Coming Back From Crack Cocaine Addiction
It may have started innocently enough. Someone handed you a crack pipe and urged you to take a hit. “It’s so cool. You’ve gotta try this!” But the smoked, as opposed to the snorted, version of cocaine comes with a whole lot of its own troubles, the worst of which may be that you become addicted from the first time the crack pipe hits your lips.
Crack’s addictiveness takes it over the top, say experts who believe it is the most addictive drug. In fact, in the 2009 National Drug Threat Assessment released by the National Drug Intelligence Center or NDIC, cocaine is identified as the leading drug threat to society. Cheaper than cocaine in powdered form that’s either sniffed or mixed with water and injected, crack use has spread like wildfire across all demographics. From Hollywood stars to Wall Street businessmen to housewives to experimenting teens to back-alley bums – crack knows no boundaries. And it doesn’t look to be stopping anytime soon – despite projected short-term shortages.
What Are The Risks?
Any form of cocaine is highly addictive, but in the smoked form, you get there faster. Crack is quickly absorbed through the blood to the lungs. Its route goes from the pulmonary vein to the heart and then straight to the brain via the carotid artery. In other words, in less than 5 seconds, crack gets to your pleasure center. Among the first physical symptoms are dilated pupils, an increase in body temperature, followed by blood vessel constriction, and increases in blood pressure and heart rate. You experience hyperstimulation and the body feels euphoric. You feel extreme clarity and no fatigue whatsoever, like you could stay awake for days. Constant crack abuse leads to irritability, restlessness, and anxiety. But death has occurred in some individuals who’ve only used crack once.
Side effects of crack use include fatigue, malnutrition and possible damage to the liver. The body’s dopamine levels are depleted. Dopamine is a brain chemical involved in attention, mood and motivation. The side effects are complicated by taking other drugs in combination with crack, such as combos of crack and marijuana, crack and heroin (speedballs), or PCP and crack (known as “space base”).
Tolerance quickly builds, and you need more of the drug, and more often, just to experience the same high. Over months (or less), prolonged abuse of crack may cause you to feel paranoid, suspicious, to withdraw from others, and to exhibit wildly unpredictable behavior.
Okay, you may already be quite familiar with the side effects and, quite possibly, the risks. If you’re addicted to crack cocaine and want to do something about it, you need to know what you’re in for.
Getting Off Crack – Can You Do It Alone?
The short answer is: maybe. Whether or not you can just quit the drug depends how on long you’ve been abusing crack, how often you use it, and what kinds of impurities it contains, your physical health and other factors. The advice to just stop using crack, however, is both short-sighted and dangerous. The fact is you need help. There are a number of ways to get it. But make no mistake about it: you need motivation to quit. Without motivation, any attempt to quit crack is doomed to failure.
Your first step should be to ditch the crack pipe, any supply, and discontinue seeing any and all crack-addicted friends, dealers, associates. Don’t go anywhere where people are using crack – or any other drugs, for that matter. Let’s face it: you can’t be around other users when you’re trying to quit, period.
Crack Cocaine Treatment
Since crack abuse and addiction is so insidious and complex, involving biological changes in the brain, as well as a multitude of factors – social, environmental and family, treatment needs to address all those issues. It isn’t just coming clean from crack. You need to learn to identify the triggers or stressors that cause you to use crack in the first place. You also need to learn ways to cope with those stressors, and to learn new techniques and strategies to help you keep off crack once you’re clean.
How do you do this?
The best way is through hospitalization or inpatient treatment programs. The first step in any drug treatment program, and crack addiction or abuse is no exception, is to detoxify the individual from the drug. To ease the effects of crack withdrawal, antidepressants may be prescribed on a short-term basis. After the detoxification period is when you begin to learn new ways to live without the drug, break your habit and sever the ties with drug-using friends. Treatment for recovery can be on an outpatient or inpatient basis, followed by long-term support.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has proven very effective in helping people come off crack – and stay off it. This coping-skills treatment is a short-term but focused approach that helps crack-addicted individuals reach abstinence from the drug. CBT’s underlying assumption is that learning processes are important in a person’s dependence and continuing use – and new learning processes can take their place. Through CBT, for example, you learn to recognize situations that pose a threat, how to avoid them, and how to cope with the cravings for crack.
Think about when you used crack. What situations triggered use? For some people, it’s certain music or a bar or hangout with friends. For others, it’s a sound that mimics a crack pipe which can come from anywhere – even an anti-drug PSA on TV. You need to develop ways to counter the cravings that tempt you back into crack. And they will occur. In fact, relapse is common among crack users who simply quit doing crack and do not go on to therapy. If you don’t deal with why you use, and don’t develop coping mechanisms, your own artful deception will give you plenty of reasons to go back into crack.
Counseling Restores Self-Esteem
Maybe you’ve let your family down. You could have caused serious financial difficulties for yourself and your family. You probably feel intense guilt and shame. Most crack addicts do. This is because their drug usage doesn’t square with who they believe they are, morally and value-wise. It takes time and trust to deal with these issues. And you can’t do it alone.
Counselors help you get back on track. There are also therapeutic communities, either on an inpatient or outpatient basis, for recovering crack addicts to join. These communities are typically for individuals with severe problems, however, such as co-occurring mental and drug difficulties or criminal backgrounds.
What About After Treatment?
After your treatment, your recovery doesn’t stop. Experts recommend joining and participating in a 12-step group – Cocaine Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and/or Alcoholics Anonymous. Why? The 12-step process has worked for millions of recovering addicts by focusing on accepting responsibility for behavior, making amends and asking for forgiveness.
You may need to attend daily meetings for a period of 90 days following your treatment discharge. This will help you refocus your life among people who have gone through exactly what you have – and have come out on the other side. They are your lifeline, your support, and your friends. If you have a relapse, they can help bring you back.
Are There Drugs You Can Take To Quit Crack?
The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) is aggressively pursuing study of pharmaceutical medications specifically targeted for the treatment of cocaine abuse. In June 2009, an NIDA official promised that effective drug treatments for cocaine are not too far off. So, for the short-term, nothing has been approved. But there is hope for the future.
In the meantime, it’s important that you stick to your resolve and seek treatment. Contact a drug treatment center or call 1-800-662-HELP for referral to a program in your area. You can come back from crack. The time to start is now.