You may not be aware of exactly how crack abuse affects the body.
If you’ve ever known someone who abused crack cocaine, you probably have an idea of the kind of toll the drug can take on a person’s mind, personality, and relationships.
However, when it comes to overall physical health, crack can be a very damaging drug.
Take a look at some of the things you need to know about how crack abuse affects the body.
In the short term, people who abuse crack are prone to burns, especially around the mouth area.
This happens because crack pipes are very short and tend to heat up quickly as users light and relight them. The result is that users end up with a very hot glass or metal pipe pressed against their lips.
The resulting burns and blisters can be painful and unsightly.
Sleep deprivation is a common side effect of crack abuse, and it’s a much bigger problem than simply feeling a little sleepy the next day.
Long-term or chronic sleep deprivation is associated with high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, heart failure, and stroke. Missing sleep on a regular basis has a very negative impact on your physical health.
Sleep deprivation is also linked to problems like depression and low libido, which can have their own negative effects on your body and health.
Crack users suffer from sleep deprivation because crack is a powerful stimulant.
While users may sometimes feel like they want to use crack to relax, they’re actually doing the opposite of relaxing – they’re keeping their body wide-awake and wired. And because the high that users are seeking lasts only a very short time, they end up using again and again and again in a short period of time, trying to achieve the same high.
Even when they’re not actively using, habitual users may experience craving or withdrawal symptoms that also interfere with sleep.
Tooth decay, breakage, and loss are common among habitual crack and other drug users, and it’s not necessarily because they practice poor oral hygiene.
There are several reasons why crack, in particular, is so bad for the teeth:
• Dry Mouth: Like many drugs, crack causes users to produce less saliva, resulting in dry mouth. It’s easy to think of dry mouth as a minor annoyance, but saliva helps wash away bacteria on teeth and performs other protective functions. Without it, tooth decay becomes more likely..
• Tooth Grinding: Crack is a stimulant, like meth or powdered cocaine. Stimulants cause some users to clench and grind their teeth. This wears down enamel and can break teeth if users grind hard enough.
• Acid damage: Cocaine is an acidic substance, so when users smoke crack cocaine, they’re coating the inside of their mouth – including their teeth – with acids. Those acids weaken enamel and eat away at the teeth.
And while poor dental hygiene may not be the root cause of a crack abuser’s tooth troubles, it does play a role.
People who abuse crack cocaine may avoid doctors and medical professionals – including dentists – because they fear that their habit will be detected.
And even if they want to go to the dentist, a crack habit can drain the money and resources needed for things like routine dental checkups, fillings, x-rays, and other protective and restorative dental care.
Smoking is never healthy, and crack is no exception to that rule.
Crack users sustain damage to the lungs that can cause coughing, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, bleeding, and other damage.
A condition known as “crack lung” eventually occurs with long-term use.
Lungs are delicate organs that can be easily damaged. Crack use causes the blood vessels in the lungs to constrict, which prevents effective blood circulation in the lungs.
Repeated constriction results in permanent scar tissue and this scar tissue can cause chest pain and difficulty breathing.
Women who abuse crack cocaine are especially at risk during pregnancy.
For decades, pregnant women have been warned about the risk of “crack babies” – children born addicted to the crack that their mothers used while pregnant who would experience lifelong physical and developmental delays because of it.
In recent years, some research has suggested that these fears are overblown – while fetuses exposed to crack can experience withdrawal and developmental delays after birth, these effects may not be as severe or as persistent as previously feared.
Follow-ups with so-called crack babies years later show that these children were able to catch up with their peers and grow into typical adults.
However, that doesn’t mean that it’s safe to use crack during pregnancy. Pregnant people may not realize that crack use puts them at a higher risk of a miscarriage, for example.
Crack use during pregnancy can also cause what’s called a placental abruption – when the placenta pulls away from the walls of the uterus. Placental abruption is an emergency medical condition that can cause severe heavy bleeding, which is potentially fatal for the pregnant person as well as the fetus.
In addition to lung damage, people who abuse crack can also sustain damage to other organs like their kidneys, liver, and heart.
This damage can be caused by the drug itself, as well as by co-occurring factors that affect habitual users. For example, crack addicts often become malnourished, because the drug reduces their appetite and makes it difficult to eat.
Malnourishment, especially if it lasts for an extended period of time, can damage the heart. At the same time, crack can also damage the heart directly.
Addiction is perhaps the most obvious problem that crack causes in the body.
A combination of factors, from the composition of the drug to the way that it is sold and consumed, makes it a particularly dangerous and addictive form of cocaine to use, and it’s easy to become physically addicted much more quickly than one might expect.
Anyone who abuses crack cocaine for any amount of time is at risk for addiction and should seek therapeutic treatment if they find themselves displaying addictive behaviors.