UNDERSTAND EVERYTHING – Composition, dangers, effects … what is crack?

Easy to produce and inexpensive, crack is a derivative of cocaine with much more powerful effects, but also shorter, which leads to a strong addiction in the consumer.

The issue of crack has stirred public debate in Paris for several days. On September 24, around fifty people addicted to this drug were evicted from the Eole Gardens district, a hotspot for crack cocaine use in the northeast of the capital. They are now located in a square in the XIXth arrondissement of Paris, on the edge of the ring road, which triggered the anger of the locals demanding solutions for these drug addicts, and a guarantee of safety for the inhabitants.

Very addictive, and inexpensive, this illegal substance is derived from cocaine. It has existed in France since the 1980s, and wreaks havoc on those who consume it.

· What is crack?

Crack, also called free-base, is obtained “by diluting cocaine hydrochloride in water, then adding sodium bicarbonate or ammonia”, explains the Drogues Info Service website. This mixture is then heated to form a solid content, it is subsequently “sold to users in the form of pebbles”.

Its name evokes “the noise produced by cocaine crystals as they burn themselves”, underlines the Mildeca (interministerial mission of the fight against drugs and addictive behaviors).

A pebble of crack
A crack stone © Archives BFMTV

Crack “is between coca and cocaine”, explains on BFMTV Gilles Pialloux, head of the infectious and tropical diseases department at Tenon hospital (Paris), “it is very easy to manufacture, it is consumed on instead, that’s why the crack exploded “.

A pebble of crack, also called “galette”, “can allow 3 to 5 drinks”, explains the OFDT (French Observatory for Drugs and Drug Addiction) and “varies between 20 and 30 euros”. But smaller doses can be sold for between 10 and 15 euros, or even less.

This substance is “intended to be smoked or, more exceptionally, injected”, specifies Mildeca. “The subject then inhales the vapors, which reach the pulmonary alveolar cells, where the alkaloid passes into the blood”. This product becomes addictive very quickly, even after low consumption.

· What are its effects?

The effects of crack are similar, but much more powerful, to those of cocaine, which cause “a feeling of intellectual and physical power, causing indifference to fatigue, coupled with a feeling of euphoria”, explains OFDT. With crack, if their appearance is much faster – 1 to 2 minutes against 15 to 30 minutes for cocaine – their duration is much shorter – 10 to 15 minutes against about an hour – “which leads users to a multiplication sockets “.

“Consumers are looking for a dazzling sensation, close to the flash induced by drug injection,” writes Mildeca. But “the fleeting effects push them to restart the administration of the product quickly and compulsively. The use of this form of cocaine induces a rapid addiction.”

This transience is one of the hallmarks of crack. “After 10 to 15 minutes, we go back down, and it is this descent which is extremely painful, anxiety-inducing, depressogenic, and which somehow signs the peculiarity of crack”, explains to BFMTV Amine Benyamina, head of the psychiatry department. addictology Paul Brousse hospital (Val-de-Marne).

· Who consumes it?

In France, the vast majority of crack users are found in Paris. In 2010, “the number of crack users was estimated between 11,350 and 20,000 in mainland France, a large part of which is present in Île-de-France”, explains the OFDT in a report dated 2018.

In 2015, “we can estimate the number of only crack users attending the reception and harm reduction support centers for drug users (CAARUD) at around 10,000, of which nearly 85% went to Parisian structures”, knowing that not all go to these aid structures.

Crack users are most often financially precarious, a quarter is homeless, explains the OFDT report, “two in ten are housed by an institution or in a hotel room and one in ten lives in squat (or truck). Only 31% have visibility at least six months on the stability of their housing, “he explained.

And “we must not forget that behind the consumer, behind the problem of local residents, there are people who are in psychological and clinical suffering, and that there is something to do with it”, adds Gilles Pialloux, “c ‘is a real medico-social problem “.

· What risks?

There is above all a risk of strong dependence on this drug, which affects the life of the user. When you take crack, “nothing is of interest except consumption, food, sleep, hygiene, or the eyes of others”, explains Amine Benyamina. Crack also, unsurprisingly, poses serious health risks.

La Mildeca speaks of “lung lesions accompanied by dyspnea [troubles pulmonaires, ndlr] and severe pain which is a reason for urgent consultation. High fever can complete the picture. “This” crack lung “syndrome can sometimes” be relieved by the administration of high doses of anti-inflammatory drugs “, but” intra-alveolar hemorrhage can quickly darken the prognosis. ” On the other hand, “the significant toxicity of this drug is greatly aggravated by the living conditions of its users”.

OFDT also mentions cardiac and neurological complications. He also points to “risky practices related to injection and sharing of equipment (straws for cocaine, pipes for crack)” which “can be the cause of bacterial infections (local skin abscesses, septicemia ) or viral “, such as HIV, hepatitis B” and especially “hepatitis C.

· Possible withdrawal?

“You can overcome this addiction, but not alone” confides to BFMTV a former crack user, who took this drug for 15 years, and has been sober for more than 9 years. “Defeating it is one day at a time. One day at a time we do not consume … And after these 24 hours it becomes months, these months it becomes years”.

Associations and public assistance plans aim to welcome these people, and to help them in their withdrawal. Places of reception and listening, but also medical care for addiction can be found on the government website.

Salome Vincendon

Salome Vincendon BFMTV reporter

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