Cocaine is a white powder made from the leaves of the coca plant. Some people mix powder cocaine with water and baking soda to make smokeable rocks called crack cocaine (or just “crack”). While crack is usually smoked, it can also be snorted or injected.
All forms of crack use pose serious health risks, including addiction, stroke, and heart attack. If you think your loved one might be using crack, look for these five common signs.
1. Physical Changes
Like other types of drug use, crack cocaine abuse can change your appearance. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the most common physical effects of crack cocaine include:
- dilated (enlarged) pupils
- muscle twitches
- increased heart rate
- high blood pressure
- nosebleeds (from snorting crack)
In addition, because crack pipes heat up fast, many people who smoke crack develop burns or blisters on their lips, hands, and fingers.
Another common physical side effect of crack cocaine use is weight loss. That’s because the drug boosts energy and lowers appetite. If your loved one suddenly loses a large amount of weight with no explanation, crack may be to blame.
Finally, if your loved one is frequently high on crack, they may struggle to care for their hygiene. For example, you might notice that they rarely change their clothes or brush their hair. They may also stop showering and develop a constant body odor.
2. Mental & Behavioral Changes
Crack cocaine boosts the amount of dopamine in your brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter (brain chemical) associated with pleasure. That’s why crack can cause euphoria (intense joy). It can also lead to a burst of energy, alertness, and confidence.
Other mental effects of the drug may include:
- increased talkativeness
- mood swings
Psychosis & Loss Of Interests
In some cases, crack can also cause psychosis. Psychosis is a temporary loss of connection with reality. It usually involves:
- extreme anxiety
- paranoia (feeling extremely mistrustful of others)
- hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or feeling things that aren’t really there)
- delusions (holding beliefs that aren’t based in reality)
Also, with continued crack use, your loved one may become unable to experience pleasure without crack.
They may then lose interest in activities that don’t involve crack and withdraw from friends and family members. This is often a sign of crack cocaine addiction, which is a disease that makes you feel unable to control your use of crack.
3. Withdrawal Symptoms
Many crack cocaine users become physically dependent on the drug. That means they start relying on crack to function normally. If they can’t access it, they may experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. The most common crack cocaine withdrawal symptoms include:
- increased appetite
- intense cravings for crack cocaine
To avoid or reduce cocaine withdrawal symptoms, crack users should attend medical detox programs, which are available at many drug addiction treatment centers.
During detox, a team of health care providers will help your loved one safely stop using crack while monitoring their physical and mental health. They may also prescribe medications to ease certain withdrawal symptoms.
If your loved one is using crack, you might find crack paraphernalia in their home, vehicle, or other personal space. The term paraphernalia refers to items associated with substance use.
The specific paraphernalia you find will depend on how your loved one uses crack. For example, people who smoke crack may have lighters and glass or metal pipes. They may also keep steel wool or other scrubbing materials to use as filters in the pipes.
If they don’t have pipes, they might smoke the drug out of hollowed light bulbs. In addition, some people heat crack on tin foil and use a straw or hollowed pen to inhale the smoke.
If your loved one snorts crack, they may have straws, hollowed pens, and roller-up papers or bills. If they inject crack, they might have needles, syringes, and items that can be used as tourniquets, such as shoelaces and elastic bands.
5. Financial Problems
Like other drugs of abuse, crack cocaine can be expensive. In most places, it costs between $60 to $100 per gram. Many people use multiple grams per day, especially if they have a crack addiction. That means they could spend thousands of dollars on the drug per week.
To support their crack habit, your loved one might start borrowing money on a regular basis. They may also fall behind on bills, sell their possessions, and avoid activities or events that cost money. In some cases, they may even resort to stealing.
If you think your loved one is using crack, you might feel helpless. Fortunately, drug abuse and addiction are treatable.
To learn about your loved one’s treatment options, please reach out to a Recovering Champions specialist. Our substance abuse treatment facility offers outpatient therapy, family counseling, support groups, and other recovery-focused services.