Through the looking glass: examining crack cocaine addiction

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Crack cocaine is a highly addictive, easily made and harmful derivative of normal cocaine. It has, in the past 30 years, become synonymous with heavy addiction in US and British culture and it is in these areas where the drug is most popular. However, to get a good idea of what crack cocaine is and the devastating effects it has on long-term and heavy users, we must examine the history of how the drug came to be. As far as narratives go, it is a rather interesting tale.


Crack cocaine, as we know it, is chemically synthesized from the altogether more infamous drug cocaine, which was first derived from South American coca leaves in 1860 and was brought back to Spain for medical testing. From there it was, and indeed still is in some forms, used as a local anaesthetic in dental and some medical procedures. However, with it having both anaesthetic and euphoria-inducing properties, it was quickly taken up by the upper classes recreationally. By 1922 public concern and hysteria around cocaine use had become so widespread that the US government decided to make the use and production of the drug illegal except under very specific circumstances.

Fast forward to the ’80s and with the Contra rebels of Nicaragua shipping vast quantities of cocaine into America’s streets via the Caribbean and into Miami, with the CIA allegedly turning a blind eye to this activity due to the Contra rebels’ anti-communist beliefs. This, however, resulted in oversupply to American dealers and lower street prices. In a bid to increase demand of the drug, dealers realized that adding bicarbonate of soda to the drug would make it smokeable and therefore faster acting and more highly addictive than regular cocaine.

And so, crack cocaine was invented.

It first came to users in small quantities in 1981 and by 1984, the first large scale crack cocaine labs were set up to fuel the ever-increasing demand. Police as a whole were slow to respond with adequate measures as hospitalizations with those suffering from cocaine overdoses began to increase. In the end, the Federal authorities began to act on the drug by establishing taskforces specifically designated to tackle the supply of the drug, leading us to today’s legal climate around the drug.

Supply and Demand

With the popularity of Crack Cocaine remaining fairly stable over the years, it is prevalent in nearly every major city in the US. Crack, on average, is far cheaper than it’s base drug Cocaine and as such, a larger percentage of poor and impoverished addicts are able to afford the drug. Usually cooked up from imported cocaine in large batches, and then disseminated among gangs of dealers to sell on the street. This, however, leads to problems with the drugs being contaminated and diluted, or “stepped on”, with a variety of additional substances which range from benign and harmless, to extremely dangerous and potentially deadly. This is done in a bid to stretch the product as far as it will go by weight in order to maximize profits.

The problem that users face is that they, on the street level, have absolutely no way of discerning the purity and safety of the drugs from a cursory glance. This can lead to overdoses and deaths from a lack of fundamental knowledge of where their drugs come from and what is in them.

The effects

As mentioned previously in this article, crack cocaine is far more addictive than its powdered counterpart. This is due to the product being smokeable, which causes a much shorter, quicker and more intense high through the cardiovascular system; it triggers users’ brains to release huge amounts of dopamine very quickly. However, this dopamine also wears off very quickly and is the cause of the fast onset and heavy addictive behaviours it can trigger in individuals. It is also responsible for the high levels of depression, anxiety, and aggression shown by those in withdrawal of the drug.

The addiction is so strong in some people that they will sometimes resort to extreme measures in order to get their fix and satiate the negative side effects of withdrawal. This is responsible for the high increases in petty crime and prostitution experienced in the US with the introduction of the drug into the more economically deprived areas of the country. Theft, armed robbery, and even dealing the drug are just some of the ways that some addicts choose to fund their habit.

Long and short term impacts on addicts

As people find themselves using crack cocaine they will experience a number of changes, both physically and psychologically. Usually with heavy crack use comes rapid weight loss and dental problems, due to their metabolism running a lot faster and more aggressively than usual. This will result in not just losing weight, but can prevent their body from gaining the required nutrition from the food they eat. This, in turn, can also cause vitamin deficiencies and malnutrition and the medical problems associated with them.

However, arguably the most dramatic changes to occur within a person heavily addicted to crack cocaine are psychological in nature. Many addicts will become so heavily dependent on the substance that they may experience increased aggression and depressive, suicidal thoughts as a reaction to not using the drug for prolonged periods of time.

Using Crack Cocaine can make a person feel very isolated and alone, due to the severity of the impulse to take more in order to negate withdrawal effects. In addition to an ever-increasing tolerance to the drug leading to a shorter, less intense high as time goes on, which can feel like an infinite frustration loop as addicts desperately try to recreate their previous highs.

Crack cocaine is such a heavily addictive substance that it is recommended seeking professional help when it comes to kicking severe habits. If you or your loved one is struggling, talk to a professional at Clarity today +66 97 256 4084 or contact us here.

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