Abusing any substances, no matter the length of abuse time, can cause long- term effects that can affect the way your body functions for the rest of your life. People who use crack are often seeking an intense euphoric high and, perhaps, a temporary escape from personal problems that they can’t cope with. However, these fleeting highs are often replaced with longer-term devastation in many areas of their life. Unfortunately, the allure of crack is tough for many to resist, and the drug is so powerful that it’s quite possible to become addicted after the first time it is used. Eventually, the slippery slope of addiction can develop into long-term drug use a destructive pattern of behavior that can ultimately lead to a range of health issues and personal damage.
What is Crack Cocaine?
Crack cocaine is the crystal form of cocaine, which normally comes in a powder form. It comes in solid blocks or crystals varying in color from yellow to pale rose or white. Crack is heated and smoked. It is so named because it makes a cracking or popping sound when heated. Crack, the most potent form in which cocaine appears, is also the riskiest. It is between 75% and 100% pure, far stronger, and more potent than regular cocaine. Smoking crack allows it to reach the brain more quickly and thus brings an intense and immediate but very short-lived high that lasts about fifteen minutes. And because addiction can develop even more rapidly if the substance is smoked rather than snorted (taken in through the nose), an abuser can become addicted after his or her first time trying crack.
Long Term Effects
If you have used crack over a long period of time, you can expect to see a number of physical changes occur. Among other organ systems, these changes can affect:
Crack’s Effects on Your Brain
Unfortunately, your brain doesn’t forget the damage done from using crack. Long-term effects on the brain may include:
- Structural and functional brain abnormalities (worsened memory and attention span).
- Compromised dopamine production and activity throughout the brain.
- Movement disorders.
- Seizures, strokes, and the potential for irreversible brain damage.
- Brain aneurysm (abnormal dilation of a blood vessel) and brain hemorrhage.
Crack, as an excitotoxic stimulant, can kill brain cells and can cause persistent changes to various neural pathways. Crack can cause seizures, even in first-time users. Crack’s intense circulatory system influence can precipitate strokes, which can create even more irreversible brain damage. Your risk of a brain aneurysm (abnormal dilation of a blood vessel) also increases, which can lead to a deadly brain hemorrhage.
Effects on Your Heart
Another long-term effect of crack use is extensive damage to your heart. Damage to the cardiovascular system may manifest as:
- Chest pain.
- Elevated heart rate.
- Elevated blood pressure.
- Increased resistance in the body’s blood vessels.
- Higher risk of heart attacks.
- More risk of cardiac arrhythmias.
- Increased risk of sudden death.
Long-term crack use is also associated with ventricular hypertrophy which is an enlargement of the heart wall. This can lead to an increased risk of heart arrhythmias, heart attack and congestive heart failure. Coronary atherosclerosis may also develop from long-term crack use. Coronary atherosclerosis is the hardening of your arteries and spasms near these hardened areas can deprive the heart of blood, resulting in ischemic chest pain and, ultimately, myocardial infarction.
Effects on Your Lungs
Lung problems are a common long-term risk of crack use. The type of lung problems you will experience depend on the route of drug administration you’ve been using and may include any of the following:
- Shortness of breath.
- Coughing up sputum.
- Coughing up blood.
- Chest pain.
More unusual lung complications that may result from long-term crack use may include:
- Pulmonary hemorrhage (bleeding of the lung).
- Pneumothorax (a collapsed lung).
- Pulmonary edema (accumulation of fluid in the lungs).
- Thermal airway injury (from the heated vapor).
- Pneumomediastinum (abnormal presence of air in the space between the lungs).
You may suffer severe respiratory problems such as a chronic cough, bleeding from the lungs, or you may have “air hunger” which makes you feel as if you aren’t getting enough air into your lungs. Air hunger is very distressing and can lead to panic attacks because it can make you feel as if you are suffocating or dying.
Effects on Your Nose
Depending on your method of using crack cocaine, long-term abuse can result in severe damage to the tissue and even the structure of your nose. Snorting crack cocaine can result in nasal damage that may include:
- Perforated nasal septum (a tear or hole in the cartilage bridge between your nostrils).
- Chronic rhinitis (irritation and inflammation of the nasal tissue).
- Sinus infections.
- Ulcers in the throat.
- Nasal tissue death, due to narrowing of the blood vessels and insufficient oxygen.
- Anosmia, or loss of smell.
- Nasal insufflation of all forms of cocaine can create holes in your nasal septum. These holes may be small or large and can lead to serious infections.
You could also destroy your nasal septum completely and cause permanent disfiguration to your facial features. This damage can make it difficult to breath. In fact, some chronic crack users are only able to breath through their mouth. Chronic sinus infections, chronic runny nose and frequent nosebleeds may also develop due to the damage in your nasal lining. Some individuals even lose their ability to smell, which can impact the ability to enjoy food.
Long-term use of crack also causes severe mental problems. Some of the mental health problems that may result include:
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction do not hesitate to call for help today. These long term effects can be very dangerous and make it very important to seek help right away.