Crack cocaine addiction

Crack cocaine is a globally notorious drug that scared people so much in 1970’s America, that then-President Ronald Reagan launched his infamous “War on Drugs”. Far more potent than powder cocaine, crack is a highly addictive and dangerous drug that has devastating consequences both for those who abuse it as well as those around them. If you or someone you know is suffering from a crack addiction, it can seem like an inescapable situation. However, there is real help available if you are ready to make a change.

Crack cocaine addiction - bag of crack

What is crack cocaine?

Crack cocaine, or simply “crack” as it is commonly called is a highly addictive and potent form of cocaine. It is produced by combining powder cocaine with baking soda or ammonia and heating the mixture until it forms a solid, crystallised form that is usually smoked. The resulting “rock” is then broken into small pieces or “rocks” and sold on the street. This enables drug dealers to make more money both because they are able to stretch their cocaine further and because the high from crack cocaine is intense but short-lived, typically lasting only 5-15 minutes, leading users to smoke repeatedly in a “binge and crash” pattern.

How does crack affect users?

Crack cocaine has a significant impact on the brain, leading to changes in the way it functions. When crack cocaine is smoked, it rapidly enters the bloodstream and reaches the brain within seconds. Once in the brain, it binds to receptors that normally receive neurotransmitters like dopamine, causing a flood of this neurotransmitter to be released. This overstimulation of the reward system in the brain leads to feelings of euphoria, increased energy and a sense of extreme confidence.

How does crack addiction develop?

Crack cocaine addiction is usually a gradual process that develops over time with repeated use of the drug (although some people can and do become addicted to crack very quickly). Crack addiction develops in four main stages: crack abuse, tolerance, dependence and addiction.

1. Crack abuse…

In the early stages, the user experiments with crack for its positive effects.

2. Tolerance…

With continued use, the brain adapts to the presence of crack and begins to build up a tolerance. This means that the user must take increasingly larger doses to feel the same effects.

3. Physical crack dependence…

Crack dependence occurs when the brain has become so accustomed to the presence of the drug that it begins to rely on it to function normally. When a user then tries to quit or cut back on their crack abuse, they may experience withdrawal symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and intense drug cravings.

4. Crack addiction…

Addiction is the most severe stage of crack cocaine use, characterised by a compulsive need to use the drug despite negative consequences. It is at this stage that the user may experience severe physical and mental health problems and issues in every other area of their life.

Am I addicted to crack cocaine?

If you are concerned that you may have a crack addiction, try asking yourself these questions to assess the reality of the situation:

  • Do I feel like I need crack cocaine to function normally?
  • Have I tried to quit or cut back on my crack use, but found it difficult or impossible?
  • Do I spend a lot of time thinking about crack cocaine or planning when and where to use it?
  • Have I experienced negative consequences as a result of my crack cocaine use, such as health issues, legal problems or strained relationships with loved ones?
  • Have I continued to use crack cocaine despite these negative consequences?
  • Have I experienced withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit or cut back on my use?

If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, it may be time to seek professional help for crack addiction.

What are the risk factors for crack addiction?

Not everyone who uses crack cocaine becomes addicted, but certain factors can increase the risk of addiction. Some of these factors include:

  • Genetics: Studies have shown that addiction can run in families and those who have a family history of alcohol or drug addiction may be more vulnerable to developing a crack addiction themselves.
  • Age of first use: Those who engage in crack abuse using crack cocaine at a young age, particularly during adolescence, may be at a higher risk of developing a crack addiction.
  • Frequency of use: The more frequently a person uses crack cocaine, the greater the risk of addiction.
  • Environment: The environment in which a person lives can also play a role in their risk of crack addiction. Living in a neighbourhood with a high prevalence of drug use, poverty, and violence can increase the likelihood of addiction.
  • Mental health: People who struggle with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, or trauma may be more likely to turn to drugs like crack cocaine as a means of coping.

