Crack Rehab

Crack, a form of cocaine, was used in epidemic proportions in the 1980’s and became the focus of the war on drugs. If you are old enough, you’ll remember the famous antidrug commercial: an egg, with the caption: “This is your brain,” followed by an egg frying in a pan: “This is your brain on drugs.” Crack no longer receives the media attention it once did, but it continues to be a drug of abuse that impacts the lives of addicts and the people who love them. Roughly 6.2 million Americans have used crack cocaine, according to a study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Clearly, crack cocaine abuse is not a thing of the past but a persistent problem that requires attention.

What is crack?

Crack, or crack cocaine, is a modified version of cocaine, which comes from the leaves of the South American coca plant. Cocaine salt is derived from the leaves and then processed into rock crystals that can be smoked in a crack pipe. By inhaling the vapors, users experience a very rapid high that begins almost immediately after inhalations. It is intense but short-lived, lasting 5 to 10 minutes. Because the user feels the high so quickly after use, crack is highly addictive, even more so than other forms of cocaine.

Crack is a stimulant drug, so it speeds up all bodily processes. This stimulation causes the effects that characterize crack abuse, such as:

  • High energy
  • Mental alertness
  • Extreme happiness
  • Euphoric high

Unfortunately, it also causes negative side effects, including:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Restlessness
  • Muscle twitches
  • Constricted blood vessels
  • Dilated pupils
  • Nausea
  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate
  • Paranoia
  • Irritability
  • Hypersensitivity to light, sound, and touch

And most dangerous of all, crack abuse can cause:

  • instant death by overdose
  • death from seizure, heart attack, stroke, respiratory failure, cerebral hemorrhage
  • death from infections such as HIV or hepatitis C

Treatment for Crack Addiction

It is a challenge to overcome crack addiction, but it is not impossible. The first step is detoxification, which will cause symptoms of withdrawal. Symptoms may begin within hours of the last hit of crack, and can include:

  • Aggression and violence
  • Anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure)
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Nightmares
  • Hallucinations
  • Psychosis
  • Suicidal feelings
  • Paranoia
  • Extreme cravings for crack
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Exhaustion
  • Flu-like symptoms

During withdrawal, risk of relapse is high, as the patient suffers from withdrawal symptoms and from the stress of learning to live a drug-free lifestyle. The patient may also be forced to deal with whatever problems drove them to abuse crack cocaine in the first place. A supportive in-patient rehab environment can help the user during this time by providing a comfortable, stable environment, free from temptations to use. If in-patient rehab is not a possibility, outpatient treatment can be an effective option. Medications can be used to ease the withdrawal symptoms or to help the user gradually wean off of crack. New studies point to modafinil, an FDA-approved treatment for narcolepsy, and a similar compound currently known as JJC8-016, as a potential treatments for cocaine addiction. Both target the same brain receptors as cocaine but without any of the habit-forming effects. Therapy can be helpful in determining the psychological root of the drug abuse and to prepare the user for a sober future. This may include understanding triggers for drug use and how to avoid them, new techniques for dealing with stressful situations, and how to structure a sober lifestyle. This may include joining support groups such as a traditional 12 step group, living in a sober living community, and continuing therapy.


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