Cocaine & Crack: What They Look & Taste Like
In This Article
What is Crack Cocaine?
Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant drug. It is derived from the leaves of the coca plant and comes in both powder and rock form.
While the powdered form of cocaine is referred to as cocaine or coke, the rock form is known as crack or crack cocaine.
How is Powdered Cocaine Different From Crack Cocaine?
Cocaine is a hydrochloride salt in its powdered form. Crack cocaine is derived from powdered cocaine. It is made by mixing the powder, water, and another substance such as baking soda, otherwise known as sodium bicarbonate.
After these substances are combined, the mixture is boiled until it solidifies, forming a solid. Once the solid cools and is broken into smaller pieces, the result is crack cocaine.
The name crack cocaine comes from the crackling noise produced when the substance is heated and smoked.
Crack cocaine is highly concentrated, making it very addictive. While uncommon, a person can become addicted to crack cocaine after just one use.
What Does Crack Look Like?
The process of transforming 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
The rocks vary in size and shape. Color differences may be due to other substances added into the mixture, including caffeine, sugar, lactose, or other drugs such as levamisole.
Sometimes additives are combined to boost the potency of the crack or mimic its effects. In other cases, they are mixed with cocaine to increase the weight and appearance so dealers can sell the rocks at a higher price.
What Does Crack Taste Like?
Cocaine typically has a numbing bitterness to it. However, the alkaloid procedure used to make crack causes the drug to have a salty taste and aroma.
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.
Side Effects & Risks of Crack Cocaine
Due to the unpredictability of crack cocaine’s contents, the effects of smoking the drug can differ from person to person.
The effects of cocaine are both physical and psychological, and the severity increases the more an individual smokes.
Some immediate side effects of crack cocaine include:
- Nervousness or paranoia
- Increased alertness
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure
- Pressured speech
- Dilated pupils
- Loss of appetite
- Disturbed sleep patterns
- Contracted blood vessels
- Heightened body temperature
- Intense euphoria
- Cravings to use more cocaine
- Bizarre behavior
- Heart failure
- Potential death from respiratory failure
- “Coke bugs,” or the hallucination that bugs are burrowing under a user’s skin
The long-term risks and effects of crack use can be dangerous. Long-term crack use can damage most of the body’s vital organs, including the liver, kidneys, and heart.
Additionally, crack cocaine users are more likely to catch infections because the drug affects the immune system.
Long term effects of crack cocaine include:
- Permanent damage to blood vessels
- High blood pressure
- Liver damage
- Lung damage
- Infectious diseases
- Severe tooth decay
- Sexual dysfunction
- Reproductive damage and infertility
- Disorientation and confusion
- Increased frequency of risky behavior
- Severe depression
- Paranoid behavior
- Respiratory failure
- Kidney failure
- Heart attack
How Addictive is Crack Cocaine?
Crack cocaine is significantly more potent and addictive than regular cocaine. An addiction to crack cocaine develops quickly. Because the high an individual experiences is so pleasurable and short, they require more of the drug to maintain it.
Withdrawal symptoms occur because crack cocaine provides excess amounts of the 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.
Intense cravings for crack cocaine, along with the desire to avoid withdrawal symptoms, make it challenging to quit the drug. People addicted to crack cocaine often ignore the negative consequences caused by the drug.
What are the Symptoms of Crack Addiction?
The effects of crack cocaine are powerful and intense. While users addicted to many drugs may be good at hiding it, this is not often the case with crack cocaine.
Crack cocaine effects are very short-acting. Many users take breaks to smoke crack from the pipe every 15 to 20 minutes.
Additionally, the mental obsession linked with crack cocaine can be so severe that many people cannot hold a proper conversation due to their focus on their next drug hit.
People who use crack typically display overconfidence and hyperactivity.
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
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. Stopping crack intake cold turkey is dangerous, so patients must be carefully monitored during the withdrawal process.
Detoxing at home alone is also dangerous. It is very difficult to control withdrawal symptoms and cravings without professional guidance.
The recovery withdrawal process must be carried out in a hospital or addiction treatment facility where doctors can assess the client’s vital signs.
Medical professionals can also ensure there is no risk of relapse and administer medications as needed. For example, baclofen is a muscle relaxant that treats the muscle spasms caused by drug detoxification.4
Even under medical supervision, recovery from the physical hold of drugs is a challenging, stressful, and painful process.
Detoxification must take place in a controlled, safe environment with mental health services administration present. This is because, in cases of long-term and severe crack addiction, users may experience suicidal thoughts.
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, 8 Apr. 2021
- NIDA. "How is cocaine addiction treated?." National Institute on Drug Abuse, 11 Jun. 2020
- Ling, W., Shoptaw, S. & Majewska, D. Baclofen as a Cocaine Anti-Craving Medication: A Preliminary Clinical Study. Neuropsychopharmacology 18, 403–404
- Smart, R G. “Crack cocaine use: a review of prevalence and adverse effects.” The American journal of drug and alcohol abuse vol. 17,1 : 13-26
- Butler, Ainslie J et al. “Health outcomes associated with crack-cocaine use: Systematic review and meta-analyses.” Drug and alcohol dependence vol. 180 : 401-416. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2017.08.036