Understanding Your Loved One's Crack Addiction & How the Legal System May Help

27 July 2015
 Categories: Law, Articles


If a loved one is addicted to crack cocaine, you may be concerned about their future—and rightly so. Crack is powerfully addictive, which can cause your loved one to lead a life of crime to support their habit. In fact, 63% of the inmate population in Canada has self-reported that they used drugs or alcohol on the day of their offenses that landed them in jail. Understanding how crack affects the body and mind can allow you to decide what types of legal situations your loved one may be faced with if they do get arrested. Here's what you need to know.

Feelings of reward & punishment in crack addiction

Crack is highly addictive central nervous stimulant because it alters the reward system in the brain. It does this by causing excess amounts of dopamine to be released in the brain. Dopamine is what gives people the feelings of being rewarded. It causes the individual to want more to get that reward-like feeling and they may do anything to get it, including criminal activity.

Smoking crack allows for the drug to reach the brain faster, which gives an intense high immediately due to the release of dopamine. However, the high is short-lived. Once the dopamine level drops, the person will likely have anxiety, depression, mood swings, paranoia, aggressiveness, irritability, fatigue, and psychosis. These are all feelings of punishment, which causes them to want more crack to get the reward feeling again.

Long-term effects of crack addiction

Crack addicts act erratically when they continually go through the reward-punishment phases. All they'll think about when they are in the punishment phase, which is when they go through withdrawal, is how and when they will get their next high. This can lead to criminal activity to support their expensive drug addiction, which could include stealing from others and robbing people at gunpoint.

Health-wise, prolonged use of crack can lead to seizures, heart failure, stroke, infertility, respiratory problems, and death. But crack addicts aren't concerned about how the drug will affect them in the long term. They continue to smoke crack to keep from having the feelings of punishment, even if they know the crack addiction is killing them.

A drug offense charge can lead to treatment

Due to the nature of the drug and how addiction takes hold of those who use it, the Correctional Service in Canada identifies drug addiction when criminals are put in jail. People charged with a drug offense are given the option to go to Drug Treatment Court where they are required to plead guilty to the drug offense. Then, they are ordered to go to rehab instead of to jail.

If arrested for a nonviolent crime which was fueled by their drug use, your loved one will need to apply for Drug Treatment Court through a lawyer. Those who commit violent crimes are not accepted into this program. However, your loved one may not be admitted into the program if they do not think they have a drug problem or the court feels the risk of recidivism is minimal.

Even if Drug Treatment Court is not an option, correctional facilities in Canada do have treatment programs for drug addicts, which can include the use of medication to help them get through their withdrawal symptoms as well as therapy and counseling sessions.

After treatment, whether in rehab or jail, it's important for you to be supportive of your loved one as they continue to live a drug-free lifestyle. If you notice they relapse into drug use and criminal activity, contact your loved one's drug offence lawyer immediately so he or she can determine if the court will need to be notified.