Valium Addiction Treatment Resources

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

Crack cocaine is a potent stimulant drug that often leads to dangerous and even fatal consequences. Because of its intense and short-lived euphoria, people who use crack tend to use it repeatedly to recapture that feeling — leading to abuse and dependence.

If you suspect a loved one is using crack, there are important signs and symptoms to look out for. Though crack addiction is a deadly problem, it can be treated effectively.

What Is Crack?

Crack is derived from powdered cocaine that is dissolved in baking soda and boiled until it becomes solid. About 41 million adults aged 18 years or older have acknowledged using cocaine at least once in their lives, with 5.4 million individuals reporting cocaine use in 2019.[1] It is a Schedule II drug, and it is often used illegally for recreational purposes.[2]

Side Effects of Crack

Stimulants like crack directly affect the heart and often cause hypertension (high blood pressure) and tachycardia (fast heart rate).[3] These effects are sometimes severe enough to cause heart attacks, strokes, or death. Other common effects include paranoia, increased alertness, and psychotic symptoms.

How is Crack Taken?

The most popular method of administration for crack cocaine is smoking, which causes instant, intense euphoria. Some may also dissolve the drug and inject it or crush and snort it, which brings additional risks.[4]

Crack Quick Reference

Valium Quick Reference

Drug Category


Commercial & Street Names

Rock, base, and freebase.

DEA Schedule

Schedule II


Smoking, snorting, injecting

Effects of Crack Abuse

The onset of crack’s effects is nearly immediate, typically subsiding within minutes to an hour. Small amounts usually cause feelings of euphoria, alertness, and hypersensitivity to sights, sounds, and touch.[6] Some users may experience behavioral changes, such as increased violent behavior or irritability. Others may engage in risk-taking behaviors.

Can You Overdose on Crack?

Taking too much crack or mixing it with other substances can cause a potentially fatal overdose.[7] The heart rate rises, which can lead to heart attack or stroke. Seizures, delirium, and hypoxia, which is a lack of oxygen, can also occur.

Signs and Symptoms of Crack Overdose

It’s important to recognize the signs of a crack overdose to get prompt medical treatment. The signs of a crack overdose can include:

  • Elevated heart rate (tachycardia)
  • Rise in body temperature (hyperthermia)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Delirium
  • Paranoia
  • Chest pain
  • Tremors[8]

What to Do If You Suspect Someone Is Overdosing on Crack

If you suspect a crack overdose, it’s crucial to call 911 immediately. Wait for emergency medical services to arrive and administer treatment. You can use cold compresses to lower the person’s body temperature. If the person begins seizing, don’t hold them down. Instead, move objects out of the way to avoid injury.

Dangers of Long-Term Crack Use

With repeated use, crack cocaine causes changes in the brain that make it less sensitive to natural sources of pleasure, such as food or sex, while increasing the sensitivity to stress.[9] This creates a one-track fixation on getting and using crack. Some of these effects are reversible with treatment and abstinence.

Crack also damages other organ systems in the body, including the gastrointestinal tract. Some of the most toxic effects are on the cardiovascular system.[10] Heart attacks, strokes, and aortic ruptures are significant risks for people who use crack long-term.

Statistics on Crack Use, Misuse, and Addiction

According to the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 4.8 million people reported cocaine use in the past 12 months.[5] Crack is often chosen over powdered cocaine because it is cheaper, more potent, and produces a quicker, more intense high.

Crack Addiction and Abuse

Regular use of crack can cause dependence, which means individuals may develop a strong compulsion to continue using the drug despite negative consequences and may experience withdrawal symptoms when not using it.[11] More and more time, money, and energy are spent trying to get and use crack, leading to disruptions in work, school, and home life and eventual addiction.

Signs of Addiction to Crack

Crack cocaine addiction is a stimulant use disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). The symptoms include:[12]

  • Using crack more frequently, for longer periods, or in higher amounts than intended
  • Trying to reduce or stop using crack without success
  • Spending a lot of time sourcing, using, or recovering from crack use
  • Experiencing strong cravings for crack
  • Having problems in daily life due to crack use
  • Continuing to use crack despite issues at work, school, or home
  • Using crack despite physical or mental health effects
  • Developing a tolerance for crack
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms from stopping or reducing crack use

Crack Addiction and Mental Health

Substance use disorders often co-occur with mental health disorders, with both influencing each other. This is known as co-occurring disorders. Typically, substance use disorders like stimulant use disorder co-occur with:[13]

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Impulse control disorder
  • Drug-induced psychosis

Crack Addiction Treatment

Though crack addiction can be deadly, treatment is available. Treatment involves breaking the physiological hold crack has over the body and treating the underlying issues that contribute to the addiction. Comprehensive addiction treatment programs involve different levels of care and therapies according to your individual needs.

