Crack cocaine takes a terrible toll on the body, especially after long term use. Effects of crack cocaine include damage to the heart, respiratory system, blood flow, and brain. The cheap, highly addictive street drug causes intense depression, edginess and a craving for more as soon as the user comes down from the high.
Crack cocaine is the freebase form of cocaine. It is smoked, and it is the most addictive form cocaine. The reason it is so addictive is because smoking crack gives the user a short but very intense high. Smoking is second only to IV injection in terms of how quickly the drug hits the user’s system, and a very close second at that. The more quickly a drug reaches the brain, the more likely it is that you will become addicted.
One of the effects of crack cocaine is an almost immediate urge for more. The addictive properties are related to the effects of crack cocaine on the body’s reward pathways. It is a strong central nervous system stimulant that increases levels of dopamine, a brain chemical associated with pleasure, in the brain’s reward circuits. This release of dopamine causes the euphoric “high” that users experience when crack cocaine is smoked. The “reward” effect causes powerful cravings of the drug. Studies in mice found that if you give mouse cocaine every time it hits a lever, it will continue hitting the lever until it has overdosed, not stopping to eat, drink, or sleep. Because smoking crack reaches the blood stream more quickly than snorting cocaine, the effects of crack cocaine include an even more extreme reaction on the bodies reward pathway.
The effects of crack cocaine include increased alertness, feelings of euphoria, and enhanced energy. Anxiety, paranoia, and restlessness are common, with tremors and convulsions occurring at higher doses. There is a wide range of effects of crack cocaine on the body. Crack constricts blood vessels and increases heart rate and blood pressure. It decreases appetite, so long-term users can become malnourished. Crack cocaine abuse can also cause gastrointestinal problems and headaches. Effects of crack cocaine can also include extreme paranoia and hallucinations. Crack-related deaths are often the result of heart attacks or seizures.
Due to the surge of pleasurable chemicals in the brain during use and sharp decrease after the drug wears off, long-term effects of crack cocaine include depression and psychosis. The brain experiences a rapid high, followed quickly by a “crash.” The high from crack use is very short when compared to other drugs. Usually the high lasts less than five minutes. This is why crack is often used in binges (repeated use at increasingly higher doses). Repeated binges can cause the user to have a complete break with reality- a condition known as “cocaine psychosis.”
Another of the long-term effects of crack cocaine is damage to the respiratory system. Smoking crack can cause permanent lung damage. Long-term crack cocaine use can also cause bronchospasm and asthma.
Long-term effects of crack cocaine can include gangrene in the GI system and the extremities. Over time, smoking crack cocaine restricts blood flow to the hands and feet to the point that the tissues actually begin to die from lack of oxygen. In males, crack can even cause gangrene to develop in the scrotum. In the gut, lack of oxygen causes ulcers and even perforation of the stomach lining.