Early Signs Of Crack Cocaine Abuse

Crack cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant drug that can cause negative side effects, behavioral changes, and affect relationships. By learning the early signs of crack cocaine abuse, you may be able to recognize addiction in a loved one or help find treatment options.

Get Help Now!
Dr. Manish Mishra, MBBS

Medically Reviewed By: Manish Mishra, MBBS


‘Crack’ is one of the most addictive forms of cocaine due to its fast-acting and euphoric effects.

While people who are addicted to drugs may have adapted or changed their behavior to hide their drug use, it is far more difficult to do so with crack cocaine.

Since the effects of smoking crack only last around 10 minutes, people who use crack may be unable to hold a conversation properly since they are obsessively thinking about their next ‘hit.’

Additionally, behavioral changes, such as secretive behavior and a newfound compulsivity with money, can allude to a crack cocaine addiction.

Signs To Look For In Someone Using Crack Cocaine

There are a number of telltale signs that someone might be using crack cocaine, including random spurts of excitement, changes in mental health, mood swings, and even tooth loss.

Crack Cocaine Paraphernalia

One of the most obvious signs of drug use is the paraphernalia associated with cocaine.

Given that crack cocaine is almost always smoked, crack cocaine paraphernalia may include lighters, spoons, pipes, or heat-treated foil.

Bursts Of Energy

Extreme bouts of excitability or energy may also be another giveaway of crack use, especially if it is followed by extreme demotivation and fatigue.

This kind of energy may allude to the current high that the person is riding, and becomes especially apparent when combined with dilated pupils and hyperactivity.


Crack cocaine is the most potent form of cocaine, and instigates the release of dopamine and spikes heart rate levels, causing extreme energy.

However, these bursts of energy are almost always followed by severe apathetic fatigue—so noticing the ‘up and down’ could be beneficial in determining if a loved one has an addiction.

These extreme opposite mood changes are commonly termed the cocaine comedown.

Appetite Changes And Weight Loss

Much like opioids, crack cocaine suppresses appetite and hunger, leading to dramatic, cocaine-induced weight loss.

However, as the person ceases cocaine use, withdrawal symptoms begin, and eating becomes a compensatory act that is difficult to regulate.

Additionally, as the body tries to cycle out any last trace of cocaine and re-regulate hormone distribution, the liver changes how it stores fat and water, causing bloating.

Changes In Oral Health

The acidic nature of crack cocaine can spell out severe damage to oral tissue, gums, and taste buds. In addition, smoking crack cocaine can cause tooth loss.

Crack cocaine can cause oral health complications by:

  • drying out the mouth, leading to increased acid levels
  • acid reflux, which can cause enamel decay
  • infected ulcers or abrasions due to the high-acid content of crack
  • nutritional deficiencies due to loss of appetite


Another sign of crack cocaine use is hyperactivity, twitching, and restlessness—but this can be caused not only by the drug itself, but also its absence.

Because crack cocaine is a stimulant, hyperactivity and frequent moving is common, including involuntary spasms, seizures, and twitches.

When a person goes through cocaine withdrawal, they also become restless and nervous as the body searches for its source of dopamine, which can lead to seizures and insomnia.

Dilated Pupils

Crack cocaine triggers the release of certain chemicals and endorphins in the brain, as well as inhibits the production and release of the neurotransmitter known as norepinephrine.

Normally, pupils dilate in low light, as the eyes attempt to expand and soak up more light. However, they can also dilate as a response to norepinephrine and adrenaline.

This effect is so common with crack and cocaine use, it is commonly called cocaine eyes or cocaine pupils.

Side Effects Of Crack Cocaine

There are many side effects of crack cocaine use, including increased blood pressure—which triples the potential for heart attack—and other symptoms.

Short-Term Effects Of Crack Cocaine

There are many short-term effects associated with the use of crack cocaine.

Some of these short-term effects include:

  • loss of appetite
  • hyperstimulation
  • nausea
  • cravings
  • anxiety
  • paranoia
  • disturbed sleep patterns
  • depression

Long-Term Effects Of Crack Cocaine

Like many other drugs, cocaine substance abuse can instigate a number of physical and behavioral health complications, some of which can be fatal.

Examples of long-term effects of crack cocaine use are:

  • malnutrition and weight loss
  • respiratory failure and permanent lung damage
  • chest pain
  • permanent damage to blood vessels
  • increased chance of heart attack
  • hallucinations and mental health disorders and psychosis
  • liver and kidney damage

Withdrawal Symptoms Are Signs Of Crack Cocaine Addiction

The withdrawal symptoms associated with the cessation of crack abuse can be unpleasant at best and fatal at its worst.

It’s in your best interest to only stop drug use under the watch of a healthcare professional within a certified treatment facility.

Intense Cravings

Intense cravings to ‘light up’ again have been commonly known to plague those with a crack cocaine drug addiction.

Sometimes, the urge can be so strong that people have admitted to being unable to control their movements.


Severe anxiety and paranoia can emerge as long-term side effects of previous crack cocaine use.

This substance can permanently damage parts of the brain charged with regulating stress chemicals and hormones.

Diarrhea And Fever

Gastrointestinal problems and malnutrition can result in bouts of cocaine-induced diarrhea and fever as the body struggles to maintain proper hormone levels.

Cocaine also affects the liver, as it changes how the body processes and stores fat, which can also contribute to lower intestinal problems.

Muscle Pain

Crack cocaine can cause rhabdomyolysis, which is the breakdown of healthy muscle tissue. This can cause severe muscle pain, lactic acid buildup, and joint pain.

Treatment Options For Cocaine Addiction

There are many recovery services available to treat crack cocaine addiction.

Some of these addiction treatment methods include:

  • inpatient and outpatient programs
  • detox
  • cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • therapy and support groups
  • residential treatment
  • medication-assisted treatment programs (MAT)

Find Substance Use Disorder Treatment At Bedrock Recovery Center

If you or a loved one need treatment for a substance use disorder, including crack cocaine addiction, call our free helpline today to discuss enrollment at Bedrock.

  1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) https://ncsacw.acf.hhs.gov/files/TrainingPackage/MOD2/PhysicalandPsychEffectsSubstanceUse.pdf

Written by Bedrock Recovery Center Editorial Team

© 2024 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

Prefer Texting?
We've got you covered.

Receive 24/7 text support right away.
There is no obligation and you can opt out at any time.

Sign up for text support

Receive 24/7 text support right away.
There is no obligation and you can opt out at any time.
Ready to make a change? Talk to a specialist now.
(617) 657-2877
icon-angle icon-bars icon-times