Crack Cocaine Addiction and Abuse

Crack Cocaine Addiction: Understanding Crack Abuse and Crack Addiction

Crack cocaine is a highly dangerous form of cocaine, which is smoked rather than being snorted or injected. The properties of this form of the drug and the mode of delivery mean that crack cocaine acts quickly and produces very intense reactions, which in turn means that users become addicted faster. Are you abusing crack cocaine? Is your loved one dealing with crack cocaine addiction? You can find help to deal with addiction and get into recovery.

What is Crack Cocaine?

Crack cocaine is a crystallized form of cocaine. It is often available as a solid block or a crystal, the colour of which can vary. Pale rose, white and yellow are some of the more common colours. The name, crack cocaine, is derived from the fact that the substance makes a cracking sound when heated.

Crack cocaine is the most potent form of cocaine. It is between 75% and 100% stronger than regular powder cocaine, which makes it extremely dangerous. Smoking crack delivers cocaine to the brain quicker than when snorting powder, and leads to a more intense ‘high’. But the euphoria generally only lasts around 15 minutes, leaving intense craving for further ‘hits’. In some cases, abusers of crack cocaine become addicts after their first exposure.

What Does Crack Look and Smell Like?

Crack is often supplied as a solid block or crystal, depending on the drug dealer’s preferred method of packaging. When crack is heated, it smells like burning plastic. The distinct chemical odour can easily be perceived and the smell of crack is similar to that of meth.

The Consequences of Crack Cocaine Addiction

After smoking crack cocaine, you’ll experience a new level of confidence, feeling sharper and more energetic. In such circumstances, you may take risks that you wouldn’t ordinarily. Aggression is one consequence of crack addiction, and there are many cases of crack users attacking other people and robbing them to feed their crack habit.

Crack users feel high when under the influence, but also experience lows that can

lead them to feel depressed for days at a time. In order to avoid this state of depression, addicts smoke more crack, further deepening their addiction.

Addiction can lead to loss of appetite, high temperatures and rapid and fluttering heart rate. As crack cocaine users slip deeper into addiction, they face higher risk of overdose and other debilitating complications, such as convulsions and heart attacks.

People who are addicted to crack cocaine often end up in financial difficulties, as they fight to keep up the habit whilst battling the consequences of smoking crack. This can lead them into crime as the constant and frequent chase for the next hit becomes an increasingly expensive habit.

General Information About Crack

Crack cocaine is generally used as a recreational drug. It first became popular in 1984 and 1985 around the poorer neighbourhoods of New York City, Los Angeles and Miami. The rapid increase in use and availability led to what is widely referred to as the ‘crack epidemic’.

Street Names for Crack Cocaine

Crack cocaine is known by many names, including:

  • Troop
  • Tornado
  • Snow coke
  • Sleet
  • Scrabble
  • Rock(s)
  • Raw
  • Product
  • Prime time
  • Piece
  • Paste
  • Nuggets
  • Jelly beans
  • Ice cube
  • Hotcakes
  • Hard rock
  • Hard ball
  • Hail
  • Grit
  • Gravel
  • Glo
  • French fries
  • Fat bags
  • Electric kool-aid
  • Dice
  • Devil drug
  • Crunch & munch
  • Crumbs
  • Cookies
  • Cloud
  • Chemical
  • Candy
  • Beat
  • Badrock
  • 24-7

Crack Use Statistics

In the United Kingdom, statistics published in 2017 showed that there has been a 23% rise in the number of people seeking help for cocaine addiction. Figures from the National Drug Treatment Monitoring System show that 3,657 people requested help with stopping crack addiction in the last year. This is up from the 2,980 in the previous year. Separate data released by the Home Office in 2017 also highlighted a 16% rise in the number of crack seizure cases. A study by researchers at Liverpool John Moores University estimates that the number of crack users in England rose by 10% to 182,828 in the five years from 2010 to 2015.

In the United States, 5,500 deaths from crack overdose were recorded in 2014. In 2015, 400,000 people aged 12 and above reported ongoing or occasional use of cocaine. More than 9 million people reported using crack at some point in their lifetime. The number of males aged 12 and above that reported crack cocaine use in 2015 was almost 600,000. This is in comparison to 235,000 females reported within the same period of time.

