You need to know how to recognize crack addict behavior. Despite the publicity over heroin addiction, crack addiction continues to be a problem across all walks of life. Crack cocaine, aka rock cocaine, is coke in its solid form. Unlike its snorting cousin made famous in films like Scarface, crack is made by mixing powder cocaine with baking soda and water, which concentrates the drug. The resulting rocks are then placed in a pipe and smoked. Concentrating the drug makes it highly addictive.
Statistics show that nearly 25 million Americans have used cocaine at least once in their lives (www.medicinenet.com). People trying crack will be greeted by a deep sense of euphoria, which intensifies every pleasurable feeling experienced while being overly alert. As the user comes off the euphoric high, about 20 minutes later, the user becomes agitated, short-tempered and restless. These symptoms continue until the user gets their next high. This begins the vicious cycle of a search for the next high, getting the high, coming down and searching for it again.
Crack addiction, like all addictive behavior, is marked by a pattern of use that supersedes anything and everything else in the user’s life. Their life becomes a pattern of searching for the next high by any means possible until their life is consumed by getting their next hit.
Physical Issues of Addiction
The most pronounced effects are seen in the cardiovascular system, which includes heart arrhythmias and possible heart attacks. Neurological problems include seizures, strokes, coma and possibly death. The majority of crack deaths are a result of cardiac arrest or seizures leading to respiratory arrest.Long term, crack has long-lasting physical and psychological effects on the body. After prolonged use, the brain begins to adapt to the effects of crack. As a result, the brain is less receptive to the pleasurable effects of crack, resulting in the need for users to use crack more frequently and in higher amounts to reach the “high.” Simultaneously, the body is becoming more susceptible to crack’s toxic side effects (www.drugabuse.gov).
Signs of Crack Addiction
No one wants to believe they love or live with a crack addict. However, the signs of crack addiction are not easy to hide. Most will appear shortly after someone begins smoking crack.
- Nervousness and hypervigilance, particularly in people who are normally calm
- Continually bloodshot eyes
- Lack of concern about physical appearance, including personal hygiene
- Constantly looking for ways to get money
- Denying there’s a problem
- Frequent sniffing, as if they have a cold
- Fatigued appearance
- Loss of interest in any activities that the user once enjoyed, including family, friends, hobbies and sports
- Stealing items to sell for crack
- Mood changes, particularly becoming angry or scared for no reason
- Sudden weight loss without dieting
- Driving while under the influence, and
- Legal issues
- Smoking crack. Many users have auditory hallucinations, hearing strange noises, or tactile hallucinations, which involve things such as bugs crawling on their skin or intense itching. Their level of alertness borders on paranoia. Many crack users hide while using.
- Panic sets in 1-3 hours after smoking. The user is in search of their next hit so finding funds to feed their habit becomes their prime objective.
- Depression and remorse mark the crash that is evident 3-24 after their last use. The brain is trying to rest, but the neurotransmitters that are essential to inducing sleep are depleted by crack. The user becomes somewhat reflective and begins to have remorse. This depressive state is generally when addicts vow to get clean. This stage also marks the time when most users commit suicide.
- If a crack addict can go 1-5 days without using, they enter the honeymoon stage. The desire to smoke is easily managed, and it’s when many users begin to believe they are able to break crack’s stronghold on them. Their overconfidence is a result of still depleted neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters, particularly serotonin and dopamine, are necessary to get a high from crack. Their depletion keeps the brain from craving crack. Users are most likely to believe they don’t need treatment and will drop out of a program or insist they don’t need treatment at this time.
- Days 5-14 mark a return of the cravings for crack. The brain now has replenished its supply of serotonin and dopamine, leading to a return of the cravings. Unfortunately, mood has not stabilized during this period. As a result, users can become obsessed with using and begin to defend their need to use.
- Mood swings, similar to those experienced by bipolar patients, occur from day 14 of the initial use up to 2 years later. The brain is working hard to repair its neural network and to regain balance chemically. This is when inpatient therapy is vital. Inpatient counselors are skilled in helping addicts to regain emotional balance.
- Covert cravings mark days 28-35. The cravings ebb and flow giving users the feeling that they are weak and aren’t sticking to their therapy. Without professional help, these low level cravings can turn into an obsession to use.
- The final phase is obtained through intense treatment. Therapists help addicts find their triggers. Cue conditioning helps addicts become aware of what triggers their need to use. Recovering addicts need to be aware of these cues for the rest of their lives.
Most crack addicts will need to first visit a detox center to safely withdraw from the physical effects of crack. This is often done in a hospital or an acute care setting of a recovery center. This is the most difficult part of the recovery process because of the physical withdrawal symptoms (www.medicinenet.com).Patients who’ve relapsed or have been addicted for a long period of time benefit from an inpatient treatment center. These programs are highly structured and the user receives intensive counseling, peer support and medical intervention if needed. Users are also afforded the opportunity to resolve issues that may have led to their addiction in a safe and nurturing environment. Many users chose to move to a “sober living” facility to help them maintain their sobriety after leaving inpatient treatment.Most users become addicts after their first hit of crack and its affects are always there. Addicts must remain vigilant for their entire lives to avoid becoming trapped by crack’s allure. However, with intense treatment and support, crack addicts can get their lives back and live life to its fullest.