Cocaine is a stimulant drug derived from the leaves of the coca plant. When this drug is used, it affects the body and the brain swiftly and promotes feelings of euphoria, confidence and energy, along with a multitude of side effects. 

Cocaine most frequently refers to the powder form of this drug, while crack describes a crystal structure of the same substance. Crack is made by mixing powder cocaine with baking soda or sometimes ammonia, and heating it until it forms into a mineral-like shape. It earns its name from the cracking sounds it makes during the cooking process.

This rock is more readily smoked than powder cocaine. Taking it this way introduces the drug into the bloodstream much faster than snorting it. Its effects begin sooner, creating a more intense ‘rush’ initially, as well as increasing its addictive potential. 

At present, cases of crack cocaine addiction in the UK are on the rise. The number of people in treatment in the UK for crack cocaine alone rose by 44% between 2016 and 2018, and this number continues to go up. 

Crack is no longer just a street drug – a huge cross-section of society uses it.


Crack is chemically identical to cocaine and works in the same way, although crack is able to reach the brain more quickly in high concentrations.

This drug affects the region of the brain that produces feelings of pleasure and motivation. Under normal conditions, positive stimuli cause this area of the brain to release dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical messenger that is received and read by our neurons that produce positive feelings. Once it has fulfilled its role it then re-enters our system to be recycled, ready for use the next time it’s needed.

Cocaine in all forms works by slowing down or stopping the reuptake of dopamine. When cocaine is present, the body can release dopamine but has no way of pulling it back, leaving it to swamp the nervous system rapidly. This is what causes cocaine or crack highs, and with time the whole system adapts, which leads to physical dependence and withdrawal. 


Addiction can be hard to recognise; however, if you suspect an addiction already, you’ll want to educate yourself on the most common signs of crack abuse. 

In the short-term, crack produces a near-instant rush of energy, confidence and positive feelings. Once the high passes, users are left in a state of depression or anxiety. 

The long-term effects of heavy crack use are significantly more extreme.

Common short-term effects include:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Increased heart rate
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Feverish temperature
  • Loss of appetite
  • Irritability 
  • Violent and erratic behaviour
  • Panic or paranoia
  • Urges to take more of the drug
  • Seizures

Common long-term effects include:

  • Delusions and hallucinations
  • Heart attack
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Damage to heart muscle tissue
  • Tooth decay
  • Extreme withdrawal symptoms
  • Organ failure
  • Psychosis 
  • Depression


Crack addiction often occurs together with the development of tolerance and physical dependence. When it does, this means the body has adapted to the presence of cocaine in the limbic system and has altered its own production or reading of dopamine to adjust to its constant presence. Once the drug wears off and isn’t replaced, the body shifts into a severely unbalanced state, bringing on withdrawal.

Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Irritation
  • Changes in sleeping pattern
  • Dysphoric mood/depression
  • Emotional numbness
  • Headaches
  • Loss of libido
  • Slowed motor skills 
  • Cravings
  • Anxiety
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Extreme agitation
  • Paranoia

These symptoms are difficult enough to cope with alone, and they also incentivise users to keep up the cycle of addiction in order to avoid them. When suffering from the worst of these symptoms without any outside help, using again can seem like the best way to snap oneself out of withdrawal. 


Overdose stimulates bodily functions to a dangerous threshold and can cause internal bleeding, organ failure, haemorrhaging, seizures, brain damage and death. Every time crack is taken, the user risks overdose. This is true for both short-term and long-term use. 

Crack’s short-lived effects increase the likelihood of users overdosing more than powder cocaine. Crack users are more likely to start binging to chase the high after the initial rush, but this means the session can rapidly escalate and result in overdose. 

THE treatment PROCESS

In 2018, cocaine was named in 22% of all deaths related to drug misuse in the UK. In all its forms, its harmful effects extend beyond the body and mind into users’ social, work-related, and financial lives. Seeking treatment and ending the cycle is always worth it. 

At Revoke, our specialist team is here to support you on your journey to quit crack use permanently. Our outpatient treatment provides you with an effective programme that you can follow while still maintaining your day to day responsibilities.

We offer:

  • A quick and confidential assessment
  • Weekly group therapy
  • One-on-one therapy with a dedicated addiction specialist
  • Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT)
  • Ongoing community and specialist support with triggers and challenges

The Revoke Programme strives to be accessible to those who can’t simply abandon their lives to enter inpatient residential treatment. Through this integration with daily life, we help you build the skills you need to deal with addiction in real-time from day one.

If you or a loved one is struggling with crack addiction contact us today for an assessment and join our community of people who are reclaiming their health and lives. 

Join Our Community

The Revoke Programme offers specialist rehabilitation treatment plans to ensure you can recover and can lead a positive,
fulfilling life free from crack addiction.

If you have been struggling with drug or alcohol abuse, help starts here. Revoke is able to provide the therapeutic support you need to be free from addiction. Please call us for more details, to ask any questions, or to schedule an assessment and start to reclaim your life today.

We are here to help

You are not alone. Reach out to us today if you would like to find out more about The Revoke Programme.

The Revoke Programme is a leading outpatient treatment programme and is part of Ishmail & Associates Limited

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