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On November 10, 2018, the Woolsey Fire destroyed The Canyon at Peace Park’s treatment facility. At this time, The Canyon at Peace Park is not accepting patients for any services. Click here to learn more about our closure or request medical records.

Crack and the Brain

Crack, a concentrated and more potent form of cocaine, is one of the most troublesome and problematic drugs in modern society.Due to its addictive nature and some of the side effects that the drug produces in those who use it, people who are addicted to crack will go to great lengths to obtain their next fix, sacrificing friends, jobs and connections with family members.[i] Crack, like cocaine, forms an addiction in the user’s brain, and many people do not understand the internal mechanisms that create an addiction to crack.

The Brain and the Autonomic Nervous System

In the body, there are two main systems that govern the actions that take place. The first, the sympathetic nervous system, is controlled by the body’s autonomic nervous system, and it is responsible for unconscious actions and upkeep, such as breathing and heartbeats. The second system, the para-sympathetic nervous system, is also controlled by the autonomic nervous system, and it is responsible for slowing down actions in the body, acting in a way that is opposite to the sympathetic nervous system.

When an individual smokes crack, they will typically become extremely energetic, which can be explained by the massive release of dopamine (a pleasure-causing chemical produced naturally by the body) in the brain and an overloading of the parasympathetic nervous system. Once dopamine has been released into the body and the user experiences a high, the crack cocaine will then proceed to block the dopamine from being reabsorbed, which then means that the individual has to rely on crack to force the body to release dopamine again.[ii]

Neurons and Neurotransmitters

When crack is released in the brain, it changes how certain fundamental chemical processes and interactions take place.

In normal operation, the brain releases the chemical, dopamine, in response to events and emotions. Nerve cells, or neurons, with specialized dopamine receptors take the dopamine. These receptors process the chemical and produce feelings of pleasure. Once the dopamine has been processed, it is usually transmitted back to the place in the brain where it was generated, where it can be released again later when needed.

When you use crack, however, the drug causes the dopamine to be released in one big flood, resulting in a massive euphoric wave. Unfortunately, the natural re-uptake process of the dopamine is blocked by the crack, resulting in a longer euphoria (of a few minutes as opposed to a few seconds naturally). This blockage of dopamine uptake can take some time to clear out, and until it happens, a user will feel depressed and lethargic. Therefore, addicts will rely upon crack to get those feelings of pleasure back, repeating the vicious cycle over and over again.


The core of the Canyon’s crack treatment program is to help you develop a positive relationship with yourself. To aid in this journey of recovery and self-rediscovery, a variety of therapies are employed by the our therapists and medical professionals, all of whom are dedicated to helping you turn your life around. If you or a loved one is struggling with crack abuse or addiction, call us today at our toll-free helpline to find out how we can help. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day and can even check your insurance coverage for you to see what benefits you are entitled to. Please call today.