Crack overdose is a risk one takes when using this illegal drug. Because crack cocaine is more potent than street cocaine, it enters the bloodstream more quickly and in higher concentrations. This is particularly risky since smoking the drug makes it difficult to estimate dosage. The most common crack overdose symptoms users experience are very rapid heartbeat and hyperventilation. These reactions are often accompanied by a feeling of impending death. Although most people survive, several thousand people are killed by a crack overdose every year. All forms of cocaine and crack cocaine use have been linked with heart failure in users, even otherwise healthy users.
Crack is made from cocaine in a process called freebasing in which cocaine powder is cooked with ammonia or sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) to create rocks, chips, or chunks that can be smoked. The term "Crack" refers to the crackling sound that is heard when the mixture is smoked. Crack is typically smoked in a pipe and its effects are felt more quickly and are more intensely than those of powder cocaine. However, the effects of smoked crack are shorter lived than the effects of snorted powder cocaine.
Symptoms of a crack overdose include nausea, vomiting, and irregular breathing. Convulsions, coma, and death are also possible. Using crack in combination with other drugs, such as alcohol or opiates (speedball), can also cause severe and potentially fatal reactions. After repeated and continuing use of crack, users may develop cocaine psychoses. This is a condition which is characterized by paranoia as well as visual, auditory, and other sensory hallucinations.
Diagnosis of person suffering from a crack overdose is generally straightforward if the drug is known. However, it can be very difficult if the patient cannot (or refuses to) state what drug they have overdosed on. At times, certain symptoms and signs exhibited by the patient, or blood tests, can reveal the drug in question. Even without knowing the drug, most patients can be treated with general supportive measures.