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What to Do When a Friend is Using Crack Cocaine


What to do if Your Friend is Using Crack

Crack cocaine is one of the least prevalent drugs abused by the public, but it is one of the most addictive and the most dangerous. Using crack can cause heart attacks, strokes, or cardiac arrest. Long-term use may result in premature aging. Some people develop Parkinson’s disease over time. If you suspect that a friend might be hooked on crack, you can help. The exact number of people who abuse crack is unknown, but surveys have found that around 0.4 to 0.6 percent of students abuse the drug. A 2009 report found that 2.7 percent of 12th graders used crack and around 1.7 percent of kids in 8th grade were crack addicts. Crack is easy to obtain for kids and adults alike. This means that friends and family members must be vigilant in identifying users and getting them help.

Look for Signs

Before confronting a friend who you suspect is using crack cocaine, look for crack addiction signs and difficulties associated with abuse. You may find small bags containing the drug or residue in your friend’s home or among their personal belongings. Glass or metal crack pipes are also common.

A person using crack will often have burns on their fingers or lips from using crack pipes. When they are high, they have signs such as a rapid pulse and elevated blood pressure. Their pupils will be dilated and their mouths dry. Sometimes, a person on crack picks at or scratches their skin. Crack users usually talk a lot, and may sweat more. All of these physical signs may indicate a person is on crack. Difficulty sleeping and focusing are common too. Someone on crack may display an uncharacteristically high amount of self-confidence and can experience mood swings.

The effects of crack cocaine are short lasting, usually disappearing within 10 to 15 minutes. This means that crack users may disappear frequently to smoke. The constant need for more of the drug quickly drains bank accounts, often causing people to turn to prostitution or theft to support their habit. A friend who uses crack may steal from you or co-workers.

Notice Symptoms of Withdrawal

In addition to looking for signs that someone is high or has been using, you can also look for withdrawal symptoms. Crack does not cause physical symptoms such as shaking hands or nausea. It does cause emotional withdrawal symptoms.

Possible symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Changes in energy levels
  • Sleep issues
  • Difficulty concentrating

It is important to remember that a person experiencing withdrawal has not necessarily stopped using. Your friend may simply be between fixes and not on the road to recovery.

Staging an Intervention

An intervention is generally the best way to help a crack addict, but that doesn’t mean you should be the one to lead it. Seeking help from a professional interventionist is the smartest thing you can do. Your friend may not appreciate it at the time, but he’ll thank you later when he’s clean. A crack addiction affects not only the individual, it also affects family and friends. Therefore, you should discuss an intervention with your friend’s family and try to get as many people involved as possible. An intervention is your best bet to get through to a friend with a substance abuse problem that he is not in control. The more people who are willing to talk about the problem, the more likely it is that your friend will be able to accept that he needs help.

Following an intervention, you need to convince your friend to enter a detoxification program. Your friend may think he can detox on his own, but most people need help from a detox center. You cannot make this decision for anyone else, but you can encourage your friend to go in for treatment and offer to be there in any way you can. For the first seven days or longer, expect your friend to experience flu-like symptoms, mood swings, and irritability.

Offering Support for Inpatient and Outpatient Treatment

After a detox period, your friend may think that the hard part is over and it’s time to go home. Your job is to help your friend see that detox is only the beginning. Crack addicts should enter a rehabilitation program following a detox period. Most people need to enter an inpatient program. This could last anywhere from 30 days to a whole year. Assuring your friend that you will be there for him can help give him the confidence to enter treatment.

Once your friend is done with inpatient treatment, he will need help transitioning to an outpatient program. This could mean returning to his home and visiting a treatment center following a specific schedule. Offering to take your friend to treatment sessions can be motivating. Your friend may need to go to a sober living facility instead. If this happens, he will be allowed to receive visitors but must follow house rules. Encourage your friend to follow the rules, but don’t treat him like he’s sick. As much normalcy as possible can be helpful during the transition.

Preventing a Relapse

Once your friend completes a crack cocaine program, this does not mean that he is cured and will never use again. He could relapse and begin using again if he is not careful. Programs for recovering drug users can help people stay on track. Offer whatever assistance your friend needs to find one of these programs and stick with it.

Many people who stop using cocaine start again because of alcohol use. Be sensitive to this and don’t offer your friend alcohol or bring him around people who are drinking. People who have used crack cocaine in the past may tell themselves that having a few drinks occasionally is no big deal. Then, an emotional trigger happens and they find themselves using crack cocaine again. The pleasant feeling that accompanies drinking alcohol is a powerful reminder of what it feels like to do cocaine. Call your friend’s sponsor if you see him drinking or using other drugs. The quicker he gets back on track, the less likely he is to start using crack again. Complete abstinence from all substances is the only way for a crack addict to resist a relapse.

Ultimately, your friend must decide to stop using crack and make that decision every day through recovery and beyond, but your support and assistance can make a significant difference.