What are the Dangers of Smoking Crack Cocaine?

Crack is a freebase form of cocaine that is smoked. Smoking crack provides a brief but intense high because it reaches the brain more quickly than insufflating powder cocaine. Crack is a highly addictive drug that can lead to devastating physical and mental health consequences.
Crack, the freebase form of cocaine, creates an increased risk of potential health consequences because it is smoked and highly addictive. The high from crack can cause euphoria, increased energy, mental alertness, hypersensitivity, paranoia, and irritability. Short-term physical health consequences include nausea, constricted blood vessels, increased body temperature and blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, tremors, and restlessness. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 72 percent of cocaine related drug treatment admissions are cause by crack cocaine. Crack directly affects the heart rate and breathing, which can lead to heart attacks, respiratory failure, strokes, or seizures. Combining crack with alcohol greatly increases the risk for potentially fatal side effects. According to How Stuff Works, “If crack is taken with alcohol, the two substances can combine in the liver to produce a chemical called cocaethylene. This is a toxic and potentially fatal substance that produces a more intense high than crack alone but also raises heart rate and blood pressure more than crack alone, leading to its potentially deadly results.” Smoking, the route of administration of crack, can lead to severe lung damage and respiratory problems. Other long-term effects, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, include, “being malnourished, because cocaine decreases appetite, and movement disorders, including Parkinson’s disease, which may occur after many years of use. In addition, people report irritability and restlessness resulting from cocaine binges, and some also experience severe paranoia, in which they lose touch with reality and have auditory hallucinations—hearing noises that aren’t real.” Crack also creates major physical changes in the reward system of the brain. The University of Maryland Center for Substance Abuse Research explains, “Crack cocaine is a strong central nervous stimulant that interferes with, and causes excess amounts of, dopamine in the brain. A neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and movement, dopamine is the neurotransmitter released as part of the brain’s reward system. As a result, the psychological effects can be extremely reinforcing; after having tried crack cocaine, the user will rapidly develop an intense craving for the drug since the chemistry of the brain’s reward system has been altered.” The short-lived effects of crack cause a user to take it with increased frequency overtime, leading to severe physical and psychological dependence. Treatment is necessary if one is to overcome their addiction.

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