Long Term Effects of Crack Abuse

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:

  • brain.
  • heart.
  •  lungs.
  •  nose.

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:

  • Restlessness.
  • Anxiety.
  • Depression.
  • Irritability.
  • Paranoia.
  • Hallucinations.

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.

What Happens if Crack Cocaine is Abused During Pregnancy?

Effects of Crack Cocaine During Pregnancy

Pregnant women, who want to deliver a healthy baby, need to avoid using most drugs while they are pregnant. Drugs have a direct impact on the fetus, whether they are illegal or over-the-counter pain or cold medication. Tobacco, alcohol, caffeine, cocaine, crystal meth and other legal and illegal drugs may not have much effect on the mother, but they can have a lasting effect on the baby.

How Does Crack Cocaine Reach the Fetus?

When the pregnant mother takes crack cocaine, it passes through the placenta and enters the baby’s circulation. It takes much more time for fetuses to eliminate the cocaine from their bodies than it does for the mother. This means it stays in the baby’s body much longer. It may directly affect the developing neural system in the fetal brain. It can have an adverse effect on the monoaminergic system development. This system plays an important role in the production and secretion of the chemical that maintains neuron integrity and gives them nutritional support. It can also indirectly affect the vascular constriction and subsequently decrease placental blood flow causing inadequate oxygenation of the blood.

What Are the Effects to an Unborn Baby?

Crack cocaine has been associated with ‘crack babies’ in the past. These are children born to mothers who used crack cocaine while they were pregnant, and the children were considered hopeless for good cognitive and life skills because of irreversible brain damage. While some researchers felt that these findings were exaggerated because in later findings these children appeared normal, today, it is considered by the National Institute on Drug Abuse that exposure to cocaine while in the womb can cause subtle deficits that are significant later in life such as cognitive performance, attention to tasks and information-processing.

The Organization of Teratology Information Services (OTIS) states that cocaine exposure during the first few months of pregnancy can increase the risk of miscarriage and cause placental abruption later. This can lead to severe bleeding, early birth and possible fetal death.

According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecology (ACOG), babies of mothers who used crack cocaine during pregnancy for prolonged periods of time also have a higher risk of birth defects including:

  • a smaller than normal head
  • reduced growth potential
  • genital, kidney, and brain defects

Withdrawal symptoms have also been seen such as sleeplessness, feeding difficulties, muscle spasms and tremors.

For the person using crack, it can cause:

  • respiratory failure
  • strokes
  • heart attacks
  • seizures

These health issues are life-threatening and can be passed to the unborn baby. Another issue for the newborn is brain structure changes that affect their performance in school and social behavior in life and may persist into their early teenage years. For the user, the effects of cocaine may be immediate, the effects on the unborn baby may last their whole life.

Treatment for Pregnant Women

Inpatient treatment is considered the best way for a pregnant woman to get treatment for crack cocaine addiction. In many cases, pregnant women are caring for their other children. They may also need to be removed from an environment that supports drug addiction. Inpatient treatment can provide better care and offer:

  • A welcoming setting that includes place for the patient’s children.
  • Childcare options for patient’s children.

These treatments address a withdrawal period when the woman may experience depression, lethargy and anxiety for about a week. In a rare few cases, paranoid psychosis during withdrawal is seen if the woman took frequent, high doses of crack cocaine.

Medication is not usually used during withdrawal from crack cocaine in pregnant women because there is little or no data on the effect these drugs may have on the fetus. In some cases, antidepressants are prescribed for the first five days to reduce the depression that often causes a high dropout rate during this period. If a woman needs prolonged use of antidepressants or sedatives, there may be other psychological issues that are not related to crack cocaine addiction.

Inpatient treatment can also provide regular cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) that can help address the reasons the patient originally became addicted to drugs. It uses several goal-oriented systematic procedures to address dysfunctional emotions, cognitive processes and maladaptive behaviors. The therapist will try to help the patient find strategies to address these problems.