Crack Use and Addiction

Spotting the Signs of Crack Use and Addiction

As of 2017, roughly 3.3% of Americans aged 12 or older reported having used crack cocaine at some point in their lifetime. Unfortunately, this statistic isn’t very shocking when you consider the relative ease with which a person can get crack cocaine in the U.S.

A 2010 survey of American students revealed that as many as 45% of high school seniors, 32% of high school freshmen, and 23% of eighth-graders felt crack was easy to obtain.¹ Numbers like these make it clear that crack cocaine use continues to be a dangerous national epidemic.

Crack is a form of cocaine that is typically smoked, not snorted. If you are worried a loved one or friend may be addicted to or using crack cocaine, we can guide you through the stages of addiction, what to watch out for, and how to get help if necessary.

Stages of Crack Cocaine Addiction

portrait of young person with substance dependence.

Crack addiction progresses through several stages. At first, a person may simply be “trying” crack cocaine under peer pressure or in an attempt to escape personal problems. The person often begins using more regularly because they enjoy the intense high of the drug and the escape from reality it provides. This is known as crack abuse.

Over time, crack cocaine creates a physiological dependency in the brain and body, causing the person to need it to function normally. Eventually, the addiction becomes so intense that it takes over everything and becomes the central focus of daily activities.

At this stage, significant professional help and addiction treatment is necessary to safely and successfully quit smoking crack.

Early on in the formation of a crack cocaine addiction, some of the harsher, more obvious symptoms are not yet visible. You may, however, be able to notice a few concerning early signs someone is using crack:

  • Changes in personality
  • Sudden irresponsibility
  • Hanging out more often with others involved in drugs
  • Canceling or forgetting about plans more often (potentially to smoke)
  • Increased use of other drugs (commonly used together with crack cocaine)²

Crack Cocaine Addiction Signs and Symptoms to Watch For

Harmful addiction based on anxiety stress and dry lips.

A person addicted to crack cocaine will eventually begin to exhibit various physical and behavioral symptoms as their condition advances. The advanced effects of crack on a person’s physical and mental health can be severe.


If you suspect that friends or loved ones may be at risk of developing a crack addiction, watch carefully for changes to their physical appearance, mannerisms, and social behavior.


Potential Physical Signs Potential Behavioral Signs
  • Dilated pupils
  • Heavy/fast breathing
  • Increased heart rate
  • Blistered, cracked lips (from pipe use)
  • Damage to teeth
  • Respiratory problems, coughing
  • Frequent nosebleeds (from snorting powdered cocaine)
  • Burns on the hands or fingers (from pipe/lighter use)
  • General deterioration of health and appearance
  • Scratching, possibly from hallucinations of bugs
  • Sexual dysfunction, infertility, or impotence
  • Edgy, agitated mood
  • Restlessness, nervousness
  • Unusually reckless behavior
  • Difficulty keeping a job or relationship
  • Unexplained disappearances (leaving to smoke)
  • Depression
  • Paranoia
  • Severe weight loss
  • Violent behavior
  • Mental instability
  • Extreme bursts of energy

Crack Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms

Junkie sitting on the bed, withdrawal symptom

Crack cocaine, like any drug, can create a variety of uncomfortable symptoms when it is withheld.

For those whose addiction to crack is especially severe, some crack withdrawal symptoms can even be life-threatening. If a person has been using the drug regularly and in large doses, the shock of withdrawal may be enough to cause serious health problems like seizures, stroke, and heart failure, any of which could be fatal or leave the person with severe brain damage.

The following are just some of the possible signs of withdrawal:

  • Shaking and tremors
  • Physical pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Disturbing hallucinations and nightmares
  • Lashing out violently
  • Drug cravings
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Signs of psychosis
  • Suicidal thoughts and feelings

As a result of crack withdrawal’s severity, attempting to quit crack cocaine by simply going “cold turkey” can be incredibly dangerous.

It’s essential to have someone addicted to crack cocaine attend a substance abuse and addiction center experienced in dealing with patients in withdrawal. Treatment programs that allow safe and effective withdrawal are called medically supervised detoxes.

How You Can Identify Signs and Help a Loved One

Sad Woman Being Comforted By Friend

Being able to identify crack cocaine addiction symptoms is key to helping a loved one seek help and avoid serious health and psychological consequences. However, a common hallmark of addiction is the incredible lengths people will go to hide their drug abuse. You need to know that you are not responsible for your loved one’s addiction, and it is common for people to miss the signs even if they’re watching carefully.

If you do notice signs of crack cocaine abuse, talk to the person about it in earnest. Whether you simply provide resources about treatment or offer to set your loved one up in a residential program at Yellowstone Recovery’s treatment facilities, the most important thing you can do to help is offer your support, love, and compassion.

Confronting a loved one over a potential substance use disorder can be overwhelming. It’s important to reach out to a support group so you can get the guidance and care you need.

Helpful Self Screening Questions

Sometimes, the only way to help a loved one recognize addiction is to give them a reality check with some tough questions.

If you plan to talk to a friend or family member about your concerns but worry that they will deny having a problem, take these self-screening questions with you. As the person answers them honestly, the reality of the situation may come clear.

  1. Have you used crack cocaine in the last month?
  2. Do you feel like you are in pain or not enjoying life unless you have smoked crack recently?
  3. Do you start to feel ill when you haven’t smoked for a while?
  4. Do you find yourself thinking about crack often throughout the day (smoking it, making it, finding money to buy it, worrying whether you have enough)?
  5. Have you canceled plans, missed work, or forgotten to do something important because you were buying, using, or thinking about getting crack cocaine?
  6. Other than purchasing the drug itself, have you done anything illegal or immoral (e.g., stealing money, lying about serious issues, committing a violent act) to obtain crack? What about as a result of taking it?

If your friend or loved one answers “yes” to even a couple of these questions, they may indeed have a crack cocaine addiction and need to start exploring their treatment options. Once your loved one has admitted to the problem, you can begin to discuss finding help seriously.

Professional Treatment for Crack Cocaine Addiction

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Yellowstone Recovery’s residential program is ideal for treating an addiction to crack cocaine, no matter how severe it is.

Our clients first go through a carefully monitored detoxification process to overcome their chemical dependency. Once its hold is broken, clients work with professional counselors in group and individual therapies to address the underlying addiction and other behavioral health issues.

Are you ready to help a loved one get the treatment they deserve? Call us today at (888) 418-4188.



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