Updated on November 13, 2023
6 min read

How Does Crack Affect the You in the Short and Long Term?

What Is Crack Cocaine?

Crack is the freebase form of cocaine, an extremely addictive central nervous system (CNS) stimulant. When heated and smoked, coke makes a crackling sound, which is where the name comes from.

After smoking crack, you can get high within 10 seconds or less. Although the high is intense, it lasts only 5-15 minutes.

Crack cocaine is highly abused because it’s inexpensive and relatively easy to produce. Other common street names for crack include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Snow
  • Rock
  • Blow
  • Candy or rock candy
  • Base

How Addictive Is Crack Cocaine?

Crack is highly addictive. It has been reported that it leads to dependence or addiction after a short period of use in many individuals. This is because smoking crack reaches the brain faster than smoking; crack addiction (stimulant use disorder) can form almost instantly.

After trying crack cocaine once, you may develop an uncontrollable and intense craving for the drug. These cravings are due to immediate chemical changes in the brain’s reward system.

Inhaling the substance releases an excessive amount of dopamine in the brain, which is a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure. As a result, the psychological effects of crack can be extremely reinforcing, resulting in drug addiction.


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Symptoms of Abuse & Addiction

Symptoms of crack addiction can be psychological and physical. Users typically feel uncomfortable side effects when the initial high wears off, resulting in a strong desire to use the drug.

Common signs of crack abuse and addiction include:

  • Uncontrollable, persistent cravings for the drug
  • Participating in risky sexual behaviors, violence, and breaking the law
  • Financial problems or stealing money to obtain more crack
  • Neglecting relationships, work, and other important aspects of life due to drug use
  • Ignoring the consequences and potential risk factors
  • Aggression, hostility, and severe mood swings
  • Hypertension
  • Getting less sleep than normal
  • Twitching muscles
  • Weight loss
  • Frequent nosebleeds

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Symptoms of Crack Withdrawal

If you’ve become physically dependent on crack, you’ll experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop using it. This means the brain can no longer function properly without the drug.

Crack withdrawal has two phases: acute withdrawal and protracted withdrawal, or post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS). The former refers to immediate symptoms, while the latter refers to extended psychological symptoms.

Common acute withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Exhaustion
  • Unpleasant dreams
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Mood changes

Protracted withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Severe depression
  • Increased anxiety
  • Becoming easily agitated and irritable
  • Intense cravings to obtain more crack
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Lack of motivation
  • Inability to feel pleasure
  • Anger or emotional outbursts

Treatment Options for Crack Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine addiction may have the highest risk of relapse compared to other drugs, making cocaine addiction extremely difficult to treat. It’s important to understand that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating cocaine addiction.

Cocaine addiction treatment is extremely complex and individualized. After going through medical detox, you’ll need ongoing support and medical care to maintain sobriety. 

If you or someone you know is addicted to crack, seek professional help immediately. They’ll be able to recommend treatment programs that cater to your needs.

Available treatment options for crack addiction include:

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What’s the Difference Between Cocaine and Crack?

Cocaine is a white powder that comes from the dried leaves of the coca plant, which is found in South America. On the other hand, crack is made from cocaine and looks like white or tan pellets. 

There are also some key differences between the two substances:

  • Chemical makeup: Hydrochloride is removed while making crack, “freeing it from the base” to make a solid rock-like substance
  • Method of use: Cocaine is typically snorted, injected, or ingested; meanwhile, crack is smoked or inhaled

However, regardless of their differences, both substances are highly addictive and dangerous.

Short-Term Side Effects of Crack Cocaine

After about 15 minutes, the “rush” from crack wears off. Because of this, you may start to crave more of the drug almost immediately.

Other short-term side effects and risk factors associated with crack abuse include:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Extreme levels of euphoria (happiness)
  • High blood pressure
  • Constricted blood vessels
  • Hyper-stimulation (excessive stimulation)
  • Aggressive behavior or agitation
  • Increased breathing
  • Uncontrollable drug cravings
  • Dilated pupils
  • Appetite changes
  • Anxiety, paranoia, and/or depression
  • Death from an overdose

Long-Term Side Effects of Crack Cocaine

Common side effects associated with long-term crack abuse include:

  • Psychosis or delirium
  • Chronic depression
  • Mood disorders
  • Extreme paranoid behavior
  • Irritability and aggression
  • Heart attacks or stroke
  • Heart disease
  • Weakened immune system
  • Seizures
  • Coughing and shortness of breath
  • Lung trauma and bleeding
  • Liver or kidney failure
  • Respiratory problems or failure
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Infertility and damage to reproductive organs
  • Drug dependence
  • High tolerance
  • Increased susceptibility to infections like HIV and Hepatitis C
  • Death from health complications or an overdose

How is Crack Cocaine Made?

Crack is made by cooking cocaine powder with baking soda and breaking it into small pieces called rock. Crack may be mixed with other substances and converted into rock form.

Common substances crack cocaine is cut with include:

  • Ammonia or baking soda
  • Anesthetics, such as benzocaine, lidocaine, and procaine
  • Antihistamines
  • Plastic additives
  • Inexpensive stimulants, such as caffeine
  • Fentanyl, which is a cheap and potent opioid
  • Inexpensive food additives
  • Creatine (health supplement)
  • Boric acid (bug killer)

Can Crack Interact with Other Drugs?

Combining crack with other drugs or alcohol can lead to dangerous adverse effects and serious health complications. Although it can intensify the drug’s euphoric effects, it can easily lead to an overdose.

There are also slang terms used to describe cocaine when it’s combined with other illicit substances, including:

  • Cocaine with PCP (Space, Whack)
  • Cocaine paste with marijuana (Bazooka)
  • Cocaine mixed with heroin (Belushi, Bombita, or Speedball)
  • Crack cocaine mixed with fentanyl (Dirty Fentanyl or Takeover)

Other dangerous combinations include:

Marijuana and Crack Cocaine

Mixing marijuana (weed) and crack is often referred to as “chronic.” Some people mix these drugs to intensify their euphoric effects. Meanwhile, other people mix them to experience the opposite effects of each drug.

Marijuana is a psychoactive drug that can have stimulant or depressant effects. On the other hand, crack is a stimulant. Similar to other interactions, chronic can lead to health complications such as:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Overdose

Alcohol and Crack Cocaine

Combining crack and alcohol can mask each other’s effects. Because of this, you may misjudge your level of intoxication, leading to an overdose.

Additionally, combining alcohol and cocaine causes the liver to form a substance known as cocaethylene. This hazardous metabolite blocks the reuptake of dopamine and increases feelings of euphoria.

However, cocaethylene can increase the risk of:

  • Sudden death due to a heart attack or stroke
  • Sudden death due to violent accidents
  • Liver problems such as fibrosis and liver toxicity


Crack is the freebase form of cocaine, made by cooking cocaine powder with baking soda. This removes the hydrochloride from cocaine, freeing it from its base form.

Crack cocaine is a very potent and highly addictive form of cocaine. It affects the brain's reward centers, causing intense cravings for the drug.

After the immediate effects of crack, you’ll start to experience the adverse effects of cocaine. These side effects are dangerous and often require medical intervention.

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Updated on November 13, 2023

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