Cocaine, in any form, is a powerful, addictive, dangerous stimulant drug. The
powdered, hydrochloride salt form of cocaine can be snorted or dissolved in water
and injected. Crack is cocaine that has not been neutralized by an acid to make
hydrochloride salt. Crack usually comes in a rock crystal that can be heated; the
vapors are then smoked. The term "Crack" refers to the crackling sound heard when
it is heated.
No matter how someone uses cocaine or how frequently, a user can experience:
- Heart attack
- Respiratory failure
Cocaine-related deaths are often a result of cardiac arrest followed by respiratory failure.
Crack addicts who are currently using experience: Hallucinations - visual and
auditory; hyper-vigilance which sometimes leads to paranoia. Some people experience
other hallucinations such as skin crawling and/or seeing bugs on their skin.
The Panic Stage typically begins 1-3 hours after the last use of the drug. During
this phase, money is the primary concern of the addict -- they need to get more
drugs; addicts may resort to pawning, borrowing, begging or stealing to get their
next fix. Withdrawal symptoms show up immediately after last using; cravings are
overwhelming and the addict may be unable to think rationally.
The Crash Stage begins 3 - 24 hours after last use. Depression is common during this
phase, sometimes so severe it leads to suicide. In desperate need of sleep, the
chemical (serotonin) necessary for sleep have been depleted and so rest is next to
One to five days after the last use can be called the Honeymoon Stage - it is during
this period that addict is likely feeling good. Cravings are reduced and easily
managed for many. The drug's effects are wearing off and the addict begins to
believe they "can handle the addiction". The chemical messengers of the brain
(serotonin and dopamine) which are necessary to enjoy crack, are still depleted and
are the cause of this temporary lack of interest in using the drug. There is a high
risk of people checking out of treatment during this phase; they believe they don't
have a problem anymore.
Typically, five to fourteen days after use signals the Return of Cravings. It is
during this period the addicts experiences an overwhelming upsurge in hunger for the
drug which can be accompanied by depression and anger. The body has produced
enough serotonin/dopamine for the person to crave more, but not enough to stabilize
moods or emotions.
Emotional Intensification can kick in 14-28 days from ending use up to 2 years
later. The addict finds it difficult to cope with the normal stresses of life. The
top of the mood swing finds the addict unhappy; the bottom finds them extremely sad.
Users often call this period "making mountains out of molehills". This state is
related to biochemical responses induced by strong emotions which stimulate areas
where mood and mind-altering drugs act on the brain. The body is trying desperately
to repair damaged areas of the brain caused by drug use. As a result, the addict
may be slightly "off balance" but may not be aware of it. Because judgment is
impaired, this is a good time to align oneself with a support group - such as N.A.
Covert Cravings may span 28-35 days after last using. Craving is not as strong as
it once was and there is an increased need for the addict to keep the cravings
secret. Addicts may not want to admit they still crave the drug for a number of
reasons, including: thinking it is a sign of weakness or poor moral character. In
fact, cravings are completely normal during this phase of withdrawal. Joining a
support group and having someone to talk to about these feelings can help calm the
Alcoholics and addicts of all kinds will experience 'triggers' that may cue a
craving to use. Triggers could be: money, anger, happiness, sadness, music, a film
or anything strongly associated with using. These triggers can catch an addict off
guard and could lead to relapse if not recognized and worked through.
Withdrawal periods vary from addict to addict; often depending on how much and how
frequently they had been using crack.
Recovery begins when the addict recognizes they no longer have control over their
addiction and that their lives have become unmanageable. At this stage, many crack
addicts may have lost jobs, relationships, families, homes, self-respect, etc.
Only when the addict truly asks for help can actual recovery begin.