The Symptoms and Side Effects of Crack Withdrawal

crack withdrawal side effects

What is Crack Cocaine?

Cocaine is an illegal stimulant drug that is derived from the leaves of the South American coca plant. Crack, or crack cocaine, is a form of cocaine that has been processed into a rock crystal. Users smoke the crystal, inhaling the vapors. Crack cocaine is the second most trafficked illegal drug in the world.

How Does Crack Affect the Body

The effects of crack on the body begin with the brain. Crack increases dopamine levels in the brain, creating a “high” feeling of happiness, alertness, and high energy. It does so by circumventing the brain’s normal pattern of recycling dopamine, creating a euphoric rush. This high is short-lived, lasting between 5 and 10 minutes. The vapors from crack reach the brain more quickly than snorting powdered cocaine, producing a more rapid, intense high.

Crack’s effects are not limited to the brain, however.  Side effects include:

  • 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.

Crack overdose can occur after the first use or any subsequent use. If treated immediately, recovery from an overdose is possible, but it can cause death by heart attack, stroke, respiratory failure, cerebral hemorrhage, or seizure. Crack users are also more likely to engage in risky behavior, putting them at higher risk for infection with HIV and hepatitis C.

Crack Cocaine Addiction

Frequent use of crack leads to both tolerance and addiction. The user will require a higher or more frequent dose to achieve the same high, will crave crack, and suffer symptoms of withdrawal without it. Crack is one of the most addictive forms of cocaine, leaving the user psychologically and physically dependent on it.

Crack Use During Pregnancy

When a pregnant woman uses crack, it can affect the pregnancy and the developing fetus. When taken in the first few months of pregnancy, crack can increase the risk of miscarriage or lead to placental abruption late in pregnancy. Placental abruption can cause severe bleeding, early birth, and even fetal death.

In pregnancies carried to term, crack passes through the placenta to the fetus, where it can cause brain damage and congenital disabilities. So-called “crack babies” may suffer:

  • Smaller than average head size
  • Reduced growth potential
  • Kidney, brain, and genital defects

Even in children who appear developmentally typical, exposure to crack in the womb can cause deficits in cognitive performance, attention to tasks, and information processing.

Symptoms of Crack Withdrawal

It is a challenge to overcome crack addiction, but it is not impossible. The first step is detoxification to allow all traces of crack to leave the body. Detox 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

A supportive rehab environment can help the user during this time when the risk of relapse is high. Medications can be used to ease the withdrawal symptoms or to help the user gradually wean off of crack. Medications can include:

  • Muscle relaxants
  • Pain relievers
  • Anti-seizure medications

Counseling can be helpful in determining the mental and emotional root of the drug abuse and 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.

If you or someone you loves struggles with crack addiction, call our toll-free number today.

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