Signs, Symptoms + Treatment Options

Crack/Cocaine Addiction in America: An Overview

Crack/cocaine refers to a chemical drug found across the nation. Crack/cocaine are two different forms of the same drug. Cocaine is cut into a powder form, and crack is the mineral formed when the cocaine is mixed with other chemicals to make the rock. Cocaine abuse is usually conducted by cutting the powder very fine and snorting it through the nose or smoked. The name crack is derived from the sound of the mineral cracking when it is being heated by the user and then smoked. Both forms of this drug are highly addictive and only gives a short-term high, encouraging those addicted to continue to use consistently in a short period of time.

The history of crack/cocaine in America stems back decades. Cocaine was introduced first to the United States, but then the crack component came shortly after with a discounted price tag as compared to its powder sibling. In the 1980s, crack/cocaine began filling the streets of the United States and it is still one of the leading substances in those addicted today.

History of Cocaine

Cocaine is derived from the coca plant, which has been used for thousands of years by ancient peoples. It was first extracted from coca leaves in 1859 by a German chemist, and in the 1880s, it gained popularity in the medical field.

Well-known psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud is credited with the drug’s early rise. He used the drug himself and started to promote cocaine as an aid in curing depression. In 1986, John Pemberton, the inventor of Coca-Cola, used coca leaves as an ingredient in the famous soft drink. 

Even after the Coca-Cola Company was forced to remove coca leaves from the drink in 1903, cocaine continued to gain popularity. But by 1922, the drug was officially banned by the U.S. government after cocaine-related deaths skyrocketed. Despite the ban, many people experimented with cocaine over the years, and today, it’s the second most trafficked illegal drug in the world.

History of Crack

Crack was first developed in the 1970s during the height of the cocaine boom. At that time, cocaine was being shipped to the U.S. in massive quantities, which caused the price to drop. To make up for lost profit, drug dealers made the cocaine powder into a solid form that could be smoked, which they called crack. The tiny rocks of crack were sold in smaller amounts for more money, which was very profitable for dealers.


Between 1984 and 1990, the U.S. experienced the infamous “crack epidemic,” when millions of Americans across the country became addicted to the drug. Research has shown that in 1985, the number of people who used cocaine regularly increased from 4.2 million to 5.8 million. 

Today, crack is still much cheaper to buy than cocaine, which is why it remains popular. Because of the distilling process, crack is a more pure form of cocaine and is also more potent. As a result, using crack just one time can cause a user to become addicted. 

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Statistics of Abuse

Cocaine abuse is very common in the United States and worldwide, in part because the drug is widely available and relatively inexpensive. A 2006 report from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health discovered that over 35 million Americans over age 12 have used cocaine. Similarly, about 8.6 million Americans of the same age have reported using crack.

People of all ages and genders use cocaine and crack, but data shows that adults between the ages of 18 to 25 use cocaine and crack the most frequently. Roughly 1.3% of women used cocaine in 2016, whereas 2.5% of men reported using the drug. Men were also more likely to get treatment for cocaine addiction than women. 

Cocaine and crack use can be very dangerous, and in the U.S., cocaine causes more emergency room visits than any other illegal drug. In 2005, there were about 448,000 emergency room visits involving cocaine.

The Signs + Symptoms of Crack/Cocaine Abuse

Signs of cocaine abuse include:

  • Increased hyperactivity
  • Sudden Agitation
  • Unexplained nosebleeds and running nose
  • Inability to concentrate or focus

Signs of crack-cocaine abuse include:

  • Increased hyperactivity
  • Newfound confidence
  • Tense or anxious
  • Increased talking

The signs may differ slightly, but overall, if someone is suffering from crack/cocaine abuse, then hyperactivity and behavioral changes will reflect a crack/cocaine addiction.

Why is Treatment Needed for Crack/Cocaine Addiction?

The long history of crack/cocaine addiction in the United States and its addictive property make it a substance that often needs treatment for recovery. Treatment assists those suffering from crack/cocaine abuse by treating the physical addiction and the behavior associated with using.

The relapse potential for a crack/cocaine addiction is higher than other substances because the craving is so strong and affects the brain so strongly. The benefits of treatment teaching those who have suffered how to move forward in their life post-addiction, avoid triggers and stay focused on the road of recovery.

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Withdrawal and Detox Timelines

The effects of cocaine and crack are usually short-lived, so withdrawal symptoms start shortly after the last dose is taken. Some of the symptoms of crack/cocaine withdrawal include:

  • Increased appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Agitation
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Depressive mood swings
  • Suicidal thoughts

Once a person stops taking crack/cocaine, they can expect to experience symptoms and moderate to severe cravings for the first month. Certain symptoms, like anxiety and appetite changes, could last for several months after the last dose. Because some recovering crack/cocaine addicts experience suicidal thoughts, quitting the drug “cold turkey” is generally not recommended. Instead, recovering addicts should get professional treatment.

Treatment Options for Crack/Cocaine Abuse

Inpatient treatment is one of the most popular options that require those with a crack/cocaine addiction to detox their body from the substance they are using. During the initial process of inpatient, the detox begins shortly after they have entered the facility and only hours after the final use. Physically, they will become sick, agitated, as their body amplifies the craving for the substance. Once this has subsided after several days, they will experience a variety of treatments and therapies in the facility until treatment has been completed.  Each treatment plan is designed with the individual in mind, and is determined based upon the severity of the addiction and can provide family counseling.

Outpatient treatments are available for those with much milder addictions, who can still operate their daily lives while battling their addiction. These patients are given resources and access to therapy sessions and other treatments that help them adjust to crack/cocaine recovery. They are scheduled for weekly check-ins and visits with the doctors and counselors at the facility until their treatment is complete.

Sober living is the stage that comes post-treatment. While in treatment, patients are introduced to this via therapies and sessions with each other where they are taught the different types of triggers and what to avoid once treatment is over. One the patients complete the treatment, have identified the triggers, they are provided assistance reintegrating back into society. They are also assigned to support groups for outside assistance.

The types of therapy included in the treatment options include individual therapies where the patient has the ability to work with a counselor one on one regarding their personal triggers. This opportunity gives them the chance to discover why they took on the addiction initially and how to treat the source of the problem. They are also provided access to group therapy sessions while in treatment, where they are introduced to others who have experienced similar situations and provide a lifeline of accountability amongst each other.

Get Clean from Crack/Cocaine for Good at Launch Centers in Los Angeles

Crack/cocaine addictions can be difficult to overcome, but getting professional treatment can make recovery more effective. At Launch Centers, we specialize in treating substance abuse disorders in young people. Through a mix of clinical therapies, academic programming and life skills training, we help our clients overcome their addictions so they can be successful in all areas of their life. 

Learn more about substance abuse treatment at Launch Centers in Los Angeles.

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