Crack cocaine is a notoriously addictive form of the drug cocaine. All forms of cocaine are addictive, but crack may be even more so.
Addiction to crack cocaine can lead to devastating health effects and even overdose. While other forms of cocaine, like powder cocaine, are typically snorted, crack is usually smoked.
Smoking crack leads to an intense high that may include euphoric effects and increased alertness, but it also has many physical and mental health side effects.
Continued crack cocaine abuse can lead to addiction, withdrawal, and other side effects, but treatment can help a person learn to stop crack use and seek drug addiction recovery.
What Is Crack Cocaine?
Crack cocaine is a form of cocaine that is made by mixing powder cocaine (also called cocaine hydrochloride) with water and baking soda. The mixture is then cooked down until a crystalline substance forms.
The hard substance is then broken up into small pieces, known as “crack rocks”. These rocks are usually put into a pipe and smoked by heating up the surface and vaporizing the crack.
Oftentimes, crack cocaine contains adulterants and additives. These may make the drug more potent and addictive, dilute it to increase dealers’ profits, or make it seem purer.
Some common crack cocaine cutting agents include:
- corn starch
- benzocaine or lidocaine
- boric acid
Learn more about what is in crack cocaine.
The Difference Between Crack And Powder Cocaine
Both crack cocaine and cocaine in powder form originally come from leaves of the coca plant, a shrub grown mainly in South America.
The leaves are processed to form cocaine hydrochloride, which is what we recognize as powder cocaine. This white powder is often sold as-is to be snorted or cooked down and injected by people using it.
Crack cocaine is cooked with sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) to form crack rocks. Since these rocks are usually smoked, the effects of crack cocaine are very intense and they hit almost immediately.
Using crack might be even more addictive than using powder cocaine.
Read more about crack cocaine vs. powder cocaine.
How Crack Cocaine Is Made
Crack cocaine is made by combining powder cocaine with water and baking soda and cooking down the mixture until a rock-like substance forms.
This is usually done by individual drug dealers here in America. When cocaine is imported to the U.S. from South America, it almost always comes in powder form.
Street dealers can sell powdered cocaine as-is, or they can make freebase or crack with it.
Learn more about how crack cocaine is made.
Street Names For Crack Cocaine
If you are concerned that a loved one is smoking crack cocaine, it can be helpful to know its street names. This might help you identify when your loved one is talking about crack.
Some common street names for crack cocaine include:
- hard rock
If you hear someone close to you who you suspect may be using crack cocaine use one of these words in a suspicious context, it could indicate that they are smoking crack.
Learn more street names for crack cocaine.
How To Identify Crack Cocaine
Crack cocaine has the appearance of small rocks or crystals. It usually has a milky or opaque hue and may be colored white, yellow, or brownish. Grams of crack are often sold in glass vials.
Changes in the appearance of crack cocaine can come from differences in the cooking process as well as the different cutting agents that may be found in the drug.
Before it is sold, crack cocaine is broken up into small rocks. If someone is cooking crack cocaine, you might find pots or bags with larger, solid pieces of this rock-like substance.
It is also important to know how to identify fake crack cocaine to ensure that someone does not accidentally overdose on an unknown substance.
Find out more about crack cocaine identification.
How Crack Cocaine Is Used
Crack cocaine is almost always smoked. Smoking crack cocaine makes the effects of the drug almost instant while snorting crack takes longer for the effects to kick in.
Crack cocaine is usually smoked using a small metal or glass pipe. The crack rock is placed in one end, then a lighter is held against the surface of the pipe until the rock begins to melt and vaporize.
The crack rock makes a crackling sound as it heats up, giving the drug its namesake.
The vapor and smoke is then inhaled into the lungs. This results in an immediate and intense high.
Additional routes of crack cocaine administration include:
Signs Of Crack Cocaine Abuse
It helps to know what to look out for if you are concerned that a loved one is using crack cocaine.
People who are using the drug regularly might show some signs of crack drug use.
Common signs of crack cocaine abuse include:
- dilated pupils
- aggressive or irritable behavior
- fast breathing
- irresponsibility, not showing up for work, etc.
- burns, cracks, or sores on fingers and/or lips (from a crack pipe)
Learn more about the signs of crack cocaine use.
How Crack Cocaine Use Leads To Addiction
Crack cocaine is notorious for being highly addictive, and it may even be more addictive than powdered cocaine.
While using crack cocaine once is not enough to get someone addicted, the intense high that crack produces often keeps people coming back for more.
