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Crack Use Among Teens and Adolescents

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Crack use among teens

Crack cocaine use among teens and adolescents is less common than abuse of other drugs, but it’s highly addictive nature and potential for fatal complications means that parents, teachers, and community members should be vigilant in looking for signs of crack abuse. In recent years, the abuse of crack has gone down among people aged 12 and up, but all forms of cocaine are easy to get in schools. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that 2.7 percent of high school seniors have used crack and as many as 1.7 percent of eighth graders have as well. More than 36 million people aged 12 and up in the United States have used some sort of cocaine at least once. Although teen use may be low, one out of four people age 26 to 34 say that they have used cocaine, so it is important to stop experimentation among adolescents.

Crack Cocaine in Schools

Cocaine and crack cocaine are not difficult for teens to find. Around 38 percent of teens said that getting drugs like crack was fairly easy or very easy in a 2008 report. Peer pressure to try drugs and the use of alcohol among teens both contribute to the spread of cocaine use. Teens who drink are 50 times more likely to try cocaine than those who abstain from alcohol.

Crack Cocaine Vs. Regular Cocaine

Crack cocaine is made by combining water and ammonia or sodium bicarbonate with cocaine. People usually smoke crack to obtain a faster more quickly than regular cocaine. Unlike the white powder form the cocaine comes in, crack cocaine is sold in small crystalline chunks.

The use of crack cocaine causes a euphoric high that eclipses other highs, which is a main reason that teens will continue to use. Smoking crack gets the drug directly into the lungs, where it then can quickly enter the blood and be carried to the brain. Once in the brain, it causes a release of dopamine, an important hormone linked to pleasurable feelings. The state of euphoria lasts only a few minutes, but the effects on the brain and central nervous system may continue. People under the influence of crack cocaine may appear paranoid or manic. The high is quickly followed by an aftereffect during which people appear worried, anxious, and depressed. It is often difficult for them to focus.

Signs of Crack Overdose

Crack cocaine use elevates risk of stroke, heart attack, and heart disease. Long term use may lead to Parkinson’s disease and premature aging. For teens, the greatest risk may be an overdose. A crack cocaine overdose may cause:

Aggressive behavior
Paranoia
Elevated body temperature
Increased perspiration
Nausea
Abnormal heart rate
Delusions
Loss of consciousness
Loss of muscle control

A teen who has overdosed requires immediate medical attention. An overdose can be fatal.

Teen Crack Use and Sex

Teens who use crack are more likely to engage in unprotected sex, exposing them to STDs and pregnancy. A 2010 study in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Substance Abuse found that teens who frequently used crack or cocaine were much more likely to have unprotected sex and had a higher risk for contracting HIV. The study found that only 47 percent of teens who used crack cocaine or cocaine regularly used condoms. Seventy-one percent of teens who never used crack or cocaine said they used condoms regularly. Of the kids who used crack or cocaine, 15 percent had an STD then or had caught one at some point.

Almost 280 kids from age 13 to 18 participated in the study. Many kids had various psychiatric issues, including PTSD, mood disorders, and behavioral disorders. Around 13 percent admitted to having tried crack cocaine or cocaine at least once.

Treatment for Teens

Teens who use crack may have social problems, difficultly in school, and may even begin stealing or prostituting themselves to afford more of the drug. The family of a teen with a crack cocaine addiction needs to be fully involved in treatment. The first step is to contact someone trained to host an intervention. When parents and other family members confront an addict with the help of an interventionist there is a good chance that the teen will become aware of their drug problem. Since crack use does not cause physical withdrawal symptoms, people often believe that they are not addicted. An intervention led by a professional may be the only way to help the addict see that he has a problem. It also gives family members a chance to fix some of the damage the drug addiction has caused between them.

It is important for parents to recognize that drug addiction is considered a disease and not a personal failing. Teens may feel better if their parents explain this to them and offer their full support.

Finding a treatment program is the next step for getting help for adolescents. Adults with a cocaine problem frequently need an inpatient program and/or hospitalization for detoxification and rehabilitation. Teens often do not require this level of assistance. Teens may need to go to a detox center and then return home, but many can stay at home and attend outpatient treatment services. It is the role of the parent to research various treatment programs, but the child should be included in selecting a program as this increases their chance of a successful recovery.

Professionals at addiction centers can provide assessments to analyze the severity of a teen’s drug problem and recommend the type of treatment. When teens see the results of their analysis, it can make it easier to accept the level of help they need. Encouragement from parents to talk about their drug addiction, how they got started, why they continued to use, and their thoughts on recovery are important. Kids need to know that they can express these issues without receiving judgment from their family.

Any form of drug use could open the door to crack again, even drinking alcohol. The importance of educating children on the dangers of drugs and watching carefully for signs of experimentation cannot be understated.