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How Quickly Can a Person Get Addicted to Crack?

Last Updated:October 23, 2022

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Crack cocaine is a popular street drug that is known for giving people an incredible rush of energy and a euphoric feeling, followed by a hard crash.

Crack was first popularized in the 1980s, and though its popularity has somewhat dipped since then, it is still one of the more addictive illicit drugs out there. Crack misuse is on the rise again and it can cause addiction even after just a few uses.

What Is Crack?

Crack is a crystallized form of cocaine, the latter of which typically comes in a powder form. It is anywhere between 75 to 100 percent pure, and it is much stronger and riskier than cocaine.

To get high from crack, it must be heated and smoked. The drug is named so because of the cracking sound that is usually produced when it is heated. Smoking crack gets the substance to the brain much faster, thereby producing a quick high soon after inhaling. The high is not only brought on quickly, but it is extremely intense as well. However, the euphoric effects typically do not last long.

How Does Crack Affect the Brain?

Crack impacts neurotransmitters in the brain, including dopamine, which plays a key role in the reward system by encouraging specific behaviors and the participation of activities that induce feelings of pleasure. Without drugs in the system, the release of dopamine usually accompanies pleasurable behaviors; then, dopamine is reabsorbed.

However, in the presence of crack cocaine, the reabsorption of dopamine is blocked, keeping dopamine active in the neural synapses and overloading the dopamine receptors. As a result, the heightened sense of pleasure causes the brain to associate the use of crack with euphoria, which causes people to feel the need to continue to use the drug, often to the point of developing a substance use disorder.

What Are the Side Effects of Crack Use?

People who use crack — even just once — can experience the following side effects of use:

  • Increased energy levels
  • Dilated pupils
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea

In more severe cases, crack use can more serious side effects, including paranoia and high blood pressure. After using crack, the crash that ensues can cause the person to experience extreme fatigue and depression, encouraging the individual to continue using the drug to escape such negative feelings. In turn, crack misuse can quickly turn to addiction.

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Why Is Crack So Addictive?

Generally speaking, drugs that are smoked are more likely to lead to addiction faster than drugs that are consumed in other ways. That is because inhaling the drug through the lungs allows for faster absorption into the body compared to snorting, producing a faster and stronger high.

In addition, inhaling increases the drug’s bioavailability, which means it is made more readily available to the bloodstream when smoked. This is a huge factor when it comes to crack’s potential for being addictive.

Because the high is so intense and short-lived, individuals seek the high more frequently than with many other types of drugs. For example, the high caused by crack lasts for only 10 to 15 minutes as opposed to cocaine’s high that can last as long as 45 minutes.

People can become addicted to the drug after just a few times of misuse. That is a reason why crack is so dangerous. How fast someone gets addicted to crack depends on several factors, such as genetics, co-occurring psychological issues, and the misuse of other substances.

If you are concerned that you or someone you know could have developed a crack or cocaine addiction, you can reach out for help. If you need some guidance in finding the right detox or treatment program, contact The Recovery Village Columbus today.


Our Recovery Advocates are ready to answer your questions about addiction treatment and help you start your recovery.