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3 Long-Term Health Effects of Crack Cocaine Use

By Kyle Kirkland
Crack cocaine’s high doesn’t last long, but its effects on your health can be long-lasting.

Crack cocaine is a form of powdered cocaine mixed with other substances, like water and baking soda, and cooked to a solid form. This causes the drug to be more concentrated and, therefore, more likely to lead to addiction. Big picture: Don't try crack. It's not good for you. And here’s what you need to know about crack cocaine’s effects on your body and your health.

Organ Damage

“Prolonged use of crack cocaine can have severe long-term consequences,” Lukasz Junger, assistant medical director at alcohol and drug addiction treatment center Mountainside, tells WebMD Connect to Care. “Organ damage is a major concern, as crack cocaine use over time can cause both lung and kidney function to deteriorate.”

Jenna Liphart Rhoads, PhD, nurse educator, tells WebMD Connect to Care, “Crack cocaine can cause lung damage and worsening of respiratory diseases, such as asthma, from smoke inhalation.” Rhoads says crack cocaine can also cause upper airway inflammation that can lead to hoarseness and difficulty swallowing.

Heart Problems

The most significant form of organ damage that can occur with crack cocaine use is heart damage. Crack cocaine use can have significant long-term effects on your heart, including: 

  • Heart attacks
  • High blood pressure
  • Irregular heartbeat

Brain Damage and Psychological Issues

“Cocaine can directly cause changes in brain function, leading to strokes,” Harshal Kirane, MD, medical director of Wellbridge Addiction Treatment and Research, tells WebMD Connect to Care.

Other psychiatric effects of crack cocaine use can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Psychosis
  • Confusion
  • Paranoia
  • Mood changes
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations

In addition to physically damaging your brain, drug abuse can prevent your brain from performing some of its most basic functions, leading to difficulty with memory, learning, judgment and making decisions.

The effects of long-term crack cocaine use may lead you to distance yourself from others. You may also find yourself failing to fulfill major responsibilities in your personal or professional life. A 2020 study published in scientific journal PLoS ONE found that the rate of suicide attempts and deaths from suicide are higher in crack cocaine users.

Don’t Wait. Get Help Now.

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, WebMD Connect to Care Advisors are standing by to help.