How Crack Cocaine Works

Addressing the Crack Problem: Treatment

Crack is a highly addictive drug, but treatment and rehabilitation are available for people suffering from its use. There are two main types of treatments: medication and cognitive or behavioral therapy. As of late 2018, no medication exists to treat crack addicts, but the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is researching several promising options. Disulfiram, which has been used to treat alcoholism, is one candidate. The drug creates a negative physical reaction (nausea, vomiting, etc.) whenever the addicted person ingests alcohol. Researchers are hoping that it might help people who are addicted to both cocaine and alcohol. Antidepressants are sometimes prescribed to treat the mood swings associated with the withdrawal process [source: ScienceDirect].

There are experimental projects underway, too. Scientists are exploring whether transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) of certain parts of the brain may help the body "forget" the pleasures associated with cocaine use. Experiments are still in progress, but test subjects have demonstrated rapid improvement from their addictions [source: Wadman].


Behavioral therapies are currently the most common way to treat crack addiction. Patients may be treated at either inpatient or outpatient centers. In 2016, 55,461 people were admitted to treatment centers for addiction to smoked cocaine, according to the Treatment Episode Data Set produced by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

One of the most popular behavioral therapies is contingency management, which rewards addicts for staying drug-free by giving them vouchers for everything from movies to gym memberships. Another approach is cognitive-behavioral therapy, which teaches people how to avoid and/or deal with situations in which they might be tempted to use crack. People with severe addictions, mental illness or a criminal record may need to stay at a therapeutic community for a six- to 12-month period while they undergo rehabilitation and learn how to reenter society drug-free.

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More Great Links
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