Physical and Psychological Effects of Crack

Crack is a cheaper, more potent form of cocaine. Cocaine takes a small, rock-like form when mixed with baking soda or ammonia. Users heat these “rocks” and inhale the vapors produced. This crack use results in physical and psychological effects such as addiction. Specialized, evidence-based treatment addresses crack addiction and related health concerns. The Canyon offers this treatment; we offer hope and resources for long-term healing.

Early Effects of Crack Use

effects of crack cocaineCrack has many immediate, short-term effects. Some of these include the positive-seeming effects that cause individuals to first use the drug. The Center for Substance Abuse Research[1] (CESAR) explains that crack, “interferes with, and causes excess amounts of, dopamine in the brain. A neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and movement, dopamine is the neurotransmitter released as part of the brain’s reward system.” Crack causes the brain to release dopamine. It also prevents dopamine from being “recycled” back into the body. This causes dopamine to build up and over-stimulate receptors. The brain is flooded with this chemical. Users feel exceptionally good. These early effects seem positive, yet they   have already started the addiction development process. CESAR continues, “The psychological effects can be extremely reinforcing; after having tried crack cocaine, the user will rapidly develop an intense craving for the drug since the chemistry of the brain’s reward system has been altered.” Crack has an immediate effect on thoughts and actions. This effect sets the stage for long-term effects on mental health.

Other crack effects are less pleasurable. They are also related to the drug’s immediate effects on the brain. The National Institute on Drug Abuse[2] (NIDA) explains, “When a person smokes or snorts cocaine, it travels quickly to the brain. Although it reaches all areas of the brain, it concentrates in some specific areas…Cocaine concentrates especially in the reward areas. Cocaine accumulation in other areas such as the caudate nucleus can explain other effects such as increased stereotypic behaviors (pacing, nail-biting, scratching, etc.).” Individuals may feel irritable or aggressive after using crack. The initial rush of euphoria is accompanied by anxiety and paranoia. The drug causes the following physical effects:

  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased body temperature
  • Constricted blood vessels
  • Increased rate of breathing
  • Dilated pupils
  • Muscle twitches and restlessness
Crack users may experience heart attack, seizures or respiratory failure.

These can result in death or long-term damage to health. Crack’s negative physical and psychological effects explain why there are some who don’t use the drug repeatedly. Crack’s addictive properties explain why some people do. The Drug Policy Alliance[3] shares, “Less than one out of four people who ever tried the drug used it more than once.” No one wants to put their mental and physical health at risk. Continued use in the face of serious and unpleasant effects shows the power of addiction over mind and body. It shows how individual risk factors and crack’s addictive properties interact and create a situation that is difficult to escape. The right support puts an end to crack’s immediate effects. Addiction treatment provides immediate attention and long-term encouragement.

Long-Term Effects of Crack

As use continues, individuals experience long-term effects on mental and physical health. Crack suppresses appetite. Getting and using the drug becomes more important than buying groceries, preparing balanced meals, or practicing self-care. Users may also experience tooth and bowel decay as long-term effects of crack use. Individuals become malnourished. Mental and physical health suffers.

Crack drug impacts the brain. NIDA shares, “Cocaine interferes with the brain’s use of glucose – or its metabolic activity…There are many areas of the brain that have reduced metabolic activity. The continued reduction in the neurons’ ability to use glucose (energy) results in disruption of many brain functions.” Users experience depression, anxiety, hallucinations and more. As mental health suffers, individuals become less and less able to overcome addiction on their own. Early treatment is often the most effective. However treatment becomes increasingly essential as addiction progresses.

all-inclusive-call-ctaCrack’s addictive effects explain why some individuals continue to use the drug in the face of serious and unpleasant consequences. As explained above the drug has an immediate impact on dopamine levels. This causes a brief burst of pleasurable feeling. It causes long-term over-reliance on external substances. NIDA shares, “With continued use of cocaine, the body relies on this drug to maintain rewarding feelings. The person is no longer able to feel the positive reinforcement or pleasurable feelings of natural rewards (food, water, sex).” Individuals begin to need crack just to feel “normal.” Drug use becomes a priority. It replaces other thoughts, actions and ways of feeling good. Detox and treatment reestablish normal reward system functions. Recovery isn’t about punishment.

The Canyon helps patients relearn ways of enjoying life. We help patients explore their passions and learn about who they are and what they like. Find recovery. Find health. Rebuild a life away from addiction.


[1] http://www.cesar.umd.edu/cesar/drugs/crack.asp. “Crack Cocaine.” Center for Substance Abuse Research. 29 Oct 2013. Web. 26 Jan 2017.

[2] https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/teaching-packets/brain-actions-cocaine-opiates-marijuana. “The Brain & the Actions of Cocaine, Opiates, and Marijuana.” National Institute on Drug Abuse. Jan 2007. Web. 26 Jan 2017.

[3] http://www.drugpolicy.org/drug-facts/cocaine-and-crack-facts. “Cocaine and Crack Facts.” Drug Policy Alliance. Web. 26 Jan 2017.

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