Drug abuse of any kind is very serious and very dangerous. The consequences of using crack, actually a form of cocaine, can be extremely severe. Smoking crack can lead to crack cocaine addiction, devastating health problems, and death. Crack is one of the most dangerous narcotic drugs there is. If you suspect or know someone who is using it is important to take action as soon as possible.
What is Crack Cocaine?
Crack is short for crack cocaine and is a base form of the drug cocaine. Cocaine is a stimulant and psychoactive drug that comes from the leaves of a South American plant called coca. The cocaine molecule is one of a class of substances called alkaloids. This group includes codeine, morphine, and other drugs with medicinal uses. As a stimulant, cocaine acts on the central nervous system. It also works like an anesthetic and suppresses appetite. Cocaine’s main action takes place in the brain. Unlike many substances, it can easily cross from the bloodstream to the brain.
When cocaine is produced from the leaves of the coca plant, it is turned into a salt. This means it is paired up with hydrogen chloride. In this form, cocaine can be snorted through the nose, rubbed onto gums and mucous membranes, or dissolved in water and injected. The cocaine with hydrogen chloride can be further processed into a form that can be smoked. This is called crack cocaine. The process involves using ammonia or baking soda and water with heat to remove the hydrogen chloride. The result is a crystal or rock.
How Does it Create a High?
In a normal, sober brain, a neurotransmitter called dopamine is released from neurons when a person smells, tastes, sees, or in any other way experiences pleasure. The release of dopamine makes a person feel good. Soon after its release, however, the dopamine molecules are recycled back into the original neuron and the pleasure sensation ends. When cocaine enters the brain, it stops the recycling step, which results in large releases of dopamine. The pleasurable feeling is the high. Frequent use of cocaine damages the dopamine pathway causing the user to become tolerant to the effects of cocaine. As a result, the user needs more and more of the drug to get high. By smoking cocaine in the form of crack, a user experiences a much quicker high than when it is snorted because the cocaine floods the lungs.
Where Does it Come From?
Cocaine comes from the coca plant of South America. The leaves of this plant have been used by centuries by the native people for a high, but also for medical reasons. The leaves can help with pain, fatigue, indigestion, altitude sickness, asthma, and rheumatism. They chew the leaves of the coca plant, make them into a tea, and use them in compresses. Most cocaine, and therefore crack, in the U.S. was processed in and smuggled from Colombia.
What Are the Consequences of Crack Cocaine Addiction?
Both crack and cocaine are extremely dangerous drugs. Using either one just once can cause death. Those who survive the initial use become tolerant to it and start using it in larger quantities and more frequently to maintain a high. This leads very quickly to addiction.
The consequences of using cocaine in either form can include the following:
- Pupil dilation
- Muscle spasms
- Pregnancy complications
- Psychosis and paranoia
- Abnormal heart rhythms
- A ruptured aorta
- Heart attack
The cocaine molecule itself causes these effects. Ingesting it in different ways can cause different problems. Because crack is smoked, it introduces several more issues beyond using the substance itself. Crack lip, as it is called, refers to the burned, dry lips that result from holding a hot crack pipe to the mouth. Heavy users may also develop crack lung. Having cocaine fumes in the lungs causes blood vessels to constrict, which prevents the flow of oxygen and permanent damage to the lungs. The symptoms of crack lung include cough, chest pain, difficulty breathing, and fever. Smoking crack also affects the mouth. Acid is released when it is heated, which causes blisters to form on the lips, gums, and inside of the mouth. The paranoia that can accompany crack use tends to make users grind their teeth, which can cause serious damage.
What are the Signs of Crack Cocaine Addiction?
If someone is using crack, chances are they are already addicted. Know the signs of crack use to catch it in a loved one as soon as you can:
• Physical signs of crack use that you can see include red eyes, dilated pupils, sudden weight loss, coughing, sweating, twitching, jumpiness, tooth grinding, burns on fingers and lips, and generally poor hygiene.
• Crack cocaine highs don’t last very long. Often, a user will binge and then suffer a low period. Watch out for someone who is listless, has little energy, and sleeps a lot for a day or two at a time after a short period of manic energy.
• Drugs are not cheap. If someone you know is suddenly having money problems, they could be spending every last dime on their addiction.
• Crack use causes psychological effects. Look out for unusual behaviors like paranoia, anxiety, and panic. A user may think that everyone is out to get them.
• Any sudden or drastic changes in a person’s personal life are cause for concern. A drug user will let relationships suffer and work slide to get their high.
When to Help Someone for Crack Cocaine Addiction
If you have any suspicions that someone you know and love is using crack, it is time to act. Addiction and deterioration of the body and mind happen very quickly with crack cocaine and death can come at any time. Intervene as soon as you can. If you see any symptoms in a user that are potentially life threatening such as chest pains or constriction, severe pains, fever or infection, or coughing or vomiting with blood, seek emergency medical help immediately.
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