Crack cocaine addiction - depressed man

The negative impacts of crack cocaine addiction

Crack cocaine addiction can have a significant impact on both physical and mental health. Some of the potential health consequences of addiction include:

  • Cardiovascular problems: Crack cocaine abuse can cause high blood pressure, rapid heart rate, heart attack, and stroke.
  • Respiratory problems: Smoking crack cocaine can lead to respiratory problems such as shortness of breath, lung damage, and chronic bronchitis.
  • Dental problems: Long-term crack cocaine abuse due to crack addiction can cause tooth decay, gum disease, and cracked teeth.
  • Psychosis: Chronic use of crack cocaine can lead to psychotic symptoms, including paranoia, hallucinations, and delusions.
  • Depression and anxiety: Withdrawal from crack cocaine can cause symptoms of depression and anxiety which can be severe and long-lasting.
  • Fatal overdose: Crack cocaine is a highly potent drug and overdose can be fatal.

In addition to these health risks, crack abuse and addiction can affect various other areas of your life and result in:

  • Financial problems: Crack addiction can lead to financial problems as users often spend large sums of money on the drug, neglecting other financial obligations.
  • Relationship problems: Crack addiction can strain relationships with loved ones, leading to social isolation and problems with interpersonal communication.
  • Work and education issues: Crack abuse and addiction can lead to poor performance and attendance at work and school ultimately resulting in job loss or educational failure.
  • Legal issues: It is illegal to sell or possess crack with serious sentences for both offences. Some users also turn to crime to fund their crack use which can cause legal issues.

How is crack addiction treated?

Crack addiction is a complex condition which requires a comprehensive approach to recovery. The first stage is crack cocaine detox where you will be gradually weaned off the drug under the care of medical professionals. In addition to this, you will also undergo crack cocaine rehab where you will receive a combination of therapies and other support services to identify and address the underlying causes of your crack cocaine addiction. Banbury Lodge offers both of these stages in our world-class inpatient recovery clinic so get in touch with us to find out more.

Crack cocaine in the UK

The UK has been grappling with the issue of crack cocaine abuse and addiction for many years. Recent statistics reveal the extent of the problem:

Cocaine in both powder and crack form is the second most commonly used drug in the country, following cannabis.

In 2021, 21,308 people sought treatment for opiate and crack abuse and addiction with 4,545 seeking treatment for crack without the use of opiates.

The number of estimated crack cocaine users in the UK was 180,748 in 2017, and this number has continued to rise in subsequent years.

In 2021, there were 840 cases of death by cocaine poisoning up from 777 the previous year, with many deaths due to crack.

Common myths about crack cocaine

There are many myths and misconceptions about crack abuse and addiction and it is important to understand the reality of the drug in order to break the stigma around it. Here are some common myths about crack and the truth behind them:

Myth #1: Crack addiction is a choice…

Reality: Crack addiction is a complex disease that involves changes in brain function and behaviour. The condition develops over time due to a combination of genetic, environmental, and behavioural factors that are out of the user’s control.

Myth #2: Crack addiction only affects weak-willed people…

Reality: Crack addiction can affect anyone who tries the drug, regardless of their strength of character or moral fibre. It is an illness that does not discriminate based on personality or character.

Myth #3: You can only become addicted to crack cocaine if you use it daily…

Reality: Crack addiction can develop after just a few uses of crack cocaine. However, the more a person uses the drug, the greater the risk of crack addiction.

Myth #4: People who are addicted to crack cocaine are beyond help…

Reality: Crack addiction is a treatable condition. With the right support and treatment, many people are able to recover from crack addiction and lead healthy, fulfilling lives.

How to get help for crack addiction

If you or someone you love is struggling with crack cocaine addiction, Banbury Lodge is here to help. Get in touch with us today and we can help you get started on your road to recovery and a life free from crack cocaine.

Crack cocaine addiction - caring hands

Frequently asked questions

How can I help a loved one who is addicted to crack?
Helping a loved one who is struggling with crack cocaine addiction can be a challenging and emotional process. To support your loved one you can educate yourself about crack addiction and treatment options, offer your support and let your loved one know that you care about their well-being and ensure that you don’t enable their crack abuse or addiction.
Is crack more dangerous than powdered cocaine?
Both crack cocaine and powdered cocaine are highly addictive and can cause a range of health problems. However, crack cocaine is generally considered to be more dangerous than powdered cocaine due to its more potent and immediate effects on the brain and body.
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Calls and contact requests are answered by admissions at

UK Addiction Treatment Group.

We look forward to helping you take your first step.

0203 553 3757