Crack Cocaine: What It Looks & Smells Like
In This Article
What is Crack Cocaine?
The powdered form of cocaine is referred to as cocaine or coke and is a hydrochloride salt. The rock form is known as crack or crack cocaine.
Crack cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant drug. Although uncommon, a person can get addicted to crack cocaine after one use.
What Does Crack Look Like?
The process of changing cocaine into crack cocaine produces crystals known as rocks. These rocks range in color from clear-white to opaque to off-white or yellow.1
Crack cocaine is made by mixing cocaine, water, and another substance like sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). After the substances are combined and solidified, it is crushed into smaller pieces.
The rocks vary in size and shape. Color differences may be due to other substances added to the mixture, including:
- Other drugs, such as levamisole
These additives can boost the potency of the crack or mimic its effects. In other cases, they increase their weight and appearance so dealers can sell them at a higher price.
What Does Crack Smell Like?
When crack cocaine is burning, it may smell like burning rubber or plastic. Crack cocaine usually has a ‘chemical’ smell when burned or freebased.
Although the smell is distinctive, people unfamiliar with most intoxicating drugs often do not know the difference between the smell of crack cocaine and a meth lab.
Either can be dangerous, so it is essential to report suspected labs and chemical-like smells to law enforcement as soon as possible.
What are the Symptoms of Crack Addiction?
Crack cocaine can initially feel pleasurable as it increases dopamine levels in the brain. This intense feeling of euphoria usually lasts up to 10 minutes.
Once the drug wears off, it is usually followed by a feeling of depression known as a comedown. Other signs of crack addiction include:
- Frequent disappearances to get high
- Dilated pupils
- Cracked or blistered lips from smoking out of a pipe
- Aggressive behavior
- Increased breathing
- Uncharacteristic irresponsibility
- Burns on fingers
- Pressured speech
The effects of cocaine are both physical and psychological, and the severity increases the more an individual smokes. Crack cocaine has an immediate and long-term impact.
Immediate Side Effects of Crack
Using crack can also make people crave more of the drug, leading to dependency and addiction. Other immediate side effects of crack cocaine include:
- Nervousness or paranoia
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure
- Loss of appetite
- Disturbed sleep patterns
- Contracted blood vessels
- Heightened body temperature
- Heart failure
- Potential death from respiratory failure
- “Coke bugs,” or the hallucination that bugs are burrowing under a user’s skin
Long-Term Effects of Crack
Long-term crack use can damage most of the body’s vital organs, including the liver, kidneys, and heart. Severe damage to these organs can be dangerous or fatal.
Long-term effects of crack cocaine include:
- Permanent damage to blood vessels
- High blood pressure
- Respiratory failure
- Severe tooth decay
- Sexual dysfunction
- Reproductive damage and infertility
- Disorientation and confusion
- Increased frequency of risky behavior
- Severe depression
- Paranoid behavior
- Heart attack
Crack cocaine users are also more likely to catch bacterial infections. This is because the drug weakens the immune system.
How Addictive is Crack?
Crack cocaine is significantly more potent and addictive than regular cocaine. An addiction to crack cocaine develops quickly. Since the high a person experiences is so pleasurable and short, they require more of the drug to maintain it.
Withdrawal symptoms occur because crack cocaine provides excess happiness-inducing chemical dopamine in the brain. With continued cocaine use, the natural production of dopamine is lessened as the body becomes dependent on the drug.
The two factors that make it hard to quit crack are:
- Intense cravings for the drug
- Desire to avoid withdrawal symptoms
People addicted to crack cocaine often ignore the negative consequences caused by the drug.
Treatment Options for Crack Use & Addiction
Seeking addiction treatment for substance use is essential. If left unresolved, a crack habit may eventually kill a user or lead to permanent psychological damage.
Addiction treatment begins by breaking the physical need for crack. Suddenly stopping crack intake is dangerous, so a professional must carefully monitor people during withdrawal.
Available treatment options for crack use and addiction include:
- Inpatient treatment
- Medical detox
- Medication-assisted treatment
- Partial hospitalization program
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
Detoxing at home alone is dangerous; it is challenging to control withdrawal symptoms and cravings without professional guidance.
If you are concerned about a loved one with crack use and addiction problems, call an addiction specialist for medical advice and help them on the path to recovery.
Call to find out how much your insurance will cover
- Crack cocaine fast facts, The United States Department of Justice
- NIDA. "Cocaine DrugFacts." National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2021.
- NIDA. "How is cocaine addiction treated?." National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2020.
- Shen, W. “Anticraving therapy for alcohol use disorder: A clinical review.” Neuropsychopharmacology Reports, 2018.
- NIDA. "What are the long-term effects of cocaine use?." National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2021.
- Butler et al. “Health outcomes associated with crack-cocaine use: Systematic review and meta-analyses.” Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 2017.