The drug crack is a form of cocaine and one of the most popular among substance abusers. The US Justice Department reports approximately one to two million people use this drug. Trying to determine if someone you care about displays crack addict behavior can be challenging.
Recognizing Crack Addict Behavior
It can be a heartbreaking and frustrating to watch someone go through a drug addiction. A person caught up in this situation needs support and help from you to understand what the drug is doing to him or her physically, emotionally, and mentally. There are both physical and behavioral signs that can indicate abuse.
Using cocaine enhances the activity of several substances in the brain including serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine; the enhanced actions of norepinephrine can cause the pupil to dilate. Normally, the pupils, which are the dark part in the center of the iris, are around four millimeters in size. If a person frequently has pupils that are eight millimeters or more in size even in brightly lit rooms, it is possible that drug use may be involved.
Increased Breathing Rate/Body Temperature
Cocaine and crack stimulate the central nervous system. This can cause an increased respiratory or breathing rate and/or body temperature. This stimulation also can cause an increased heart rate and blood pressure, but you probably would not be able to detect this just by looking.
Fluctuations in Weight
Because of its stimulant effects, regular daily crack use causes a decrease in appetite; this leads to weight loss which is sometimes dramatic. You may also notice subsequent weight gain which may occur when a person is not using crack as often or going through withdrawal. Appetite may pick back up, and the person may develop cravings. In some people, there may be a cycle of weight loss and gain as the person starts and stops using the drug.
Lack of Concern with Personal Hygiene
Often, crack users stop caring about their personal appearance or the cleanliness of their homes. This may be associated with depression; it may also be associated with a singular attention to do what it takes to obtain more cocaine.
Lack of Interest in Family, Friends, or Job
Along with loss in interest in food and hygiene, your loved one may exhibit a lack of interest in family, friends, or jobs. He or she may lose contact, stop returning phone calls, and may start avoiding your visits. Since the person may half-heartedly do her job or may not show up at all, your friend may lose a job.
Changes in Sleeping Habits
A person who is using crack cocaine will have problems sleeping because of the stimulation of the central nervous system as well. At different times, you may also notice that your loved one is sleeping a lot. This can happen during a crash where the person has stopped using the crack. The body has to try to recover from the state of constant stimulation. The periods of insomnia and periods of exhaustion may cycle as the person binges and crashes.
Periods of Extreme Happiness
The euphoria or intense happiness that a person experiences when he or she uses crack is the main reason most people use this drug. Cocaine and crack intensify the effects of dopamine in the brain which leads to this feeling called a rush. Once the person stops using the drug, the rush will end, and the person may crash.
Your friend may become more irritable and tend to become angry with less provocation than before. These periods of anger, sandwiched in between periods of euphoria, can make it very difficult to know what to expect with your loved one. The irritability and anger are negative effects of the cocaine on the brain, especially as the person needs to use larger amounts of the drug to get the same type of high.
As the person gets deeper into crack cocaine abuse, he or she may exhibit psychological changes. Depression is common, especially when the person is not using the drug; the brain is less able to normally manage dopamine levels with prolonged use. The person may not be able to feel happiness without using.
Paranoia and Hallucinations
You may also notice that your friend thinks that someone is out to get them or seems to hear or see things that are not there. Prolonged use or high doses of crack can lead to paranoia or even full-blown psychosis. The person may lose touch with what is going on around him or her and may even have hallucinations.
Risky Sexual Behaviors
Crack use often lowers inhibitions and may cause your friend to become more sexually aggressive. While high, your loved one may be more likely to have sex with more than one person and also may be less likely to use protection.
Getting fixes of crack cost money and to get more crack cocaine, an addict may be willing to have sex with anyone to get more of the drug or to get more money to buy more. Both of these behaviors can increase the risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection or getting pregnant.
Increased Tendency Towards Violence
As a part of the mood swings, aggression, and paranoia, your loved one may be more prone to violence. This also may be related to the need to earn money to fund the crack use.
People who attempt to get off crack on their own face some rather daunting withdrawal symptoms, including hunger, paranoia, cravings, irritability, and extreme anxiety. These symptoms make an addict want to use the drug again, and this is why it's so difficult to stop. People who have been on the drug for a long time will have to undergo medical attention to ensure they remain medically stable throughout the withdrawal process.
Noticing the Signs
There are many signs to crack cocaine addiction. However, even if you notice these signs in your friend or loved one, there is still a lot of work left to do. You may want to help, but you can't do it all by yourself - you should contact a drug counselor or drug treatment center for guidance.
Addicts have a disease and need treatment for it. Unfortunately, treatment fails if the patient is not a willing participant and does not want to quit. Be patient; your loved one will need your help along the long road to recovery.