Crack cocaine is a universal problem in most countries. Crack cocaine was very popular in US in the 80s. It was a common drug of abuse in most inner cities. Its use declined in the early 90s mainly due to the anti-drug campaigns and increasing policing. However, the last decade has seen a resurgence of the crack cocaine epidemic. The drug has again become widely available and the use has increased exponentially.
Crack use has always been associated with inner city abusers, poverty and crime, unlike powder cocaine, which is perceived to be a drug of middle class America and associated with wealth and glamour. In addition, the legal penalties for crack possession are much harsher than those for possession of powder cocaine.
The US justice department statistics indicate that about 1-2 million people regularly use crack. The crack cocaine industry is a billion dollar industry and accounts as the number one export of Columbia.
The chemical cocaine hydrochloride is commonly known as crack. Some users chemically process cocaine in order to remove the hydrochloride. It is called "crack" because it snaps/cracks when heated and smoked. Crack is often available in small vials and sold in small quantities, usually 300-500mg. Each of these vials can afford 2-4 inhalations. The majority of cocaine is smuggled into the US from Mexico and South America. It is brought in by air, land or sea. Seizures by law enforcement indicate that tons of cocaine is smuggled in by the Mexican and Columbian Drug Cartels.
Crack has become the drug of choice for many users and the use is especially more common in the inner city, among socially disadvantaged youths and the poor. Unlike powder cocaine, Crack's convenience, ease of concealment, wide availability, and low cost has increased its use.
How Does Crack Work?
Crack affects both the central nervous and the autonomic nervous systems. Crack mimics the neurotransmitters which controls these systems. In summary, the levels of neurotransmitters which are stimulatory are increased by using crack cocaine.
The Difference Between Crack and Cocaine?
Crack is made from cocaine in a process called freebasing, whereby the cocaine powder is mixed with ammonia or sodium bicarbonate to create rocks, chips, or powder which can be snorted or smoked. Crack is usually smoked in a pipe. The smoking usually is associated with an intense high but unlike cocaine, its effects are short lived. During smoking, the degree of intoxication with crack occurs in a few seconds and last for 10-20 minutes. The immediate effects of crack include a heightened sense of pleasure, euphoria, feels of grandiosity, euphoria, social inhibitions and increased energy.
What are the side effects of crack cocaine?
Crack cocaine can affect various organ systems and the side effects are numerous. It can cause:
- Increase blood pressure and heart rate
- Increase breathing rates
- Nausea and vomiting
- Anxiety and hyperactivity
- Decrease appetite
- Decrease the need for sleep
- Damage the nasal septum and lungs
- Cause heart attacks and strokes
Because crack is rapidly absorbed in the body in high levels, the chances of overdosing are also high. Once the intense high subsides, a feeling of depression then sets in therefore making the user want to use the drug again. During the crack high, users have decreased concentration and can be irritable. Frequent use of cocaine is associated with a paranoid psychoses, hallucinations and violent behavior.
Because crack cocaine is combined with a number of impure substances, the chances of side effects and toxicity are always present. In addition, the toxicity of crack is always increased because the majority of crack users also abuse other illicit drugs.
Crack Cocaine is a powerfully addictive drug. Even with short term use, many individuals experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using the crack. The symptoms are more pronounced in individuals who have been using crack for a long time and in high doses.
Individuals addicted to crack are unable to improve without medical treatment. The physical and psychological dependence of crack is intense and most find it difficult to get out of the addictive cycle. The withdrawal symptoms include intense cravings, irritability, hunger, anxiety and paranoia. These feelings prevent the individual from stopping use of crack.
Crack cocaine treatment is best done as an inpatient. The treatment is done with a multidisciplinary team that may require the use of behavior, drugs and improvements in the social status of the patient.
Crack cocaine related admissions to hospitals are on an increase in most States. Most hospital data reveal that crack associated health problems are on the increase and numerous individuals are admitted via the emergency because of severe withdrawal symptoms.
Numerous medical data indicate that crack is not safe for use during pregnancy. There has been a very high incidence of still births, miscarriages, premature labor, babies born with numerous organ defects in women who consume crack during pregnancy
What are the legal consequences of crack cocaine?
Simple possession of Crack cocaine is associated with a harsh mandatory minimum sentence. Depending on the judge, “Simple possession of any quantity of any other substance by a first-time offender-including powder cocaine is a misdemeanor offense punishable by a maximum of one year in prison."
In federal court today, low-level crack dealers and first-time offenders sentenced for trafficking of crack cocaine receive an average sentence of 10 years and six months. This prison sentence is much severe and harsher then for individuals sentenced for rape, murder and even possession of weapons.
The Harrison Act in 1914 banned the non-medical use of cocaine; prohibited its importation; imposed the same criminal penalties for cocaine users as for opium, morphine, and heroin users; and required a strict accounting of medical prescriptions for cocaine. Congress classified it as a Schedule II substance in 1970. In most states, Crack cocaine has been the primary drug involved in Federal drug arrests and drug trafficking.
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