Effects of Crack Cocaine

Crack cocaine is extremely addictive and the drug effects of crack cocaine are astounding. Read more to learn about the physical and mental effects, as well as the terrible effects crack cocaine has on unborn children and their mothers.


Crack cocaine shares many of the same effects and dangers as other types of cocaine, plus has several of its own risks due to the way crack is abused and how the body processes it. Crack’s effects can be debilitating or deadly, even the first time crack is used.

Crack cocaine can cause a variety of physical effects when it is used:

  • A short-lived feeling of euphoria
  • A temporary feeling of power or energy
  • Lack of interest in food or sleep
  • An increase in blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature
  • Constricted blood vessels
  • Muscle spasms
  • Convulsions
  • Seizures
  • Headaches
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea
  • Chest pain
  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Addiction
  • Death

When the high from crack cocaine has worn off, other side effects set in, such as:

  • A change in the way the brain feels pleasure so the user needs the drug to feel normal
  • Decreased physical and mental performance, which can affect the user’s ability to work, do sports, succeed at school, and have sex
  • Craving for the drug

Those who abuse crack cocaine also suffer from mental and emotional side effects during or after their use of the drug, which may include:

  • Anger
  • Hostile behavior
  • Hyperactivity
  • Irritability
  • Aggression
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Picking at the skin
  • Disturbing thoughts
  • Hallucinations
  • Serious psychological conditions or mental illnesses

In addition to the effects listed above, in its crack form cocaine also leads to:

  • Faster highs, beginning in a matter of seconds, but wearing off faster
  • Faster addiction
  • Breathing problems
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Bleeding and damage to lungs

Some side effects that occur as an indirect result of using crack cocaine include:

  • Increased risk of HIV and other STDs because a person who is using crack cocaine is more likely to have unprotected sex, or to have sex in exchange for crack or money to buy crack
  • Illegal activities in order to get the money needed to buy more of the drug
  • Malnutrition due to a lack of interest in food, or spending money for food on crack

Babies of mothers who use crack also suffer because the drug reaches them through their mother. No amount of cocaine is safe during pregnancy, and the more crack the mother uses the greater the risk to the baby. Some effects that have been observed in babies whose mother used crack while pregnant are:

  • Premature birth, which increases the risk of death or disability
  • Low birth weight
  • Going through withdrawal after birth, which can lead to seizures and problems eating, sleeping, and using muscles
  • Brain damage or later problems learning and understanding information
  • Birth defects involving the head, face, limbs, and internal organs
  • Irritability or jittery behavior
  • Problems seeing
  • Behavior problems later in life

Some of these problems may be related directly to the mother’s drug use, while others may be tied to the side effects of the mother’s use of crack, like poor nutrition, lack of good health care, exposure to STDs, and abuse of other drugs and alcohol during pregnancy. If the baby’s father used cocaine around the time when the baby was conceived, this may also lead to development problems with the baby. Not all babies born to crack users have clear long-term disabilities, but they begin life at a disadvantage because of their parent’s abuse of crack.

If a baby’s mother is using crack while she is breast feeding the baby, the baby can get crack in his or her system and be affected by the drug as well.

Using crack cocaine during pregnancy is also dangerous for the mother. Using crack increases the risk of miscarriage during the early stages in pregnancy. In later pregnancy, crack cocaine can cause the placenta to separate early, which can cause death of the baby and the mother.

Anyone who is using crack should seek treatment from a medical professional to avoid the serious physical and mental effects of crack cocaine use.


U.S. Department of Justice, National Drug Intelligence Center, Crack Cocaine Fast Facts [online]

National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information, Tips for Teens: The Truth About Cocaine [online]

National Institute on Drug Abuse, Research Report Series: Cocaine Abuse and Addiction [online]

Organization of Teratology Information Specialists, Cocaine and Pregnancy [online]

U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration, Get It Straight! What’s Up With Cocaine and Crack? [online]

Related Article: Crack Cocaine Statistics >>