Crack Addiction Treatment Levels of Care

There are different levels of care for crack addiction, but it often begins with medical detoxification or detox. While stimulant withdrawal is not often life-threatening on its own, crack withdrawal can be extremely uncomfortable and increases the risk of relapse. Detox provides a safe, secure space with medical staff to monitor and support you as the drug clears your system.

After detox, you may enter an inpatient or residential treatment program. This 24/7 treatment program involves staying in a hospital or residential facility with other residents and medical staff to support recovery. Inpatient care is ideal for people who need intensive treatment and a structured program or those who lack a stable home environment.

Outpatient treatment is an option for people who need flexibility to balance their addiction treatment with daily responsibilities. You will attend treatment sessions during the day before returning home in the evening to spend time with your family and sleep in your bed.

Therapies Used in Crack Addiction Treatment

All levels of care involve a personalized combination of therapies to address the underlying causes of addiction.

Behavioral therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), contingency management, and motivational interviewing, are among the most effective therapies for crack cocaine addiction.[14] These therapies focus on identifying unhelpful thoughts and behaviors and replacing them with healthier ones, inspiring self-motivation, and incentivizing abstinence.

Depending on your specific needs, behavioral therapies are typically combined with more traditional therapies like Twelve-Step Facilitation, individual therapy, and group therapy.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-occurring disorders can be especially challenging to treat due to the effects that both conditions have on each other. Both conditions must be treated concurrently to not only treat the individual disorders themselves but the ways they contribute to thoughts and behaviors.

Treatment for co-occurring disorders is available at every level of care and involves many of the same behavioral therapies, including DBT, CBT, motivational interviewing, and contingency management. Like treatment for substance use disorder on its own, these therapies are combined with other traditional therapies in a personalized care plan.

Common co-occurring disorders with crack addiction include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Impulse control disorder
  • Drug-induced psychosis

Crack Detox and Withdrawal Management

Crack withdrawal isn’t usually life-threatening, but it can be extremely unpleasant.[15] You may experience extreme fatigue, depression, anxiety, paranoia, slowed movements, and intense cravings that can encourage relapse.

Medical detox can help with the extreme symptoms of withdrawal. You will be supervised by a medical team to keep you as comfortable as possible. There’s no medication specifically approved for cocaine withdrawal, but medications may be used to manage symptoms like nausea or insomnia.

Learn more about drug withdrawal symptoms and timelines.

Frequently Asked Questions


Where Does Crack Come From?


Crack is derived from powdered cocaine, which is dissolved and boiled until it becomes a solid. It’s then broken up into crystals, “rocks,” that can be smoked.


Why Do People Use Crack?


Crack is cheaper and easier to produce, creating an intense high, leading to its popularity. People may use crack recreationally to “feel good” or to escape unpleasant thoughts, emotions, or experiences.


What Are Crack Withdrawal Symptoms?


Crack withdrawal may cause depression, anxiety, paranoia, fatigue, intense cravings, poor concentration, and increased appetite.


Gangu, K., Bobba, A., Basida, S. D., Avula, S., Chela, H., & Singh, S. (2022). Trends of Cocaine use and Manifestations in Hospitalized Patients: A Cross-Sectional study. Curēus. Retrieved from on 2024, June 13.


Cocaine | National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2024, April 4). National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved from on 2024, June 13.


Richards JR, Le JK. Cocaine Toxicity. [Updated 2022 Oct 19]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Retrieved from on 2023, July 5.


 Lankenau, S. E., Clatts, M. C., Goldsamt, L. A., & Welle, D. L. (2004). Crack cocaine injection practices and HIV risk: Findings from New York and Bridgeport. Journal of drug issues. Retrieved from on 2023, July 5.


2021 NSDUH Annual National Report. (n.d.). Retrieved from on 2023, July 5.


Cocaine | National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2024, April 4). National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved from on 2024, June 13.


Richards JR, Le JK. Cocaine Toxicity. [Updated 2022 Oct 19]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Retrieved from on 2023, July 5.


Richards JR, Le JK. Cocaine Toxicity. [Updated 2022 Oct 19]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Retrieved from on 2023, July 5.


Cocaine | National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2024, April 4). National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved from on 2024, June 13.


Riezzo, I., Fiore, C., De Carlo, D., Pascale, N., Neri, M., Turillazzi, E., & Fineschi, V. (2012). Side effects of cocaine abuse: multiorgan toxicity and pathological consequences. Current Medicinal Chemistry, 19(33), 5624–5646. Retrieved from on 2024, June 13.


Drug addiction (substance use disorder) – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic. (2022, October 4). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from on 2024, June 12.


Stimulant use disorder. PsychDB. (2022, November 30). Retrieved from on 2023, July 5.


Co-occurring disorders and other health conditions. SAMHSA. (n.d.-a). Retrieved from on 2023, July 5.


Kampman, K. M. (2019). The treatment of cocaine use disorder. Science Advances, 5(10). Retrieved from on 2024, June 13.


Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (n.d.). A Treatment Improvement Protocol TIP 45. Retrieved from on 2023, July 5.

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