These statistics highlight the urgent need for more proactive measures against the abuse of crack cocaine.

Co-Occurring Disorders

As is the case with many forms of addiction, it’s common to find crack cocaine addiction accompanied by other disorders. In many cases, some of these disorders may have been present before the addiction became an issue.

Mental health disorders are the most common co-occurring problems in crack cocaine addiction. Many people resort to the use of mood-altering substances such as crack cocaine as a way of battling mental health conditions.

This is why we emphasise the need to tackle co-occurring disorders when treating crack-cocaine addiction. It is important for the achievement of overall success.

Are you suffering from a disorder that is yet to be completely treated? Have you slipped back into a previous medical condition as a result of your crack cocaine use? Are you holding back from rehabilitation because you don’t want to give up certain drugs you think are vital to your health? Identifying co-occurring disorders before starting crack addiction treatment will help determine the success of the rehabilitation programme.

Mental Health Co-Occurring Disorders and Crack Abuse

Mental health co-occurring disorders are common with crack addiction, because many users attempt to address mental health issues through crack abuse. In cases where there were no underlying mental health issues before the start of crack addiction, the regular use of the drug can lead to the onset of a condition.

Crack cocaine usage can lead to depression and, in worst case scenarios, suicidal thoughts. We know how an undiagnosed mental health condition can leave people feeling confused, alone and afraid. Screening for co-occurring disorders can help to find the right treatment for your specific situation. If the presence is established of a co-occurring disorder in your crack addiction, medical expertise can help to get through your recovery.

The main aim with every crack addiction recovery case is to make sure that the rehabilitation pathway is as smooth as possible. Rehab centres with experience and resources are more likely to provide excellent care.

How to Treat Co-Occurring Disorders

It’s important to put together a specific treatment plan that takes into account the management of all kinds of co-occurring disorders, including mental, emotional and physical ones. Each case should be treated separately to ensure the best possible results. Disorders that commonly co-occur with crack addiction include: anxiety, depression, anorexia, gambling addiction, sex addiction, meth addiction, marijuana addiction, heroin addiction, DXM addiction, powder cocaine addiction, pills addiction, amphetamine addiction and alcohol addiction.

The first step in the treatment of co-occurring disorders is thorough counselling. In-house counsellors who are highly experienced in critical analysis of addiction cases can help determine which treatments best meet individual needs.

Causes of Crack Cocaine Addiction

Crack cocaine affects the pleasure receptors of the brain. When the drug is used constantly, reward pathways in the brain become immune to normal, everyday pleasures. This means that users will eventually find that they can only feel good or happy when they have smoked crack cocaine. In simple terms, crack addiction occurs when the user has abused crack cocaine for a period long enough to affect the pleasure receptors of the brain.

The genetic makeup of an individual may also contribute to their risk of becoming addicted to crack cocaine. Studies by German scientists highlight the finding that crack cocaine addicts have a 25% chance of carrying a specific variant of a gene linked to addiction. This means that when such individuals are exposed to crack cocaine, there is a higher chance of them becoming addicted. However these studies are not conclusive and there is still no proof that this gene can trigger addiction to other substances that are commonly abused.

Signs of Crack Addiction

There are several easily identifiable signs of crack cocaine addiction. Crack cocaine users often have excessive bursts of energy that may be out of character. When excited, users may display behaviours such as rapid talking, eating very quickly or going without food, and high levels of nervous agitation. When the dose has worn off, users show signs of heavy fatigue. They easily fall asleep, regardless of where they might be, and can remain asleep for days at a time.

Constant swings between extreme energy and exhaustion impact day to day life for the crack user. A regular sleep schedule becomes impossible, and this can affect work, education and life in general. The user also experiences strong and unpredictable mood swings, making them argumentative and even a danger to people around them. Violence is most often exhibited to people who try to talk them out of using the drug. When users stop taking crack, they begin to experience intense depression and also have suicidal thoughts. Long term crack abuse also leads to hallucinations and paranoia.

The neural simulation caused by crack cocaine can lead to involuntary tremor or jitters. Crack cocaine users may become unable to control shakiness in their limbs, even when they aren’t taking the drug. Addicts may come to feel that using more crack cocaine is a way to control the jitters, which leads  to worsening addiction. addicts seek out crack and will do anything to get it, even when it is obvious that the habit has already put them in a lot of trouble. Crack cocaine addicts quickly lose objectivity and critical thinking ability.

Nosebleeds can be a sign of crack cocaine abuse. Although the substance is commonly smoked, some users also snort it. During snorting, the nasal lining is damaged, leading to a constantly runny nose. As the crack use continues, permanently damaged nasal lining will be the end result and the user will lose their ability to smell. Additionally, regular crack use can damage the mucous lining of the throat. This makes swallowing or speaking difficult. This is why some crack users can be identified by their hoarse voices and chronic sore throat.

Crack cocaine also affects the eyes, reducing the reaction time of the pupils to light exposure. Crack cocaine users develop mydriasis, which means having dilated pupils and bloodshot eyes.

Crack Cocaine and the Brain

When crack cocaine enters the body, it quickly acts on parts of the brain that are regulated by the neurotransmitter dopamine. Cocaine prevents the normal reabsorption of dopamine by nerve cells, which in turn causes dopamine levels to become elevated, leading to sensations of pleasure and reward. The dopamine released after a dose of crack cocaine is by far higher than the level of dopamine (and satisfaction) released during natural, healthy activity. Users quickly become hooked and lurch between ecstatic euphoria and extreme depression.

Physical Health-Related Warning Signs of Crack Addiction

Some of the physical warning signs of crack addiction are:

  • Dry mouth
  • Dilated pupils
  • Sweating more than normal
  • Reduced appetite
  • Premature ageing
  • Tremors
  • Cracked or blistered lips (as a result of smoking a hot pipe)
  • Burns on fingers

Psychological Symptoms Of Crack Cocaine Addiction

Some of the psychological symptoms of crack cocaine addiction include:

  • Depression
  • Wild mood swings
  • False sense of confidence/power
  • Hallucinations
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Change in personality
  • Angry outbursts and inappropriate laughter
  • Periods of hyperactivity or agitation

Behavioural Symptoms of Crack Cocaine Addiction

Some of the behavioural symptoms of crack cocaine addiction include:

  • Talkativeness
  • Restlessness
  • Lack of sleep
  • Picking and scratching at non-existent bugs on the skin
  • Out of character and risky behaviours
  • Frequent disappearances

Long-Term Effects of Crack Cocaine Use

The long-term effects of crack cocaine abuse can be fatal. Prolonged use of the substance can damage organs such as the heart, liver and kidneys. It can also weaken the immune system, making users vulnerable to infection. Long-term effects include:

  • Seizures
  • Stroke
  • Heart Failure
  • Respiratory Failure
  • Kidney failure
  • Infections
  • Sexual Dysfunction
  • Death

The Deadly Toll of Crack Cocaine Addiction

Crack cocaine is increasingly popular across the world. In Europe, Britain and Spain lead the way with an estimated 200,000 regular crack users. UK watchdogs say that the number of crack users in the UK rose by 23% rise in 2017.

Effects of Mixing Crack Cocaine with Alcohol or Other Drugs

Smoking crack cocaine leads to increased blood pressure and elevated heart rate. Adding alcohol to the mix whilst using crack cocaine increases the risk to your cardiovascular health and hasten the onset of long-term cardiac diseases like cardiomyopathy and heart attack. Why does this happen?

When you combine cocaine and alcohol, the end product is a chemical known as cocaethylene. This by-product is more dangerous than either drug in isolation and can build up over time, leading to sudden death. The effects of mixing alcohol and cocaine include the following:

  • Coma
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Stroke
  • Confusion
  • Heart Palpitations
  • Chest Pain
  • Irritability
  • Malnutrition
  • HIV/Hepatitis as a result of risky sexual behaviour
  • Irritability
  • Violence and related trauma

Mixing crack cocaine and other drugs is equally dangerous. Many people mix crack cocaine with opioids like heroin for instance, because it can help reduce the impact of withdrawal symptoms associated with using these substances. Opioids and crack cocaine counteract each other out in the body, making it hard to gauge levels of consumption and masking warning signs of approaching overdose. Users may not realise that they are overdosing until it is too late. This increases the risk of fatal overdose. Combining crack cocaine with opioids like heroin can lead to:

  • Nosebleeds
  • Breakdown of muscle tissue
  • Renal disease
  • Infections
  • Collapsed veins
  • Irritability
  • Paranoia
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Coma

In summary, it is very dangerous to combine crack cocaine with any other substances. If you are combining crack cocaine with other drugs, you need to get help immediately.

Do You Have a Crack Addiction?

It’s easy to develop a crack addiction if you use the drug often enough. While the signs and symptoms of crack addiction will differ from one person to another, there are ways to tell if your crack abuse has progressed to addiction. If you find that you are always experiencing these uncomfortable signs, but are still unable to quit, you’re most likely addicted.

Common signs include red eyes and dilated pupils. Crack use can cause your eyes to become bloodshot and extremely irritable. Depression is another sign to look out for, as it is one of the most common side effects of crack abuse, due to the effect of cocaine on your dopamine levels.

Do you experience frequent, severe mood swings? These can be another indication of crack addiction. If you find that your crack usage is negatively affecting your finances and making you spend way more than normal, you are probably addicted.

Getting to a point where it feels like the drug has taken over your life signals an addiction. It may be causing you to neglect your duties at home, school or work, and you may find yourself resorting to stealing or lying in order to preserve your crack habit.

Effects of Crack Cocaine Withdrawal

The specific nature and severity of withdrawal symptoms you may experience will be unique to you, based on your particular circumstances. However, some effects are common to most. One of the most difficult to deal with is the cravings, which are both psychological and physical, and increase the risk of relapse.

Other common effects of crack cocaine withdrawal include depression, restlessness, irritability, agitation, and hyperactivity. You may also experience chest pain in reaction to stress. It’s possible to experience extreme anxiety or even psychosis, which can include auditory and visual hallucinations. Fatigue is another effect of withdrawal you are likely to experience, which could make you sleep a lot more than you usually would.

The Danger of Overdose

Overdose can cause serious physical and mental health problems and can even be fatal. Crack is one of the most dangerous forms of cocaine and carries a high risk of overdose, because it enters the bloodstream very quickly and easily crosses the blood-brain barrier.

The amount of crack you would have to take in order to overdose will depend on your tolerance to the drug. The higher your tolerance levels, the greater the risk of overdose. An overdose can be fatal or lead to serious problems like a heart attack.

Complications that may be caused by crack overdose include: chronic depression, behavioural problems, physical exhaustion, weight loss, anorexia, immunoallergic lung disease, asthma and pleuritic chest pain.

Crack Addiction and Your Family

When you’re addicted to crack, it’s not only you who suffers, but your family too. You may not be aware, but crack addiction changes the way you think and act. Those around you will be affected negatively if you do not stop and think about your actions.

Spending time, energy, and money on crack will lead to family neglect. Your loved ones may begin to feel a range of emotions towards your drug addiction, including hurt, bitterness and resentment. You’re likely to argue more with those closest to you and children are bound to suffer. Meanwhile, your family may be forced to deal with the financial strain, with your partner or spouse likely to suffer the most.

Coming to Terms with Your Crack Cocaine Addiction

It’s easy to live in denial about addiction, never admitting that you have a problem. Before you know it, however you could be facing financial, personal and physical disaster.

The best move you can make is to admit that your crack abuse is a huge problem and is potentially wrecking your life and the lives of your loved ones. There’s no point procrastinating. It’s best that you face the truth of your addiction and come to terms with it. Doing so may be hard, but the benefits will be clear when you reach the other side. Once you’re brave enough to come to terms with your addiction, you can start down the road to recovery.

Helping a Friend or Family Member Address Their Crack Addiction

If you’re worried about a family member or friend who you believe is addicted to crack, you have good reason to be concerned. Before it’s too late, it is important to seek professional help for your loved one. The first thing to do is to learn as much as you can about crack addiction, so you know what the signs are and why the drug is so addictive.

Once you’ve determined that your friend or family member is addicted to crack, the next step is to confront them with their addiction and try to get them to seek professional help willingly. Confronting them does not have to mean being aggressive. You need to be gentle and understanding compassionate, approaching them with empathy and compassion. It may be a good idea to stage an intervention with other people who are also close to the addicted person.

