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Crack Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, Risks, and Treatment Resources

Crack, also known as crack cocaine, is a naturally derived and highly addictive substance that is one of the most popular street drugs. Using it can lead to a variety of health complications and devastation in other areas of life.

What Is Crack?

Crack cocaine is a Schedule II controlled stimulant substance that has some medical uses but poses a high potential for abuse and addiction. In a medical setting, it may be used to anesthetize the upper respiratory tract. In most cases, this drug is used illegally and often mixed with other harmful substances. Crack goes by many names, such as flake, snow, rock, soda, and blow.

Crack Addiction and Abuse

Crack cocaine is a Schedule II controlled substance and is deemed highly addictive. Most people who use crack have already abused other illicit drugs, making them more likely to misuse or mix the stimulant with other substances.

Signs of Addiction to Crack

Symptoms of crack addiction include itching, accelerated heart rate, dilated pupils, cravings, and changes in daily habits to get or use crack. If you experience nausea, headaches, irritability, fatigue, anxiety, and body pain when you’re not taking crack, this indicates early withdrawal.

Effects of Crack Abuse

An addiction to crack cocaine is associated with many common signs and symptoms. The signs of crack addiction tend to get worse over time.

A person might start using crack in small quantities. But once they become tolerant, they won’t experience the euphoria as intensely as before. Some indicators include the following:

  • Secretive behavior
  • Excessive energy
  • Excessive sweating
  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Euphoria

Dangers of Long-Term Crack Use

A person can change a lot before and after crack use. The symptoms of crack over time will destroy the brain and body. Because crack is usually smoked, it will eat away at the lungs. It can cause lung infections and chronic difficulty breathing.

Due to how it affects the brain, crack can also lead to cognitive decline. This involves memory loss, difficulty speaking, and difficulty thinking.

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Statistics on Crack Use, Misuse, and Addiction

In recent years, cocaine was involved in one out of five overdose deaths in the United States.[2] Crack cocaine is often mixed with other substances, some of which can cause instantaneous death. The dangers of crack addiction are amplified when the drug is mixed with alcohol or other drugs.

A person in a red hoodie and braids is squatting on a wet street, looking down thoughtfully.

Can You Overdose on Crack?

Yes, it is possible to overdose on crack, and in some cases, the drug is so potent it can cause a person to die on the spot. As tolerance develops, more crack is required to experience positive effects. This leads them to take the drug in higher doses, which increases their risk of overdose.

Signs and Symptoms of Crack Overdose

A person who has overdosed may be in a state of panic or delirium. They may be violent toward those around them. Some may be unresponsive. In severe cases, it is possible for the heart to stop beating or the lungs to stop working.

What to do if you suspect someone is overdosing on crack:

Call for emergency medical services right away. A person who has overdosed needs immediate medical treatment to ensure their survival. Watch over the person until the medical services arrive.

How is Crack Taken?

Crack use mostly involves smoking or inhaling. While crack is an addictive drug by default, addiction is more likely when smoked than taken any other way.[3] In this case, the euphoria is instant when smoking. Other delivery methods include snorting or injecting it.

Mixing Crack with Other Drugs

Some people mix crack with alcohol. This can increase its risks and lead to seizures, heart attacks, and death. This is also possible when crack is mixed with other stimulants or CNS drugs.

Cutting Agents Used for Crack

As an illegal street drug, crack production is unregulated and can contain other harmful contaminants. Crack is often cut with cheap substances like rat poison, cat litter, battery acid, talcum powder, and cornstarch, making the substance increasingly dangerous.

Crack Addiction Treatment

If you or a loved one is struggling with a physical or psychological dependence on crack cocaine, treatment can help you with your symptoms and overcome addiction. Substance use disorder treatment may begin with medical detox, depending on the severity of your substance use disorder and other underlying health concerns.

Following detox, residential treatment offers full-time care so you can focus on recovery without distraction. The next level of care is Partial Care (PCP) or part-time treatment that offers comprehensive care with outpatient flexibility. Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP) and standard Outpatient Treatment are two levels of ongoing care that support long-term recovery.

During treatment, you will receive the evidence-based benefits of individual therapy, group therapy, experiential therapy, and coping skill development that helps you establish a strong sense of personal autonomy.

Therapies Used in Crack Addiction Treatment

Therapy is one of the most common and effective interventions for treating drug addiction as you learn how to cope with cravings without relying on drugs.

Industry-leading modalities include:

Dual Diagnosis for Co-Occurring Disorders

Many who have substance use disorders also suffer from mental health concerns like anxiety or depression. Substance use may be an outlet to escape the symptoms of their condition or to artificially deal with life’s problems. When substance use and mental health are present together, dual diagnosis treatment is the best way to ensure each is addressed holistically.

Crack Withdrawal Management Treatment

Having professional support can make the process of withdrawal easier and safer. The toughest part of detox is the crucial first days, but treatment can alleviate symptoms and improve comfort during this experience.

Drugs Used in Crack Withdrawal Management

Medication-assisted treatment may be available for those suffering from crack withdrawal symptoms. Disulfiram is sometimes used to help people navigate this process safely by reducing cravings and discomfort. Pain medications like Advil® may also be used to reduce headaches and other uncomfortable symptoms.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a Crack Addiction Be Fatal?

A crack addiction can indeed be fatal. Death often happens due to an overdose. When a person overdoses, they may become unresponsive. Their heart may stop beating, or they may stop breathing.

These complications are more likely when crack is mixed with other drugs or alcohol. It can also occur when a person takes very large quantities of crack. Overdoses are often accidental because the person using the drug doesn’t realize they took too much.

What Are Crack Withdrawals Like?

Crack withdrawals include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, tremors, sweating, and headaches. Some people experience seizures or heart attacks in severe cases. It’s important to go to seek professional treatment if you’re considering sobriety and recovery. Rehab facilities will have medications and resources that can make the withdrawal process more comfortable.

Who Uses Crack?

Crack is prevalent among many demographics but is especially popular among marginalized populations. Crack is cheaper and more readily available than other drugs and is easy to consume (smoking) to experience its effects.


  1. Falck, R. S., Wang, J., & Carlson, R. G. (2008). Among long-term crack smokers, who avoids and who succumbs to cocaine addiction?. Drug and alcohol dependence, 98(1-2), 24–29. Retrieved from on May 23, 2023.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2023b, May 12). Other drugs. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from on May 23, 2023.
  3. Crack Cocaine Fast Facts. (n.d.). Retrieved from on May 23, 2023.
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