Cocaine and Crack Abuse

  • Medical Author:
    Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD

    Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

What are symptoms and signs of cocaine withdrawal?

Withdrawal symptoms and signs for cocaine include irritability, depression, stomach upset, itching, problems with sleep, and craving the substance. The depression may be severe, even resulting in suicidal thoughts, plans, or attempts.

What are the long-term effects and the prognosis for cocaine and crack addiction?

Drug addiction increases the risk of a number of negative life stressors and conditions. As with many other addiction sufferers, individuals who are addicted to cocaine are at increased risk for school failure, unemployment, homelessness, and domestic violence. Potential medical complications of cocaine abuse, particularly when in crack form, include tearing the major artery in the body (aortic dissection), which is associated with extremely high blood pressure. Cocaine use is also a risk factor for having a heart attack.

For children who are exposed to cocaine while in the womb (in utero/prenatally), the problems it can cause have been found to occur as early as infancy. For example, babies who had prenatal cocaine exposure have been found to be at higher risk for having memory problems and trouble paying attention. Preschool and school-aged children have been found to be more likely to have trouble paying attention and regulating their behaviors if they have been exposed to cocaine in utero. Children with a history of being exposed to cocaine during their first trimester of development in utero tend to have slower growth over the long term compared to children who are not.

Even if effectively treated, the prognosis of cocaine dependency can be challenging. Recovery from substance abuse is often characterized by episodes of remission (abstinence from drug use) and relapse.

Where can people find more information about cocaine and crack abuse?

Kids Against Drugs (

Narcotics Anonymous (

National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence: 800-NCA-CALL

National Drug Information Treatment and Referral Hotline: 800-662-HELP (4357)

National Institute on Drug Abuse (

National Cocaine Hotline: 800-COCAINE (262-2463)

National Clearinghouse for Alcoholism and Drug Information: 800-729-6686

National Resource Center: 866-870-4979


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Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/25/2016

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