Crack cocaine is a powerful drug that, thanks to its short-lasting, intense high, is more addictive than cocaine.
Those with crack use disorders talk about their first hit of crack and how euphoric it was. They say that those who become addicted to crack spend their lives chasing the high from the first good hit of crack they had — also known as a “bell ringer.”
Crack addiction happens quickly. That first hit can quickly spiral into a lifelong addiction.
According to multiple studies from government agencies and universities across the country, crack has a higher risk for addiction than cocaine that is snorted or injected.
Crack has the fastest onset of any form of cocaine. When a person smokes crack, it takes only seconds for the drug to reach the brain, whereas when snorting cocaine, it can take up to five minutes for effects to be felt.
“The first hit of it is like nothing else. The world sort of just stops. It’s got this sweet taste to it. It’s very hard to describe, but the world stops, and it’s like you’re in suspended animation.”
Smoking crack is also a much more efficient way to use cocaine. According to researchers at the University of Arizona, cocaine that is smoked has a bioavailability — the percentage of the substance that enters the blood circulation — of about 70 percent versus cocaine that is snorted, which has a bioavailability of about 20 to 60 percent.
So it takes a smaller dose of crack to feel much higher much more quickly than snorting or injecting cocaine.
However, the effects of smoking crack last only about 10 to 30 minutes. The quick onset and short-lasting effects of crack promote repeated and frequent use in one setting, known as a crack binge. Binging leads to more rapid psychological dependence to crack.
Many of those with crack use disorders talk about how it only took one good hit of crack to become addicted to the drug. The first big hit is known as the ultimate crack experience among those who use the drug.
That first hit creates a euphoria that people addicted to crack say is unmatched by any other feeling in the world. People can become obsessed with recreating the feeling from the first time they smoked crack and spend their lives chasing that feeling. According to Richard Preston, this is what drives crack addiction.
Preston — who has been sober for more than a decade and has authored two books about his own recovery — was a longtime cocaine user before he tried crack. He says he became hooked on the drug immediately after the first hit.
“The first hit of it is like nothing else,” Preston told DrugRehab.com. “The world sort of just stops. It’s got this sweet taste to it. It’s very hard to describe, but the world stops, and it’s like you’re in suspended animation.”
That first euphoria-inducing hit of crack is known as a bell ringer because it clears your head and your ears ring as the drug’s effects take over. The feeling kicks in quickly and doesn’t last long. The effects of the drug are followed by an uncomfortable crash.
The crash causes people to want to use crack again to get the same high as before and to avoid the awful feeling of the crash. Second-time crack users quickly learn they will never again achieve the same feeling they got from their first bell ringer. Preston says chasing that feeling is what keeps people addicted to the drug.
“You can try a million times to get that, but you’ll never get it again,” said Preston.
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Because the first hit of crack is pleasurable and strong, it can instantly create a psychological dependence among first-time users.
As they build up a tolerance to the drug, it takes higher doses of the drug to cause a suitable high. Their euphoria becomes less intense, and the highs begin to fade faster.
As a result, many individuals will go on frequent crack binges to sustain stronger highs for longer periods of time.
People who use drugs such as powder cocaine or marijuana think they can try crack once and be able to put it down and never use it again. This line of thinking has created a wave of crack users that has spanned multiple generations.
Crack is powerful, and once it has someone in its grip, it is incredibly difficult to free them from it. As many former users will tell you, it only takes one hit of crack to derail your entire life.
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