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The Most Common Signs of Crack Addiction


Crack Cocaine

Crack abuse became popular in the 80’s with the widespread use of cocaine. Crack cocaine is derived from powdered cocaine that provides a relatively easy and inexpensive method of getting an immediate high. When powdered cocaine is processed into rock-like crystals, it is called freebase cocaine. Prior to the popularity of the term “crack,” people who smoked the cocaine derivative were known to be “freebasing” cocaine. People would purchase powdered cocaine, process it into freebase, and then smoke it. Later, the term ‘crack’ was used to refer to the crackling sound produced when freebase is heated and smoked.

Today, people can purchase preprocessed crack, which eliminates the need to process cocaine. While freebase may be as much as 90% pure, preprocessed crack may be cut with other cheap or dangerous drugs, such as benzocaine, lidocaine, procaine, quinine and amphetamines, as well as with substances that pose no serious risks, such as the sugars mannitol and sucrose or starches. Crack falls into the category of a Schedule II substance, along with PCP and methamphetamines, under the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule II substances are considered to be highly addictive, and they are known to lead to psychological and physical dependencies.

Study data indicates that crack cocaine use has declined since the 80s, but it still presents a serious health issue in the U.S. The 2001 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse indicates that more than 6 million US residents aged 12 or older smoked crack at least once in their lifetime. Of those 6 million, about 150,000 were aged 12 to 17 and more than 1 million were aged 18 to 25. Other data indicates that there were more than 265,000 crack users in the U.S. in the year 2000, more than 700,000 by the year 2006 and about 320,000 in the year 2008.

Most Common Symptoms

The symptoms of crack cocaine use are not clearly defined since most crack addicts show symptoms that are consistent with other forms of addiction and mental illness. Crack addicts often have obsessive thoughts and cravings for the drug, yet they attempt to hold their addiction in secrecy. Like with other drug addicts, crack addicts may spend lots of money, sell their belongings, or steal to support their habits. Some of the most visible signs of crack addiction include the following:
– Change in skin color such that the skin becomes pale
– Burns and blisters on the lips and fingers or in the mouth and throat
– Degrading oral hygiene, such as with the loss of teeth
– Changes in eating habits and weight loss due to a loss of appetite
– Anxiety and high energy levels that may lead to rapid speech
– Mood swings and impulsive behaviors
– Vomiting, insomnia, and restlessness
– Rapid heart beats, tremors, and sweating
– Dilated pupils
– Social isolation and poor work or school performance
– Neglect of normal activities and unusual absences
– Possession of paraphernalia, such as glass pipes, glass vials, or burned spoons, cans and aluminum foil

Some of the signs of crack addiction that are not necessarily visible, but experienced by crack users include the following:
– Nausea, headaches, and sore throat
– Paranoia, hallucinations, and confusion
– Increased heart rate and blood pressure
– Respiratory problems and lung damage
– Collapsed nasal septum and damage to the mucous membranes

The Need for Treatment

It is imperative that crack addicts seek treatment for their condition. While crack use has shown a decline, the number of people seeking treatment for crack cocaine has increased. There are different types of treatment programs available to crack addicts that may be tailored to suit an individual’s specific needs. Some treatment methods, such as detoxification, will address physical dependencies, but not psychological dependencies. Short-term inpatient and residential programs provide a 12-step approach to recovery. Long-term residential programs address recovery, and they also provide addicts with the types of life skills that will be necessary to cope with society following recovery. Outpatient programs provide group therapy for addicts who have good support systems. In addition to addressing psychological and physical dependencies upon crack cocaine, treatment programs will also have to address the symptoms of withdrawal from crack use. In some cases, a crack addict may have to rely upon more than one type of treatment throughout recovery.

The Most Vulnerable To Crack

Data suggests that the most vulnerable population to crack use and addiction are young adults aged 18 to 25. Crack use is more prevalent in cities and urban areas than suburban areas. The areas with the highest death rates for cocaine use include:
– New York City
– Newark, New Jersey
– Detroit, Michigan
– Boston, Massachusetts
– Baltimore, Maryland
– Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
– Texas

Relative to ethnic groups, Native Americans have the highest use rate at 2% of the Native American population, Asians show the lowest use rate at 0.2%. African Americans show the second largest use rate at 1.6% while Whites and Latinos show 0.8% and Pacific islanders show 0.6%. These use rates are somewhat misleading since Whites outnumber all other ethnic groups in the U.S. The use rate of 0.8% of the White population indicates that they represent the greater number of crack users.