The brain is a phenomenal organ, one which can be significantly altered by something seemingly small, such as drug use. Cocaine will increase the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine as well, both of which are essential neurotransmitters. Norepinephrine is responsible for increasing blood pressure, alertness, and preparing the body for a “fight or flight” situation. Serotonin is responsible in part for regulating sleep, appetite, and mood. Repeat use of cocaine will cause an instant release of these neurotransmitters, but once they are released an overall depletion occurs, altering their homeostatic levels.
Regular use of crack cocaine changes the natural structure of the reward system in the brain, which is what leads to addiction. Excessive amounts of dopamine will lead to psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations, anger, delusions, and aggressiveness. The effects of cocaine take between five to ten minutes to experience. The feeling it produces is one where all ecstasy and pleasure are heightened. Users get a rush that leaves you moving faster, talking more, with blood rate up and emotions intensely positive. But after 5 to 20 minutes of this arousal, the person begins to feel uncomfortable and restless. Soon the feel depressed, and this leads to the desire to more drug use in an effort to avoid the discomfort of coming off the high.
In addition to the neurological effects, crack cocaine will also increase blood pressure, body temperature, heart rate, and dilate the pupils. This can lead to headaches and complications in the abdomen and intestines. Crack cocaine will decrease appetite which leads to malnourishment in chronic users. People who regularly use crack cocaine can also experience cardiac arrest, heart attacks, or strokes. The use of crack cocaine can lead to higher risk of contracting HIV and of risky personal and sexual behaviour.
When a person uses crack cocaine excessively, they can quickly become dependent on cocaine. According to the American Psychiatric Association’s latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a person must exhibit three of the following conditions in order to be diagnosed as dependent on crack cocaine. The person must have developed a tolerance to the euphoric effects that it has, requiring additional drugs in order to produce the effects they desire. The must experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop smoking crack cocaine, and the symptoms of withdrawal must be relieved by the continued use of crack cocaine. The individual must also use large amounts of cocaine whenever possible. The individual will be unable to reduce the amount they are using.