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FIRST-PERSON: Crack cocaine, a raging epidemic of misery

DURHAM, N.C. (BP)–The bearded husband and father flopped into the restaurant chair, parking himself in front of a hamburger and fries, and began to spill the truth about his current state of crack cocaine addiction.

The dark burn stains on the ends of his fingers betrayed the poorly kept secret of his longtime habit. The 40-year-old was tired of a habit that brought him both momentary joy and lengthy periods of agony accompanying the resulting crash.

Before the conversation was complete he had committed himself to a stay of at least 65 days in a Christ-centered treatment facility. He wanted to get well, but he was not certain that he possessed the necessary will to accomplish his ultimate goal of permanent recovery, which he admitted was possible only through the grace of God. He had tried so many times to shake the addiction, but to no avail. The desire to get high had overcome every promise of sobriety he had ever uttered.

Binge after binge had placed his job in jeopardy. His home often was frequented by other addicts.

“Is there really a way out?” the bedraggled man asked.

“There is hope!” we assured our doubting friend, “but it will really cost a lot, and we’re not talking about money. You must totally change the course of your life, and this involves surrendering your way to His way.”

That night we devised a plan, a way out of the disastrous hole into which he had fallen. But it would be a long hard road, worth every painful step.

Another man, also married with young children, was waiting for some measure of hope. His love for crack cocaine had also brought him to his present dilemma, facing court action because of his wayward course. Addiction to the powerful drug often leads users to a total disregard for rules and laws. His most recent binge had produced a weekend which he did not even remember, for he had pushed the envelope to the edge, sampling again and again the dangerous mixture of cocaine and heroin, known on the streets as “speedball.”

In desperate trouble, he also was now ready to take the advice of those who cared. He agreed quickly to a similar treatment regimen in the same Christian treatment center. The personable young man, buoyed by the support of family and church friends, made many attractive promises, but only time would determine the seriousness of his determination to have a better life.

Crack cocaine derived its name from the crackling sound the substance makes when heated in the pipe. It differs from the powdered cocaine hydrochloride form, because it is smoked, rather than injected or sniffed like the powder cocaine form.

When smoked, the “rock” produces a high or a state of euphoria within only 10 seconds. Of course, the high usually is gone within five to 10 minutes, and the need or desire to repeat the experience is overwhelming. If the necessary money is available, the binge has begun, and may last from two to three days.

Like other stimulants, crack cocaine will increase energy levels while decreasing the appetite. Crack addicts often have dilated pupils, increased heart rate and blood pressure. Addiction often follows social use, and irritability and paranoia are common symptoms. Cocaine usage leads to more than 175,000 emergency room visits each year, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Heart attacks and strokes loom as real potential outcomes for addicts.

Crack addiction shackles its victims to nightmarish existences, and the habit is not broken easily. No matter how much addicts may express a desire to quit, the unbelievable desire to do it again lies just around the corner. Ask any “crack head.”

But we are always careful to remind our readers that the only viable hope for permanent recovery and the better life lies in Jesus. We are living proof!
Ted Stone and Philip Barber are Southern Baptist speakers and writers on the subject of drug abuse. Contact them through Ted Stone Ministries, P.O. Box 1397, Durham, N.C., 27702, or at (919) 477-1581.

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