrawal, cocaine often has no physical symptoms. The come down from using the drug starts as soon as the effects wear off. The user will crave more of the drug, feel a lack of pleasure, and may feel tired, anxious, irritable, or suspicious. Symptoms of crack cocaine withdrawal include discomfort, agitation, nightmares, and depression. Cravings for the drug and depression can last for months after stopping long term heavy use. If symptoms are severe, a treatment program may be able to help and provide medications, counseling, and health monitoring.

Stop Smoking Crack Today

Even though smoking crack can lead to a powerful addiction, you can stop today. There are inpatient and outpatient rehab facilities across the country that are to providing you or your loved one with the care and support necessary to get started on the road to recovery. Contact a treatment provider to learn more about treatment options.

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Author

Hayley Hudson

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  • Hayley Hudson is the Director of Content at Addiction Center. She earned a B.A. in Communications from the University of Central Florida and has 6 years of professional writing experience. A passion for writing led her to a career in journalism, and she worked as a news reporter for 3 years, focusing on stories in the healthcare and wellness industry. Knowledge in healthcare led to an interest in drug and alcohol abuse, and she realized how many people are touched by addiction.

  • More from Hayley Hudson

Reviewed by Certified Addiction Professional:

Theresa Parisi

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  • Theresa Parisi is a Certified Addiction Professional (CAP), Certified Behavioral Health Case Manager (CBHCM), and International Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (ICADC) with over 12 years of experience in the addiction treatment field.

  • More from Theresa Parisi

Sources

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