Heavy use of crack and cocaine can damage your health in many ways and in some instances these can be fatal. Some of these risks can be increased by the way that the drug is used and also by the route of use. For example, snorting can damage the mucus membranes in the nose and excessive injection can damage veins and cause infection.
Effects on the heart:
The increased risk of heart attack can come from a number of factors including:
- Increased adrenaline (released because of cocaine use)
- High blood pressure (increased heart rate caused by adrenaline)
- Constricted blood vessels (cocaine releases endothelin which constricts blood vessels)
- Hardening of the arteries (caused by cocaine use)
- Weakened heart (congestive heart failure)
- Arrhythmia (erratic heart beat)
- Ashen gray skin (poorly oxygenated blood)
- Current heart problems (made worse by cocaine)
- Other drugs that may be used in conjunction with cocaine such as Viagra and alcohol (can increase the stress upon the heart)
Strokes and seizures:
Strokes are thought to be caused by the constriction of blood vessels and the repeated increase in blood pressure. These combined factors can sometimes cut off the blood supply to parts of the brain and also in some cases cause delicate blood vessels to break (causing bleeding in the brain). Blackouts and seizures may also be caused by the above coupled with high body temperatures.
Some of the problems that are associated with the use of crack or cocaine include:
- Pulmonary oedema – Build up of fluid in the lungs
- Pulmonary haemorrhage – Bleeding in the lungs
- Pulmonary barotrauma – Air escaping lungs (by holding in crack smoke)
- Foreign bodies in lungs – Poor pipes, no gauzes used
- ‘Crack Lung’ – Cough, shortness of breath, fever, inflamed lungs
Crack use can affect the cilia (small hairs) that line the main tubes of the lungs. These help to clean the lungs and prevent infections, which in turn leads to crack and cocaine users being more susceptible to bronchitis, pneumonia, pleurisy etc (this can be made worse by the impaired immune system).
Crack or cocaine use is definitely not advisable during pregnancy as taking any substance during this time could have an adverse effect. Many of the studies regarding issues such as ‘crack baby syndrome’ have now been shown to be overblown and more to do with public and professional reactions to crack being used during pregnancy than factual evidence.
However, crack and cocaine use during pregnancy MAY cause:
- Miscarriage (high blood pressure)
- Low birth weight (under nourishment)
- Premature birth
- Disturbed behaviour in new-born babies (possibly high adrenaline levels)
Cocaine can be passed on to the child through breast milk so it is advisable that if clients continue to use after the birth of their child that they bottle-feed. However, this has been recently disputed by some professionals who state that the mother should carry on breast feeding.
It is vitally important that if someone has used when they are pregnant that they receive proper medical attention and look after themselves during the course of the pregnancy. Avoiding proper medical care, not eating properly, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol can all have a major effect upon the health of the baby during pregnancy.
Excited delirium (agitated delirium) is thought to be caused by the build up of dopamine in certain areas of the brain after repeated binges of crack or cocaine. The symptoms of ED include (below) and may be followed by a heart attack (some deaths in custody are now being attributed to excited delirium especially following restraint):
- Bizarre or violent behaviour (incoherent shouting)
- Hyperactivity (lots of energy)
- Hypothermia (inability to regulate body temperature)
- Extreme paranoia
Other health issues:
- Stomach pains and digestive disorders
- Weight loss (usually happens with people using on a daily basis, can become more complicated if combined with an eating disorder)
- Kidney damage
- HIV & Blood borne viruses
- Skin problems (poor diet, depletion in vitamins, burns from smoking etc)
- Hypothermia (increased body temperature)
- Can exacerbate asthma and increase attacks
- Complications with epilepsy and sickle cell (increased attacks)
Psychiatric illnesses that may be complicated by the use of crack or cocaine:
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (cocaine may act as self medication)
- Paranoia / anxiety disorders (cocaine can make these worse)
- Bi-polar (manic depression)
- Schizophrenia (dopamine theory may indicate possible medication action)
- Depression / suicidal thoughts
- Visual and auditory hallucinations
- Compulsive and eating disorders
- Crack /cocaine induced psychosis
The above information has been taken from a variety of sources. You should always consult a doctor if you have medical issues.