How Do People Get Addicted to Crack?Cocaine is a highly addictive substance. People who take it can become physically and psychologically dependant upon it to the point where they can’t control their cravings. Researchers have found that cocaine-addicted monkeys will press a bar more than 12,000 times to get a single dose of it. As soon as they get it, they will start pressing the bar for more.

Crack and other addictive drugs chemically alter a part of the brain called the reward system. As mentioned previously, when people smoke crack, the drug traps the chemical dopamine in the spaces between nerve cells. Dopamine creates the feelings of pleasure we get from enjoyable activities such as eating and having sex. But in crack users, dopamine keeps stimulating those cells, creating a “high” — a euphoric feeling that lasts anywhere from five to 15 minutes. But then the drug begins to wear off, leaving the person feeling let-down and depressed, resulting in a desire to smoke more crack in order to feel good again.

The brain responds to the dopamine overload of the crack high by either destroying some of it, making less of it or shutting down its receptors. The result is that, after taking the drug for a while, crack users become less sensitive to it and find that they must take more and more of it to achieve the desired effect. Eventually, they cannot stop taking the drug because their brains have been “rewired” — they actually need it in order to function. How long does it take to become addicted? That varies from person to person, and an exact number is difficult to pin down, especially when physical addiction is paired with psychological addition.

Of course, not everyone reacts the same way to extended use. Some users actually become more sensitive to crack as they take it. Some people die after taking a very small amount because of this increased sensitization.

When an addicted person stops taking crack, there is a “crash.” He or she experiences the symptoms of withdrawal, including:



Intense cravings for the drug






A Culture of Addicts?

In the mid-1980s, crack use exploded in the United States, primarily because of its quick high and relatively low cost: Crack cocaine costs significantly less than its powdered counterpart.

The low cost of crack helps explain its rampant spread through poor, urban areas. The highest numbers of crack users are African-American men between the ages of 18 and 30 who come from low socioeconomic backgrounds.

Crack has touched almost 4 percent of the American population. Nearly 8 million Americans ages 12 and older say they have taken crack at some point in their lives, according to the 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health(NSDUH). According to the same survey, the number of users currently taking crack in 2002 was about 567,000.

Crack is not just a problem among adults. A 2003 Monitoring the Future Study by the University of Michigan found that nearly 4 percent of high school seniors and 2.5 percent of junior high school students said they had tried crack at least once.

Crack addiction is taking a toll on America’s health. In 2002, emergency rooms reported more than 42,000 crack-related cases to the Drug Abuse Warning Network. That number was down from nearly 49,000 in 2001, but up from the approximately 34,000 cases reported in 1995.

America is not the only country dealing with crack addiction. Cocaine use has been on the rise in Europe over the last several years, although the biggest problem in most countries (with the exception of the United Kingdom and the Netherlands) is the powder form of the drug. The United Kingdom reports the highest crack use in Europe.

Crack is associated with more prostitution, violent crimes and gang-related crimes than any other drug.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a common form of anxiety disorder involving distressing, repetitive thoughts. That makes OCD particularly difficult to make sense of or to explain to other people.Obsessions are distressing or frightening repetitive thoughts which come into your mind automatically, however irrational they may seem and however much you try to resist or ignore them.

Some people describe these thoughts as being like a ‘stuck record’, but trying to stop them can make them worse.

Compulsions are actions which people feel they must repeat to feel less anxious or stop their obsessive thoughts. For example, some people cannot stop thinking about germs and the diseases they could catch. To cope with this anxiety, they may start washing their hands over and over again. Other compulsive rituals may have no connection to the nature of the obsessive thoughts.

Common obsessions include:

fear of contamination

fear of causing harm to someone else

fear of behaving unacceptably

need for symmetry or exactness.

Compulsions commonly involve checking, cleaning, counting or dressing rituals.

Carrying out a ritual usually gives people temporary relief from their anxiety. At other times, they can be full of doubt that they have carried out the ritual properly and so repeat the ritual to ‘get it right’ – a process that can go on for hours.

Most of us have worries, doubts and superstitious beliefs. It is only when your thoughts and behaviour make no sense to other people, cause distress or become excessive that you may want to ask for help.

OCD can occur at any stage of your life. If you experience OCD you may also feel anxious and depressed and you may believe you are the only one with obsessive thoughts.

It can take people many years to seek professional help. People may be aware that their rituals are irrational and be ashamed of that and try to hide them. Some people feel that they lack will power because they cannot stop their thoughts and rituals.

What causes OCD?
OCD has been linked to increased activity in certain parts of the brain and some experts think low levels of a brain chemical called serotonin may be involved, although others disagree with this theory. Stress does not cause OCD, but a stressful event such as giving birth, the death of someone close to you or divorce may act as a trigger.

What are the treatments for OCD?
There are a number of treatments and strategies to help you deal with OCD. The first step in getting treatment is to explain your symptoms to your GP who can then refer you for specialist help. The most effective treatments for OCD usually involve talking treatments – such as counselling, psychotherapy and cognitive behaviour therapy – and medication.

How family and friends can help
As family or a friend, you may feel frustrated and confused by the symptoms of OCD, but you can help a lot by accepting your partner’s, friend’s or relative’s feelings and understanding that this is their way of coping. Negative comments or criticism tend to make OCD worse; a calm, supportive family can help improve the outcome of treatment.

Self-help groups can provide help, support and encouragement. When children or young people have OCD, it’s important for parents to work with teachers to be sure that they understand the problem.