The longer the addiction lasts, the more severe it gets and the more harm you are likely to cause to your physical and mental health.
Getting the treatment you or a loved one deserves begins with awareness about the signs and symptoms of cocaine addiction. Below we explore everything you need to know before reaching out for professional help.
Nobody starts using crack cocaine with the intention of getting addicted, in all cases, it’s an unintended consequence and an accident after recreational use, individually or in group settings.
There shouldn’t be any shame or guilt when facing the fact that you may be addicted or when confronting a loved one about their substance issue.
Knowing the signs means you and a loved one can realise there is an issue, seek support and find professional help in the fight against addiction.
Crack Addiction and Dependence
The term addiction and dependence on a substance are deeply connected and often used interchangeably.
Dependence can be both physical and psychological. Physical dependence happens due to the powerful effect cocaine has on your brain chemistry, shifting its balance and making you crave the substance to feel “normal” and be able to function. Psychological dependence often arises because cocaine is used as a coping mechanism for trauma, stress, or dissatisfaction.
Addiction describes a persistent emotional and psychological state where you are likely to experience intense cravings for the substance and severe withdrawal symptoms if you try to stop completely. The constant tug to consume will likely make you defensive about the substance, more irrational and impulsive when making decisions.
Symptoms of Crack Use
Crack cocaine use is very visible, both in the physical symptoms that arise and the changes in behaviour which you can expect from a person 
Signs of crack cocaine use:
- Mood swings
- Impulsive, aggressive and unpredictable behaviour
- Bursts of energy and hyperactivity
- Unreasonable amounts of joy and excitement
- Slurred speech and raised voice tone
- High motivation
- Attention all over the place
- Sporadic and quicker breathing
- Increased heart rate
- Diluted pupils
- Finger burns
- Blisters on the lips
Signs of Crack Addiction
Although addiction is a gradual process that doesn’t happen at once, the first signs of cocaine addiction can appear only after a few uses. The reason is due to the powerful chemical reactions in the brain that cocaine produces.
The huge amount of neurotransmitters, endorphins and other brain chemicals released with a dose are highly addictive due to the quick development of physical and psychological dependence.
The body quickly develops a tolerance, which requires an increase in how much is consumed at once or how frequently, and eventually, the person can function normally only if they constantly use the substance.
People will experience different symptoms, or the same ones in different degrees, depending on how long they’ve been using cocaine, their general health, mental health condition, and other lifestyle factors.
Signs of crack cocaine addiction:
- Flu-like symptoms
- Energy level fluctuations
- Disorientation and confusion
- Loss of appetite and weight changes
- Brain fog
- Inability to stay focused
- Symptoms of depression
- Mood swings
- Exacerbation of mental health issues
- Restlessness, sleep issues and insomnia
- Uncontrollable and irresistible cravings
- Withdrawal symptoms whenever the substance is cut
Symptoms of Physical Dependence
Each body seeks to reach a state of homeostasis, where a balance between the various hormones, endorphins, neurotransmitters, and other chemicals is reached. Crack cocaine skews that balance, making the person dependent on the substance to function normally.
Not only does physical dependence mean withdrawal symptoms, but the harmful chemicals in crack cocaine can lead to devastating and even permanent damage to a person’s health .
Symptoms of physical crack dependence:
- Lethargy and fatigue
- Dizziness and confusion
- Muscle spasms and weakness
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure
- Lack of appetite and weight loss
- Dilated pupils
- Sleep pattern disruptions
- Inability to pay attention and focus
- Total numbness and apathy
- Nausea and vomiting
- Blood vessel damage
- Tooth decay
- Respiratory failure
- Chest pains
- Damage to the liver, kidneys and the heart
Behavioural Changes due to Crack Use
Whether a person realises it or not, crack use leads to dependence and addiction, which comes with a host of behavioural changes. The need to hide the issue and the problems and complications it causes, along with the effect cocaine has on a person’s physical and mental health, can significantly change how they act individually and around other people.
Behavioural changes as a consequence of crack use:
- Constant mood swings
- Irritability and acts of aggression
- Social distancing and isolation from other people
- Lashing out and getting defensive when confronted
- Lying and covering up cocaine use
- Impulsive and highly risky decisions
- Putting the use of cocaine above any other essential need
- Apathy and emotional numbness
- Loss of interest and motivation for activities, hobbies and social events
- Falling behind on academic and business work
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Tell-Tale Signs of Crack Abuse
Not only are there many visible signs of cocaine use due to changes in physical appearance, but the various ways in which crack is consumed can all leave traces for loved ones to spot.
Tell-tale signs of crack cocaine use:
- Damaged blood vessels and wounds from injections
- Issues swallowing due to mucous damage after snorting
- Finger wounds and burns
- Gum recession
- Tooth decay
- Bleeding and cuts in the mouth
- Cracked lips
- Slurred speech
- Bloodshot eyes
- Dilated pupils
- Slurred speech
- Extreme bursts of energy
When Should You Seek Help?
Crack cocaine is one of the most addictive substances and has very high relapse rates due to severe withdrawal symptoms, overdose, and other terrible consequences after prolonged use.
The condition can seem so frightening that you get paralysed and wish to avoid confronting the problem. However, even if challenging, the fight against cocaine addiction can be won, especially since you or your loved ones don’t have to lead it alone.
If you are concerned about a loved one, try to recall when you first noticed some of the above-mentioned signs of cocaine use, physical dependence and addiction. If it’s in the very beginning, having a serious conversation and transparently communicating the dangers may be enough to stop the habit from worsening. However, getting a quick consultation with an addiction counsellor is the safer alternative.
If you suspect that you may be developing an addiction to crack cocaine after a few recreational uses by yourself or in social settings, then go through the symptoms mentioned above again. You should be very cautious and careful because it’s very hard to objectively and rationally assess whether you are addicted or not. It’s very tempting to deny that, considering how addiction is heavily stigmatised and perceived as a problem.
Again, the best course of action is to play it safe and reach out for professional help. Checking in with a qualified addiction counsellor can take a few minutes, but the information you learn about the condition and the danger it poses to you can be life-changing.