Cracked By Crack: The Side Effects of Cocaine Withdrawal and Abuse

By: Zuske Sagara

Pure cocaine, along with the so-called “poor man's cocaine” known as “crack,” is among the most widely abused substances in the world today. The pure cocaine in powder form is usually mistaken as fine sugar or baking soda. The street variant called crack is diluted and mixed with baking soda, allowing the street pushers to reap more profits. People who become addicted to both cocaine and “crack” are considered to be among the worst addicts that can be found in a rehab clinic mainly because of the intense physical and mental health damage that prolonged use can lead to. There is an extensive list of negative effects associated with long-term use of “crack.” Withdrawal from crack addiction is also very difficult in physiological and psychological terms.

Nasal passages, which are the primary pathways by which cocaine gets into an addict's body, can also suffer severe damage due to prolonged abuse. However, the damage tends to manifest only after the drug has been removed and withdrawal has occurred. Among the possible side effects of the damage are runny noses, nasal congestion, and nose bleeding. These side effects are relatively minor and can easily be treated by using the appropriate medications and having good environment, especially at home. During cocaine withdrawal, nasal problems are likely going to be the least of a recovering addict's worries.

Panic attacks similar to those developed by people with panic disorders are not uncommon to both addicts and recovering users. This is more pronounced once a person undergoes withdrawal because there is no longer the psychologically “stabilizing” effect of the drug. Also, people undergoing withdrawal have become so used to having “crack” on hand that they are almost mentally incapacitated by being deprived of it. Insomnia is also a recognized side effect of being forcibly withdrawn from cocaine abuse. However, insomnia encountered during withdrawal has a shorter range of effect compared with regular cases of insomnia. Mild headaches and occasional periods of excessive fear and anxiety are also possible symptoms of prolonged abuse, though they are not considered common.

Muscle spasms are usually associated with the more violent cases of withdrawal. This is particularly common in those cases where the user has developed a dependency on the cocaine being in the system, such that the mind no longer believes the body can function without it. Muscle spasms are usually a minor indication of a worsening problem in cases such as this, since people who develop them tend to suffer more physically violent symptoms of drug withdrawal. These problems generally occur in the earlier stages of withdrawal, as the shock to the body being cut off from “crack” is still fresh. As the withdrawal sets in and the cleansing process is underway, the body slowly adjusts to a normal state and the likelihood of muscle spasms and convulsions decreases considerably.

Chronic pain in the chest and coughing have also been noted as possible symptoms. Some withdrawal patients report that the coughing can sometimes be accompanied by severe chest pains. Phlegm coughed up by these patients tend to be colored black and are generally not mixed with blood unless the patient has another respiratory condition. Coughing and phlegm of this sort also manifests in people that abuse marijuana or nicotine. This is generally alleviated by any number of over-the-counter cough medications or increased intake of water and other fluids.

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