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A Parent's Guide to Drugs of Abuse - Part 5 - Cocaine and Crack
This is Part 5 in a series about Drugs of Abuse. Although it is titled "A Parent's Guide" it contains information for anyone who has a loved one or friend who is addicted to drugs. Millions of people worldwide struggle with drug addiction each day. There are wasted lives, broken families, and tragic deaths. In this series I hope to provide some basic info on the more commonly encountered drugs of abuse, including some very new ones that you may not have heard about.
This segment will cover Cocaine and Crack.
Cocaine is a powerful stimulant producing an intense euphoria in the user. It is highly addictive.
Cocaine and Crack are both cocaine based substances. The difference between the two is the method of preparation and typical method of use. Each will be described separately.
Cocaine in powder or a powdery rock type form can vary greatly in the amount of actual cocaine present. Some cocaine that is sold has a high level of cocaine present, while other cocaine batches may have very little. Distributors and dealers usually mix cocaine with various powder-like fillers, such as sugars, anesthetics, or even other drugs. Adding these fillers, called "cut", gives the dealer a larger quantity of the drug that they can sell, thus increasing their profits. Depending on what these fillers consist of they can cause dangerous effects on the user, in addition to the effects of the cocaine itself.
is usually found as a white, crystalline powder. Some slang names for cocaine are Coke, Flake, and Snow.
Powdered cocaine is usually sniffed or "snorted". It can also be dissolved in water and then injected. Cocaine is sometimes mixed with an opiate, such as heroin, and injected. This method of use is called “speedballing.”
Crack production requires less actual cocaine, making it cheaper to produce. The cheaper cost and resell price make it much more widely available to a greater number of people than powder cocaine. Cocaine is chemically changed during the production of crack so it can be smoked by the user.
Smoking crack allows the drug to enter the body and reach the brain more quickly, causing an almost immediate high that is quite intense. This also causes addiction to occur very quickly as users seek to continually regain the same strong euphoric effects. As with powder cocaine the substances added during the production process can also be harmful to the user. One component required during production is a liquid. Crack addicts who are also dealers have been known to use their own urine as the liquid component when making crack "for sale", in order to discourage themselves from using from that batch of crack.
Crack is usually found in the form of small, white or yellowish colored, irregularly shaped chunks, often called "rocks". It is sometimes sold in small baggies containing a number of "rocks". Crack is also known as "cocaine
base". Other slang names for crack include Rock, Bump, and Crackers.
Crack is typically smoked using glass pipes, but many objects can be used as a substitute pipe, such as dented and punctured beer or soda cans.
Crack use became epidemic in the 1980's, especially among those who could not afford the more expensive powder cocaine, and continues to be a widely abused drug today.
Effects of Cocaine and Crack Use
Physical effects from the use of cocaine or crack include euphoria and a feeling of supremacy, increased heart rate and blood pressure, raised body temperature, feelings of exhilaration and increased energy, heightened alertness, insomnia, reduced appetite, irritability or aggression, paranoia and panic attacks, stroke, and seizures. Cocaine in either form is highly addictive.
Outward signs of use include dilated pupils, being overly "talkative", restlessness, twitching, excess sweating, irritability, insomnia, mood changes, and aggression.
As with other drugs, such as methamphetamine, cocaine and crack users may go on a long binge of use, where they will take doses every few hours over several days. They typically do not eat or sleep during this time and their main focus is on the use of the drug. Tolerance to the drug quickly occurs, and users take increasingly larger or more frequent doses in an effort to get high. This usually leads to frustration and paranoia. At the end of the binge the user will "crash", experiencing mental and physical exhaustion, and depression lasting several days. The user may sleep for days during this time. Once the crash period has passed users will experience an intense craving for the drug. At this point addicts will often repeat the process, and in an effort to obtain more of the drug they may engage in behaviors they would never have considered before.
Overdoses can cause hallucinations, cardiac arrest, seizure, respiratory failure, and death.
Addiction treatment is similar to that for other drugs in that it requires an entire lifestyle change if there is to be any hope of success. As with methamphetamine addiction, one issue that many recovering addicts must face is intense guilt over the moral depths they had reached in their efforts to obtain the drug. The recovering addict must find new friends and activities that are outside the drug culture. Strictly controlled addiction treatment of at least 6 months has been shown to have some level of success in helping addicts remain drug free. Follow-up treatment and participation in support groups should continue for years.