Cracked foundations: How families are affected by your crack cocaine use

There are many ways an addiction to crack cocaine can impact someone’s life. These can be long or short-term, behavioural, physical or psychological. Many clinicians describe addiction as a type of disorder or disease, a chronic condition with a constellation of causes, symptoms and effects. What is important to remember is that the chronic nature of addiction is not only felt by the individual who uses drugs.

Addiction is not only a medical phenomenon. It is also a social one. This means that the people closest to someone who needs help for crack cocaine addiction can also be dramatically affected. The loved ones of people who use crack cocaine can face a range of social, emotional and economic challenges. These individuals are as deserving of support as addicted individuals themselves.

Crack cocaine addiction

To take the steps to approach something, we first need to understand it. Addiction can develop for a myriad of reasons, and it can also take several different forms. Someone can use drugs without being addicted. For that reason, it is important to be aware of the symptoms of crack cocaine addiction.


Signs of crack cocaine addiction

Addiction is coloured by repeat drug use that is driven by strong cravings, dependency, and a feeling of a lack of control. This can lead to a range of physical, psychological and behavioural signs, all linked to symptoms of crack use.


Physical Signs
  • Frequent hangovers
  • Worsening physical health
  • Increased instances of coughs, colds or flu
  • Regular headaches
  • Dilated pupils
  • Lack of appetite
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Increased cardiovascular stress (high heart rate and blood pressure)
  • Higher body temperature
  • Issues with lung function
Psychological Signs
  • Appearing agitated
  • Experiencing bouts of depression
  • Appearing anxious or paranoid
  • Seeming unfocused or ‘distant’
Behavioural Signs
  • Being aggressive
  • Lying or engaging in deceitful behaviours
  • Becoming socially withdrawn
  • Socialising with different groups of people
  • Taking more risks than usual
  • Difficulty maintaining work or school commitments
  • Sudden (or exacerbated) issues with finances
  • Engagement with illegal activity


If someone you know is exhibiting any of these symptoms in conjunction with using crack cocaine, it is plausible that they are dealing with an addiction.

Crack cocaine withdrawal symptoms

Individuals with an addiction can also exhibit a range of effects when they are experiencing withdrawal from crack cocaine. These can include:

Effects of Crack Cocaine Abuse

The effects of addiction on loved ones are plural. They tend to manifest in three key areas:

  • emotional
  • social
  • economic

Emotional Effects

Addiction is a rocky process. If you love someone who is addicted to a substance, it is more than likely that you will feel the effects of this in your own life. You may find that the mood and general health of your loved one seem to work in cycles. Sometimes, they may seem very personable, even euphoric. Other times, they may seem unapproachable and very far away from you.

This can typically be associated with instances of use and withdrawal. This pattern of use dictates the mood and health of the user. But it also affects the wellbeing of loved ones, who may find themselves navigating these peaks and troughs. This unpredictability can be difficult to live with and cause tension, paranoia and even fear to burgeon in our relationships.

With this ebbing and flowing, crack cocaine can come to define your life as much as it does your loved one. This can lead to a range of emotional responses, including:

  • anxiety
  • paranoia
  • fear
  • depression
  • anger
  • feeling concerned
  • feeling lonely
  • feeling rejected
  • feeling disappointed
  • feeling confused
  • feeling worries about the future

A 2023 study explains that substance dependency in a relationship can lead to ‘couple burnout.’ Levels of couple burnout were up to 4.5 times higher in people with a partner dealing with addiction than in relationships without drug use. This higher level of stress often leads to a point where affected partners may even consider depart[ing] their marital relationships.’

Relationships with an addiction present may also be linked to the development of co-dependency and domestic abuse.

This shows that the presence of cocaine addiction in a relationship can herald a reduction in marital satisfaction and an increase in spousal distress. This means that the partner of the individual using crack may find themselves developing issues with stress. Therefore, this increases the risk of them using maladaptive coping mechanisms.

Social effects

An addition to the household can put a considerable strain on the family unit. This can lead to instability, such as the dissolution of marriages and family households. This instability can take place in several forms, including:

  • couples separating (including divorce)
  • higher instances of arguing or tension in the home
  • higher instances of violence in the home
  • children being removed from the family home by care services

This suggests that children can particularly feel the impact of crack cocaine addiction. Children of parents who have an addiction are more likely to experience a range of issues, such as:

  • abuse
  • neglect
  • depression and anxiety
  • difficulty regulating emotions
  • issues with physical health
  • low academic attainment
  • developing addictions themselves

Economic effects

Addiction can also damage economic health. Drugs purchased on the illegal market are not cheap substances. Whilst crack cocaine has previously been thought of as ‘less expensive’ than powder cocaine, that does not necessarily mean that it is available at a low price point.

In 2023, it cost, on average, between £30 and £40 for half a gram of cocaine. That positions the price of a gram of cocaine between £60 and £80 in the UK.

When purchased and used regularly, this cost can soon begin to mount.

Alongside the cost of the drug itself, heavy use of crack cocaine can also impact finances in other ways. Addiction can develop to the extent that users regularly miss work or lose their employment. This can put a lot of stress on the household and potentially contribute to serious consequences such as homelessness. Drug users are 7 times more likely to experience homelessness than the general population.


Treatment for crack cocaine addiction

Addiction is pervasive, but that does not mean that it is permanent. At UKAT, we offer crack cocaine addiction treatment at our specialist rehab centres. Crack cocaine rehab will typically address two key areas:

  1. managing withdrawal from crack
  2. offering specialist psychological support

However, we also believe that the families of those addicted to crack cocaine deserve to access formal support. The drug use of a family member impacts an estimated 1.5 million adults. For that reason, we offer a family support programme for the relatives of those affected by addiction. This involves weekly groups to allow you to express your feelings and connect with others in a similar situation. This can help you to feel just that bit stronger – for yourself, as well as for your loved one.

If you’re ready to get help for your crack cocaine addiction, contact UKAT today and see how we can help you take that first step.


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