Where I come from a low SES community, phrases like “your mom is a crack head,” or “shut up crack baby” are said jokingly to make fun of someone during what we call a “rip session.” Although said as a joke, some are very offended by the comments. Why? Because for some, crack addiction hits too close to home for comfort. Seeing as how it is easily obtainable in low SES areas, many find themselves falling victim to the powerful substance, crack cocaine. Low SES is just one of the many factors that can lead to the use, and addiction of crack cocaine, others include movies, music, peer pressure, and alcohol and cigarette ads. In this report, I will discuss the effects, consequences, and possible treatment for crack cocaine addiction.
“The first time cocaine is used it may make the heart beat faster leading to a feeling of excitement and fear” (qtd. in Carroll, 1994, p.24). Followed by euphoria, these feelings can peak within five seconds. The user then begins to feel more energetic and becomes more sociable (Carroll, 1994). “Psychological effects include feelings of well-being and a grandiose sense of power and ability mixed with anxiety and restlessness” (qtd. in Narconon, 2001). One inhalation will produce a high usually lasting 10-15 minutes. After this zenith of intense sensation, “…the drug wears off, these temporary sensations of mastery are replaced by an intense depression, and the drug abuser will then “crash”, becoming lethargic and typically sleeping for several days” (qtd. in Narconon, 2001). There are several different ways to use crack. It can be snorted, smoked, or taken intravenously.
Prices start at $12
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It can also be taken orally (chewed), but this method is not preferred because of the low intensity of the high. The two most popular ways of using crack are smoking and IV usage. These two methods are most favored because they give the most intense sensations. There are three different stages to addiction, the first being the adaptive stage. In this stage, the user is on top of his/her game. They feel as if they can function better while on the drug and are able to handle larger amounts. This is the person that can smoke crack before they go to work and will probably be more productive than most. “Cocaine is a powerfully addictive drug. Once having tried cocaine, an individual may have difficulty predicting or controlling the extent to which he or she will continue to use the drug” (qtd. in Narconon, 2001). In other words, it may only take one dose to become addicted to the drug. Because the first high is so pleasurable, many continue taking the drug in search of the first high they experienced.
They try taking larger and larger doses to recapture a high that can never be obtained again. Pretty soon they’ll find themselves having to use crack just to feel “normal” again. This is the physical dependency stage. It occurs when the user has built up such a high tolerance from frequent usage, that their body basically forgets what is normal so they have to maintain a continuum of the drug to ward of the withdrawal effects. As a result of usage, anxiety and depression can last for weeks. “Attempts to stop using the drugs can fail simply because the resulting depression can be overwhelming, causing the addict to use more cocaine in an attempt to overcome his depression. This overpowering addiction can cause the addict to do anything to get cocaine” (qtd. in Narconon, 2001). This is the point at which you get the more stereotypical crack addict.
They begin to steal from their family and friends, miss work/school, prostitute and do just about anything they can to get the money to support their habit. They begin to short or try to get over the person who is selling them drugs, which can result in violence. Some even become drug dealers themselves so that they can pay for the drugs that they use. The final stage of addiction is the deteriorative stage. This is basically the stage in which the user has nothing left. They may be homeless because they’ve spent all their money on a crack so they were unable to keep up with the rent/mortgage or any of their other bills. Their family is probably unwilling to allow them to stay with them because they’ve stolen from, and cheated them one too many times. To top it all off, their health is rapidly declining. One may have contracted HIV by having unprotected sex to get the money for their drug of choice, and/or contracted Hepatitis C by sharing needles. There are a host of short-term, long-term, and medical consequences that include:
- Increased energy
- Decreased appetite
- Mental alertness
- Increased heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- Constricted blood vessels
- Increased temperature
- Dilated pupils
- Mood disturbances
- Auditory hallucinations
- Cardiovascular Effects
- Disturbances in heart
- Rhythm heart attacks
- Chest pain
- Respiratory failure
- Abdominal pain
- Nausea (qtd. in Narconon, 2001)
Another consequence of being addicted to crack is the possibility of passing the addiction and any other disease they may have on to their unborn child. It’s not just women who can pass the addiction to their child, “cocaine can attach itself to sperm, ‘hitch-hike’ its way into the zygote and cause birth defects” (qtd. in Berk, 1999, p. 112). Meaning men can also be the cause of their child being born crack-addicted. “In some states pregnant cocaine users are held in jail until their babies are born, to protect the unborn child from cocaine exposure” (qtd. in Carroll, 1994, p. 48). Children born addicted to crack may suffer from “a wide variety of problems, including prematurity, low birth weight, physical defects, breathing difficulties, and death around the time of birth” (qtd. in Berk, 1999, p. 111). Because they are basically born crack addicts themselves, once born they suffer from withdrawal symptoms.