Detox, Therapy and Support for Crack Addiction Recovery

Detoxification is typically the first step in recovery from crack addiction, because it is the process through which all traces of the drug are cleared from the body. After detox is completed, rehab therapy can begin.

Therapy may involve family counselling, group counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), individual counselling, motivational incentives, or motivational interviewing. The point of therapy is to uncover and address core issues behind addiction.

Aftercare programmes are individually tailored, so you can get the support you need when you complete rehab. This may take the form of a twelve-step programme or spending some time in a sober living home.

Crack Cocaine Addiction Treatment

If left untreated, crack addiction can result in permanent psychological and physical damage and even death. The first thing that treatment tries to achieve is to break the physical need for the drug via the detox process, providing the medical and psychological help needed during that period. Crack treatment provides a way to safely get off and stay off crack, without the risks associated with trying to go it alone. Whether you are treated at an inpatient facility or via an outpatient programme, it’s crucial to get professional help.

Behavioural Treatment for Crack Addiction

While medical management of crack addiction and detox is important, it does not address root causes or equip you to achieve long-term abstinence. There is always the risk of relapse and medication can’t help deal with long-term cravings. This is where behavioural treatment comes in.
Behavioural treatment helps you understand the factors behind your addiction. You will be equipped with skills and techniques to help you deal with cravings, significantly reducing the risk of relapse. Your family can also be included in counselling, especially if damage has been done to your relationships due to your crack abuse.

Which Treatments Work for Crack Cocaine Addiction?

There are a number of treatments for crack cocaine addiction. Talking therapies are popular, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), motivational incentives, couples’ therapy and group therapy, alongside medical management.

12-Step Rehabilitation

Twelve-step rehabilitation programmes are designed to help former crack users stay on track after quitting. They can provide a much-needed form of social support for you following treatment. Crack treatment does not end with detox and therapy; the recovery journey lasts much longer and 12-step rehabilitation can be a huge part of that, especially if you are not getting the support you need at home.

When you join a 12-step programme, you’ll receive help from others who have also gone through the same process and are at different stages of their recovery journey.

Crack Cocaine Detox

Detoxification is a natural bodily function in which physiologically active substances are cleared out of your bloodstream and excreted. The detox process actually starts the moment a drug is introduced into your system, which is why drug effects are time limited.

The first stage of crack treatment is a thorough detox, in order to clear all traces of cocaine from your system.

Crack cocaine detox may be done at home, a rehab facility, a detox centre or a hospital. It is generally advised that you detox in a rehab facility or a detox centre, as opposed to detoxing at home. A rehab facility or detox centre provides constant medical supervision, so you can get through withdrawal more comfortably.

Withdrawing from Crack Cocaine

Detox and withdrawal go hand in hand, because the detox process triggers withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal happens when your body is deprived of cocaine to which it has become habituated. As your system tries to adjust to the absence of the drug, unwanted symptoms begin to manifest.

The length of withdrawal depends on a number of factors, including how long you have been using crack, the dosage you have been using, whether you’ve mixed crack with other drugs, and the nature of any co-occurring conditions. There are two phases of withdrawal – acute withdrawal and post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS) or protracted withdrawal.

Get Help for Crack Cocaine Addiction

Crack cocaine is extremely dangerous and damaging – not just for you, but also for your family and other relationships. It negatively impacts your finances, health and work. It can wreck your life if you let it. Whether you are a chronic user of crack or have tried to stop but can’t, there is help available for your addiction problem.

One option is to pay your GP a visit, after which you’ll be referred for treatment. Another option is to head directly to the closest drug treatment service. Alternatively, you can contact one of the rehab referral services, which can direct you to some of the best treatment centres for crack cocaine addiction across the UK and beyond.

Find a Treatment Centre Near You

There is probably an addiction treatment centre near you. If you want one that’s not too close to home, referral services often have links with treatment centres across the UK and overseas.


Crack Addiction FAQs

Below you’ll find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about crack cocaine addiction.

What Is Crack Cocaine?

Crack cocaine is cocaine in crystal form. It may come in crystals of various colours – from white to pale rose – or in solid blocks. Crack gets its name from the popping or cracking sound it makes when it is heated and smoked.

