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Doctors say heavy crack-smoking is making addicts critically ill with symptoms similar to pneumonia, according to a published report.

The condition, which has been dubbed crack-lung, is not readily detected unless patients tell doctors of their crack addiction, The New York Times reported. If not treated properly, it can lead to death.The condition has been identified in four inner-city hospitals in Detroit, and the problem also has been recognized in New York and Baltimore, the newspaper said.

While giving outward signs of suffering from pneumonia, the patients do not respond to antibiotics or other anti-pneumonia treatments.

Scientists remain unsure what causes the condition, but some believe it is caused by a variation of any number of ailments that occur when poisonous compounds are introduced into the lungs, the Times said. The condition also may be caused by other drugs used in combination with crack or used to produce the cocaine-derivative.

Dr. Dana G. Kissner, a Detroit pulmonary specialist, said crack-lung patients suffer severe chest pains and breathing problems and often have high temperatures and cough up blood.

Kissner, who with four other colleagues reported the condition in the journal Radiology, said the young people he saw with the condition were smoking between 15 and 25 pipes of crack a day.

One thing that makes the condition unique is the absence of an infectious organism - a virus or bacterium - and the ineffectiveness of antibiotics in fighting it, Kissner said.

But the condition can be successfully treated with corticosteriods, which are anti-inflammatory drugs, Kissner said.