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Once it hit the streets, crack cocaine rapidly became known as a cheap, highly potent drug of choice for millions. The brief high from smoking crack keeps a majority of users crawling back for more, but rehab proves a reliable way to quell the addiction.

  • Drug Name Crack
  • Addiction Liability High
  • Scientific Name Benzoylmethylecgonine
  • Street Names Crack, Rock, Hard Ball, Prime Time, Crumbs, Baseball
  • How It's Used Smoked, Snorted, Injected
  • Side Effects Intense Depression, Paranoia, Hysteria, Increased Heart Rate, Convulsions, Stroke
  • Psychological Dependence Very High
  • Physical Dependence Very High

Crack Cocaine Addiction

In the late 1980s, crack cocaine use peaked in the United States and reached epidemic proportions. This variation of cocaine – produced into crystalline rocks rather than powder and smoked rather than snorted – delivers a concentrated burst of cocaine’s euphoric effects for a portion of the cost. An average rock of crack can cost as little as $5.

Crack in Addict's Hands

Shortly after taking a hit, you can feel an immense urge to take more. Withdrawal can begin within minutes. Crack’s addictive qualities, combined with the cheap cost, help explain its reputation as a dirty, destructive and deadly narcotic.

People often label these drug users as “crackheads,” which carries the connotation of someone who is poverty-stricken with no tools for self-help. But they often fail to realize that people who smoke crack are, in fact, ordinary people.

“The drugs had took (sic) me to a place where I didn’t care,” said Derek Titus, a recovered crack addict. Titus was an A-student and an aspiring athlete before crack use led him to a life of crime. “I felt like God had abandoned me at that point. My life began to go downhill faster than I ever thought.”

Demographically, black males between the ages of 26 and 34 show the highest rate of crack usage. A majority of crack sales occur in poor urban areas, and 85 percent of offenders arrested for possession and for dealing are black. But the spread of crack use is not limited to inner-city projects. Some celebrities are well known for spending thousands of dollars feeding their habit.

There aren’t many substances as merciless as crack cocaine, and complications related to crack use speak for themselves.

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Effects of Smoking Crack Cocaine

One commonly reported effect of smoking crack is an enhanced sex drive and a disregard for personal safety. Those who smoke crack show a high number of sexual partners and a lack of concern for the dangers of recreational sex. A dependency will lead many female users to trade sex for more of the drug, or simply money to fund their habit; 80 percent of female crack users engage in prostitution or have at some point in their lives. Health professionals associate crack use with the spread of HIV, AIDS and other sexually-transmitted diseases.

Intense depression usually follows the extreme, stimulating high of puffing a crack rock. A number of other severe side effects appear in the short term, including:

Dependency develops quickly as a result, and those who get addicted won’t let anything stand in the way of obtaining more cocaine to stave off any withdrawal. One use of crack cocaine can kill instantly, from any number of immediate complications. For example: life-threatening seizures, body temperature soaring as high as 115 degrees, endangering hallucinations, brain hemorrhage caused by extreme blood-pressure elevation, and heart attack caused by an intense spasm of the coronary arteries.

Someone who smokes crack regularly is six times more likely to suffer stroke, which may lead to a lifetime disability or death. Long-term crack use leads to:

Treatment and Help

In response to the tidal wave of crack cocaine use in the 1980s, immense research went into treating crack addiction. The consensus reveals that a three-phase treatment plan of detox, therapy and aftercare yields the highest success rate.


Detoxification prepares you to enter into the psychological phase of treatment, by gradually weaning you off the drug and out of the withdrawal period. Flushing crack cocaine from an addict’s system can be highly unpleasant and even dangerous, as it forces them to endure the very worst withdrawal symptoms along the way. The process can be mediated by pain-relieving medication. A complete detox can take days or even weeks.


Treatment centers and rehab facilities around the country offer specialized therapy regimens for those who suffer from crack addiction. Patients participate in individual and group sessions that focus most on behavior management. The sessions aim to modify destructive thought patterns and prepare the patients for a lives without the drug.

Other aspects of therapy include:

Overall, therapy lasts anywhere from a few months to two years, depending on the level of the addiction.


Follow-up care involves attendance and participation in chemical dependency programs, which help initiate patients into the 12 steps of recovery. A number of rehab organizations offer short-term residency programs: 28-day hospital stays that engage groups of recovering addicts in counseling sessions, recovery plan development, and education, also providing medical attention when necessary.

Public support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous allow anyone with a history of crack cocaine addiction to attend meetings, make friends and take accountability for their future actions.

Escaping the temptation of crack use following a successful treatment plan presents a lifelong challenge to recovering crack addicts. Active participation in support groups is encouraged, and can be the key to keeping past users off the streets and working toward the best life possible.

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