Not only is crack the most potent form of cocaine, it is also the most dangerous. It is a lot more potent than regular powder cocaine. Crack also tends to be cheaper than cocaine, although in the long run it can end up costing a lot more, because crack addicts use more frequently in greater amounts.

Why Is Crack Cocaine so Addictive?

Crack is a freebase form of cocaine, which remains stable and active at high temperatures, so that it can be smoked. This route of ingestion accelerates the passage of cocaine into the bloodstream, while freebase cocaine also much more easily crosses the blood-brain barrier. The result is a very fast-acting, powerful but short-lived high, which only lasts about 15 minutes. In the brain, cocaine triggers elevation of levels of dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter associated with movement and pleasure, as part of the brain’s reward system.

Due to of its effect on dopamine regulation, the psychological effects of cocaine can be extremely reinforcing – so much so, that it is possible to become addicted after trying crack just once. Intense cravings develop because the chemistry of the brain’s reward system is altered.

What Should I Know About Crack Cocaine?

Crack cocaine is cocaine that has been processed with ammonia or baking soda and has been transformed to a ‘rock’ form that can be smoked. Because of its chemistry, it is the most dangerous and addictive form of cocaine.

Some of the short-term effects of the drug include the high that begins almost immediately after it is smoked and the intense craving that follows, as well as others such as paranoia, anxiety, decreased appetite, hyper-stimulation, dilated pupils, increased blood pressure and heart rate. In some cases, cocaine use can cause sudden death.

The long-term effects of cocaine use are damaging and can lead to serious health problems, both physical and psychological.

What are the Effects of Crack on the Body and Brain?

Crack can result in a number of mental effects, including hallucinations, possibly leading to psychosis. There is also the risk of suffering depression and brain damage. Crack affects the body as much as it does the brain and may lead to problems like tooth decay, and damage to the circulatory system and reproductive system.

Is Crack Cocaine Safe to Use during Pregnancy?

No, it is not safe to use crack cocaine during pregnancy.

If you take crack when you are pregnant it will enter the baby’s circulation through the placenta. Since the foetus cannot eliminate cocaine from its body as quickly as the mother can, it stays in the baby’s body much longer. The drug can adversely affect the development of the neural system, as well as damaging circulation. This can cause irreversible brain damage and other deformities.

What are the Negative Effects of Crack Cocaine?

Crack cocaine is a powerful stimulant that severely stresses the brain, lungs, vascular system and heart. The drug causes your blood vessels to constrict and may harden them over time, increasing the risk of stroke and fatal heart attack.

Crack can also cause premature ageing and mental health problems including confusion, defensiveness, paranoia, isolation, depression and hallucinations.

What Does the Comedown from Crack Cocaine Feel Like?

A crack cocaine comedown or hangover can be intense, both physically and mentally. When you take cocaine, you’ll feel energetic, wired, confident and clear-headed, but the effects last only a short time – about five minutes at least and 30 at most. If you take crack during a night out, you’re likely to feel uncomfortable and confused the next day.

If you take crack not long before going to bed, you’ll likely not sleep well or for too long. It’s even worse if you take alcohol alongside cocaine; not only will your comedown be severe, but headaches will be intensified due to dehydration.

During a crack cocaine comedown, you may feel irritable, restless, agitated and unable to concentrate, with suppressed appetite. You might also be tired, angry or depressed, and your heart may beat too fast or irregularly.

What are the Dangers of Using Crack Cocaine?

There are many dangers associated with crack cocaine usage; short-term ones include erratic and violent behaviour, hallucinations (which may result in a psychotic episode), increased body temperature and respiration, increased blood pressure and increased heart rate. These effects can lead to seizures, coma and even death. They may also cause permanent health damage.

Long-term effects of crack cocaine abuse include severe depression, circulatory system damage, neurological damage, brain damage, reproductive system damage and tooth decay. There is also the possibility of contracting HIV or Hepatitis C from sharing paraphernalia (such as needles) and the danger of becoming addicted, which brings its own problems.

Is There Free Treatment for Crack Addiction?

The NHS does offer some free treatment options, but it is always worth finding out more about your options and ways to finance paid treatment.

NHS-provided treatments often have long waiting lists. This is a problem, as time is of the essence when it comes to addiction.

There is also the option of community-based services, which are free if you need them. Another option is drug charities, which may be either religious or secular.

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