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Long-Term Effects of Crack Cocaine Use and Abuse

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Crack cocaine is so addictive that a person can become tolerant after using it only once. One of the most dangerous long-term effects of crack cocaine abuse is severe physical dependence and addiction. Additional long-term risks and dangers of use include cardiovascular complications, mental health problems, and organ damage. Choosing a program that uses evidence-based treatments to treat an addiction to crack can help a person’s brain and body to stabilize after using this harmful stimulant drug. These programs will teach a person coping and relapse prevention skills so that they’re better equipped to maintain a drug-free life.Man struggling with long-term effects of crack cocaine abuse

If you or a loved one is struggling with crack cocaine, Vertava Health’s crack cocaine rehab center can help. Our evidence-based programs use a range of therapeutic techniques to help you or your loved one recover from addiction and learn how to stay clean. Contact us at 844.470.0410 to learn more.

What Is Crack Cocaine?

Crack, or freebase cocaine, is an intensely potent stimulant or “upper.” As an upper, it affects the central nervous system, causing a person’s blood pressure, breathing, heart, and temperature rates to rise. It also creates surges of dopamine in the brain. This neurotransmitter regulates a person’s sense of reward and pleasure. These feelings are incredibly reinforced at these high amounts, leading a person to crave more of this highly addictive drug quickly.

Because of these changes, short-term use of crack speeds up a person’s mental and physical functions, causing an intense high (euphoria), dilated pupils, excitability, a faster heartbeat, higher blood pressure, and a loss of appetite. As a person’s use continues, the way this drug impacts a person’s health and quality of life can become far more severe.

The Long-Term Effects of Crack Cocaine Abuse

The more frequently a person uses crack and the greater the dose, the higher the chance that they’ll develop adverse physical and mental health effects. What follows are the risks and dangers that can accompany the long-term use of this potent stimulant drug.

How Crack Is Used: The Long-Term Risks

No matter how this substance is used, crack is highly addictive. However, in addition to the general long-term effects of crack cocaine use, each way of administering the drug can create more risks and dangers:

Long-Term Dangers Of Smoking Crack Cocaine

Smoking crack exposes the lungs not only to crack but to any other toxins or chemicals the drug may be laced or cut with. When smoked, crack is heated to high temperatures. Combined with the drug’s toxins, this could cause lung damage or aggravate a person’s asthma.

Long-Term Dangers Of Snorting (Insufflation) Crack Cocaine

Snorting (also referred to as insufflation) crack can cause great trauma to the nose. Repeated use can cause chronic bad breath, nosebleeds, inflammation, sinusitis, and runny nose. A person may also have difficulty swallowing, experience hoarseness or a change to their voice, or develop a hole in the nasal septum.

Long-Term Dangers Of Injecting Crack Cocaine

Injecting crack cocaine can cause inflammation and infection in the veins and surrounding tissues. A person may develop track marks where the needle punctures the skin. Other infections that can become serious include cellulitis and skin abscesses. Injecting crack increases the risk of transmissible or blood-borne infectious diseases, such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C.

Withdrawal From Crack Cocaine After Long-Term Abuse

Once a person is addicted to crack, they may experience withdrawal should they quit cold turkey or if they take a much smaller dose than they’re used to.

Withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Intense fatigue
  • Psychosis

The symptoms and cravings associated with withdrawal drive many people to continue using this substance to avoid this discomfort. Enrolling in a treatment program before withdrawing can make this process more comfortable and increase the likelihood that a person remains abstinent from this drug.

Long-Term Crack Cocaine Use and Overdose

Crack cocaine can cause sudden death or overdose the first time a person tries it. Further, a person who has used the drug for a long time can overdose when they use the drug.

Long-term use of this drug can increase the risk of overdose in a regular user for two reasons. As a person becomes more tolerant of crack’s effects, they’re more prone to increase the amount used. Also, some people will begin to experience sensitization. This means that smaller amounts of cocaine can cause anxiety, convulsions, or other effects brought on by this toxic drug.

Long-Term Effects of Crack Cocaine Abuse on the Mind

As soon as crack is used, it goes to work changing the way a person’s brain functions. Over time, as a person’s use becomes more frequent or as they abuse more of the drug, psychological problems can arise.

Long-term crack cocaine use may cause the following mental or emotional problems:

  • Aggression
  • Extreme depression
  • Delirium
  • Hallucinations
  • Irritability
  • Mood disturbances
  • Panic attacks
  • Paranoia
  • Psychosis

People may also develop tactile hallucinations, causing them to feel things that don’t exist, such as “coke bugs.” Coke bugs cause a person to feel like there are bugs crawling on or beneath their skin. This sensation can lead a person to itch or pick at their skin until massive irritation and sores develop.

Cardiac Complications of Long-Term Crack Cocaine Abuse

As such as strong stimulants, crack places the heart and cardiovascular system under immense strain.

From this, serious damage, illness, and disease to this important organ and system can result, including:

  • The ability of the heart to contract becomes compromised
  • Aortic ruptures
  • Heart attack
  • Heart disease
  • Inflammation of the heart

Individuals with an existing heart condition could face an even greater risk of danger when using this stimulant drug.

Brain Damage and Neurological Problems Linked To Long-Term Crack Cocaine Use

Long-term crack use can damage a person’s brain and impair their ability to think and reason. It could also cause serious and sometimes life-threatening disorders.

Abusing crack may cause:

  • Brain seizures
  • Balloon-like bulges in the walls of the cerebral blood vessels
  • Intracerebral hemorrhage (bleeding in the brain)
  • Movement disorders (such as Parkinson’s disease)

Using crack cocaine for a long period of time is believed to cause cognitive impairment that makes it more difficult for a person to think and use their brain.

A person may have an issue with the functions that are responsible for:

  • Keeping impulses in check
  • Memory
  • Paying attention
  • Performing motor tasks

In addition to these, long-term crack use may make it harder for a person to make decisions regarding reward and punishment. A crack cocaine addiction can cause a person to seek out and use crack despite the damage it’s causing to their body, mind, or life.

Find Healing at Vertava Health

An addiction to crack cocaine can be complicated to overcome without professional help. An individualized treatment plan will focus on treating the unique ways each person’s life has been damaged by addiction. Contact Vertava Health at 844.470.0410 to learn about treatment options.