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Medically Reviewed

The Dangers of Shooting Crack Cocaine

- 9 sections

Medically Verified: 2/1/24

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Shooting crack cocaine has become increasingly popular since the late 80s and played a significant role in the HIV epidemic.[1] Even though crack was originally produced to be heated and smoked, IV drug use is thought to produce a stronger, faster-occurring high. However, it doesn’t come without ample risk.

People who inject crack cocaine are at a higher risk for dependence, addiction, and overdose. They may also be more prone to infection, blood-borne disease, and STDs. But that’s not all. Let’s take a look at the different dangers of shooting up crack cocaine.

Why Do People Shoot Crack?

Most people who use crack begin using it by smoking the drug. Doing so produces an intense and energetic high. However, crack cocaine dependence and addiction can develop rapidly. After just a few doses, people will need to use increasing amounts of the drug to feel the same euphoric effects as before.

Intravenous drug use delivers substances to the system at a faster rate than smoking does. It can also produce a more intense high. People who are addicted to crack or those who have developed a crack dependence may start shooting it to feel stronger effects from the drug.

How Do People Shoot Crack Cocaine?

Most drugs that are injected are readily soluble in water. Crack cocaine, on the other hand, is water-insoluble. Instead, it must be combined with a weak acid to dissolve the substance into an injectable form.[1]

Many people use house-hold items to prepare a crack injection. Some of these items include lemon or lime juice, pickle juice, soda, white vinegar, sour salt, and kool-aid powder – all solutions that are not meant to be injected into the bloodstream.

Injecting acid solutions into the bloodstream is dangerous in itself. Acids can blacken the veins, cause inflammation, and lead to infections like endophthalmitis or fungal endocarditis.

Crack Cocaine

Dangers of Shooting Crack Cocaine

The acids used to shoot crack cocaine aren’t the only reason this drug is dangerous. There are many risks and dangers associated with intravenous crack use.

Increased Risk of Infection

Shooting crack can put people at an increased risk for infection and certain blood-borne diseases. For instance, sharing needles can transmit HIV or hepatitis. And, IV drug use can encourage risky behaviors like unsafe sex that further increase the risk of infection.[2]

IV drug use can also irritate the skin and lead to infections of the skin. It can cause abscesses and other infections in the skin and circulatory system.

Damage to the Heart

How Crack Damages the Heart

Crack cocaine is a central nervous system stimulant drug that increases heart rate and blood pressure. Using this drug habitually, particularly via injection, can negatively impact the entire circulatory system – including the heart.[3]

Studies have found that injecting crack can increase one’s cardiac index. When the cardiac index increases, excess stress is put on the heart, making it difficult to function properly. In some users, this excess stress doesn’t go away when they stop using. Instead, the damage can be permanent.

Increased Risk of Overdose

IV drug use introduces substances to the body instantly. It also does so all at once. As a result, shooting crack cocaine significantly increases the risk of fatal overdose.

When crack is dissolved and diluted, it is difficult to tell how strong it is or how much is in the shot. And, when a person pushes the plunger to inject the substance, it enters the body and takes effect within seconds. If a person takes too much, this can cause an instant and potentially fatal overdose.

Signs and symptoms of crack overdose include:[3]

Crack Overdose Symptoms

  • Delirium
  • Auditory, visual, or tactile hallucinations
  • High blood pressure
  • Rapid or irregular heart beat

Impacts on the Brain

When injected into the bloodstream, crack cocaine interacts with dopamine in the brain to stop the reuptake and produce a flood of feel-good chemicals. Dopamine, in particular, helps regulate the attention span, memory, learning, movement, and emotions.

Soon after the effects of cocaine wear off, people begin having cravings for another hit of the drug. Cravings indicate that the brain is struggling to adjust it’s dopamine levels. As the brain tries to reach a state of balance, the drug user may begin to feel anxious, irritable, paranoid, and depressed. These are all symptoms of crack cocaine withdrawal.

While these effects may fade after a person abstains from crack for several weeks or months, they can make it extremely difficult to quit using crack in the first place. As a result, many people will shoot crack again in order to avoid feeling sick from withdrawal.

Physical Effects of Shooting Crack Cocaine

In addition to the above-listed risks, there are additional dangers associated with shooting drugs like crack cocaine. Frequent IV drug use can cause a host of physical effects, including:

Physical Effects of Crack Cocaine

  • Track marks on the skin
  • Damaged or collapsed veins
  • Blockages in the circulatory system
  • Poor circulation
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Malnutrition
  • Chest pain (angina)

Find Help for Crack Addiction Today

Crack cocaine is a highly addictive substance, especially when injected straight into the bloodstream. The most effective way for someone to get sober from crack is to attend a residential addiction treatment program.

An inpatient program can provide the tools and resources needed to begin the journey to sobriety. Medications can be administered during detox, therapy is provided during rehab, and peer support during aftercare.

To learn more about the treatment process or to find a rehab center near you, contact a dedicated treatment provider today.