With repeated use despite negative consequences, addiction can develop. People become dependent on crack cocaine to feel good.
Using crack cocaine releases large amounts of dopamine in the brain, a chemical that leads to happiness and good mood.
When people get addicted to crack cocaine, they don’t produce enough dopamine without the drug. They may have intense cravings for crack when they are not using it.
Statistics For Crack Cocaine Addiction
Crack cocaine was extremely popular in the 1980s during the “crack epidemic”, but it has become less popular since then. Still, many people use crack cocaine in the U.S. today.
The following are statistics about crack cocaine:
- Crack cocaine was involved in 7.5% of all drug trafficking cases in 2020.
- Crack cocaine trafficking arrests have decreased by nearly 25% since 2016.
- According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 3.3% of all white people and 5% of all black people over the age of 18 have used crack cocaine.
- 1.2% of 12th graders said they used crack cocaine in 2020.
Learn more about crack cocaine statistics.
Effects Of Crack Cocaine Use
Crack cocaine has many short and long-term effects, including both the desired feeling of being “high”, and many health risks.
Short-term effects of crack cocaine include:
- “high” or “rush” that includes feelings of euphoria
- increased wakefulness/alertness
- excited state
- dilated pupils
- decreased appetite
- increased heart rate
- intense cravings and feelings of depression once high subsides
Long-term effects of crack substance use:
- loss of appetite
- effects on teeth (crack teeth)
- sexual dysfunction in men and infertility in both genders
- heart and circulation problems including heart attacks, high blood pressure, and damaged blood vessels
- crack-induced ulcerative keratitis (eye lesions)
- organ failure
- lung damage
Learn more about the side effects of crack cocaine.
Does Crack Cocaine Cause Withdrawal Symptoms?
When someone who has been addicted to crack cocaine suddenly stops using the drug or cuts back on their use, they may experience symptoms of withdrawal.
Cocaine withdrawal is not as serious as some others such as opioid or alcohol withdrawal. Still, it can be very unpleasant and lead to relapse.
Symptoms of withdrawal from crack include:
- trouble concentrating
- mood swings
- intense cravings for crack
- lack of motivation
Learn more about crack cocaine withdrawal.
How Likely Is A Crack Cocaine Overdose?
Cocaine overdose can happen at any time. No amount of cocaine or crack cocaine is safe to use.
This is especially true recently, as drug overdose deaths are at an all-time high in the U.S., mainly due to the deadly drug fentanyl.
Fentanyl is a powerful opioid, and a lot of cocaine is being laced with it. Many people are dying from fentanyl overdose when they think they are using cocaine.
Learn more about crack cocaine overdose.
Detoxification From Crack Cocaine
Visiting a detox center can help you to stop using crack cocaine. A detox center will provide healthcare and support to keep you safe and comfortable during withdrawal.
Crack cocaine detox lasts anywhere from 7-10 days. Some symptoms may linger for months or longer.
Once all the crack is out of your system, you can start a treatment program to address your drug use.
Learn more about crack cocaine detox.
Detection Times For Crack Cocaine
Many people want to know how long crack cocaine will stay in their system for a drug test. The answer depends largely on the type of drug test being used.
Crack cocaine detection times are:
- hair follicles: crack cocaine stays in hair for up to 90 days
- urine: urine tests can detect crack cocaine up to 4 days after last use
- saliva/blood: blood tests detect crack cocaine up to 24 hours after last use
Learn more about how long crack cocaine stays in your body.
Treatment Options For Crack Cocaine Addiction
Addiction treatment for drugs of abuse requires treatment at a certified treatment center. Inpatient programs offer the best starting point and give you a good chance at making a full recovery.
Inpatient treatment for illicit drug use may include elements such as psychiatry, behavioral therapy, healthy eating, meditation and yoga, and skills coaching.
Learn more about crack cocaine treatment.
Find Addiction Treatment At Bedrock Recovery Center
Bedrock Recovery Center is one of the east coast’s top substance abuse treatment centers. Located in Canton, MA, we offer inpatient detox and addiction recovery services.
We serve all areas of the east coast, from New York, to Washington D.C., to Boston.
Are you ready to start your recovery journey? Call our helpline today to learn more about our treatment programs.
- Drug Policy Alliance –– 10 Facts About Cocaine
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) –– Cocaine DrugFacts
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) –– Cocaine Research Report
- United States Department of Justice –– Crack Cocaine Fast Facts
- United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) –– Drug Fact Sheet: Cocaine
Bedrock Recovery Editorial Team
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