They may be irritable, have trouble sleeping, and have an abnormal, shrill-like, cry that is so distinctive, that the cry alone can give away that the child may be addicted. Because many users often use other drugs (cigarettes, alcohol, heroin, etc…) in addiction to crack, in attempts to heighten their high, doctors are unable to pinpoint those side effects that are exclusively due to the use of crack. As with any type of addiction, one must first admit that they have a problem and be willing to seek treatment for it. Oftentimes addicts are forced into some type of treatment by the law, family, or friends. However, for most types of treatment to be effective, one must determine for themself that it is necessary.
Therefore being forced into treatment, with a closed mind isn’t very helpful (Sarason and Sarason, 1999). Treatment varies depending on the stage and severity of the addiction. There are groups like Cocaine Anonymous who “encourage their members to confide in others who have the same problem, to share their feelings, to make a resolution to overcome dependency and to support the resolutions of other members” (qtd. in Sarason and Sarason, 1999, p. 451). On the Cocaine Anonymous World Services website, they offer a questionnaire (see attachment) to help one determine if they have a cocaine problem and need help for it. The website also offers a lot of literature on addiction and tells you how a 12 step program is set up.
There is also a treatment called Cue Exposure, which is a treatment that recognizes that it is impossible to avoid drug-related cues in real-life situations. Therefore, treatment includes exposing a cocaine abuser to things like white powder, hypodermic needles, and movies in which people use drugs. The goal is to stimulate the cravings and urges until the abuser’s desire for crack decreases. This method also gives the abuser a chance to learn how to cope and deal with these situations when they happen outside of therapy/treatment. Other treatments include psychotherapy and supportive therapy. Many times drug abusers were originally lead to drugs because of some sort of dramatic event in their life. They may have been physically, sexually, or emotionally abused, or perhaps even going through a divorce.
Whatever the case may be, psychotherapy and supportive therapy can help an individual deal with the certain aspects in their lives that may have to lead them to use drugs in the first place. The hope is that they may be able to resolve their issues and successfully stay away from drugs once they have completed one of the programs that focus on the actual addiction (Sarason and Sarason, 1999). In conclusion, while acknowledging that there are many institutions in place to help individuals after they have acquired an addiction, it seems as if the institutions that are in place to prevent addiction aren’t reaching enough of the population. There are commercials and billboards with slogans like “music is my anti-drug”, but how much information can one acquire, and how effective can a thirty-second commercial be to an adult or youth who may have endured a lifetime of pain.
There is a lot of youth and adults crying out for help and instead of receiving the proper treatment they want or need they resort to a drug that ultimately subjects them to cruel and unusual punishment. I think that educating the youth on the effects of crack, and teaching them life coping skills can be the most effective way to cut down on the number of those who use crack. The D.A.R.E. organization does this, but they are only one organization and naturally cannot be in every school or school district. If there were more aspiring organizations such as D.A.R.E., I believe there would be a dramatic decrease in the number of addicts and in turn a decrease in violence. In addition, I also believe that parents have to talk to their children and play a more active role in their lives. Everything begins at home, so if a child is taught about drugs at home, when they enter “the real world” they’re already a step ahead.
- Berk, L. E. (1999). Infants, children, and adolescents. Third Edition. Boston: Allyn and
- Carroll, M. (1994). Cocaine and crack. New Jersey: Enslow Publishers, INC.
- Cocaine Anonymous World Service. (2001). A self-test for addiction. Available: http://www.ca.org/catest.html [2001, December 5].
- Narconon. (2000). Cocaine addiction. Available: http://www.cocaineaddiction.com/cocaine_addiction.html [2001, December 5].
- Sarason, I. G., & Sarason, B. R. (1999). Abnormal psychology the problem of maladaptive behavior. Tenth Edition. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall