Updated on April 3, 2024
6 min read

How Do People Smoke Crack Cocaine?

Key Takeaways

What is Crack Cocaine?

Crack cocaine is a form of cocaine that is processed to be smoked. It appears as small pieces or shavings of soap but has a rigid, sharp feel.

Crack is made by mixing cocaine powder with baking soda. It is broken into small rocks. Crack got its name because it crackles when it is heated and smoked.

Crack cocaine is typically smoked by heating it in a glass pipe or mixing it into a marijuana “joint." Street names for crack cocaine include:

  • Atari
  • Base
  • Cloud
  • Hubba
  • Pony
  • Rock
  • Yeyo

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What is the Difference Between Crack and Cocaine?

There are no pharmacological differences between powdered cocaine and crack cocaine. Chemically, powdered and crack cocaine are nearly identical and produce similar results. The primary difference between crack and cocaine is the way users consume them.

Powdered cocaine is snorted, injected, or swallowed, while crack cocaine is smoked. Crack cocaine is cheaper, faster-acting, and lasts for a shorter time than inhaling powdered cocaine. 

Cocaine and crack also differ in appearance. Cocaine is generally found in white powdered form, and crack cocaine is found in a rock formation, typically white, cream, tan, or light brown. 

Crack Vs. Cocaine High

Crack and cocaine produce different types of highs. Injecting or smoking cocaine takes effect immediately, resulting in a more intense but shorter high. On the other hand, snorting cocaine takes longer, but the resulting high also lasts longer.

If you snort cocaine, you'll feel the effects in 1 to 5 minutes before peaking within 20 to 30 minutes. Its effects can last for about 1 to 2 hours.

On the other hand, the effects of smoking or injecting crack happen in less than a minute and peak within 3 to 5 minutes. This lasts for 30 to 60 minutes.

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Why Do People Smoke Crack? 

Crack affects the central nervous system and makes you feel better. This feeling of euphoria and pleasure can lead to repeated use, making it harder to quit.

After using crack, people can experience a comedown or "crash." This can lead to uncomfortable side effects, including:

  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Exhaustion
  • Cravings

The Prevalence of Smoking Crack

Nearly 1.9 million adults in the U.S. are current cocaine users. About a quarter of all cocaine users smoke crack cocaine, and most people who use cocaine do so in its powder form. 

Traditionally, crack use was rare outside the U.S. and the U.K. But it has grown into a significant public health issue worldwide. Cocaine use results in tens of thousands of deaths annually around the world.

What are the Immediate Effects of Smoking Crack?

Immediate effects of smoking crack cocaine include:

  • A short-lived, intense high 
  • Severe depression
  • Edginess
  • Craving for more of the drug
  • Insomnia
  • Low appetite 
  • Increased heart rate
  • Muscle spasms
  • Convulsions
  • Paranoia 
  • Anger
  • Anxiety 

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What are the Short-Term Effects of Smoking Crack?

Short-term physical effects of crack include:

  • Increase in blood pressure and heart rate
  • Dilated pupils
  • Increased energy
  • Increased breathing rate
  • Hyperactivity
  • Decreased appetite

Short-term mental effects of crack include:

  • Euphoric sensations
  • Anxiety 
  • Paranoia

What are the Long-Term Effects of Smoking Crack?

Long-term physical effects of crack cocaine use include:

  • Loss of ability to perform sexually
  • Reproductive damage
  • Irregular heartbeat/increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Violent actions
  • Death

Long-term mental effects of crack cocaine use include:

  • Severe depression
  • Sudden cardiac death
  • Brain seizures
  • Delirium
  • Hallucinations
  • Addiction, even after one try

Dangers of Smoking Crack 

Smoking crack cocaine can cause severe health issues. Crack cocaine use increases the risk of many issues resulting in sudden death.

One of the significant dangers of smoking crack is that there is a strong chance of developing an addiction. This is true, even after one use.

Crack addiction can cause the user to have:

  • Loss of control over their life
  • A willingness to do anything to get more cocaine
  • Financial problems because or their habit
  • A loss of interest in friends, family, and social activities
  • A need to take the drug to feel “normal”

Can You Overdose on Crack?

You can overdose on crack cocaine. The chances of someone overdosing on crack depend on their tolerance to the drug and the purity of the crack. 

The following factors increase the likelihood of a crack overdose: 

  • Not knowing how much of the drug you've consumed
  • Using other substances in addition to cocaine
  • Using administration methods that get the drug into the body faster, such as snorting

Symptoms of Crack Overdose

If you know or suspect that someone you know is using cocaine, it may be helpful to know the most common signs of an overdose. These signs include:

  • Feeling feverish or otherwise hot to the touch
  • Excessive chest pain, especially around the heart
  • Rapid heartbeat even while resting
  • Uncontrollable energy
  • Nausea or weakness
  • Beginning of hallucinations
  • Agitation
  • Black phlegm
  • Itchiness
  • Cold sweats
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Cardiac arrest or stroke
  • Seizures
  • Psychosis

What to Do if Someone Overdoses on Crack?

If you suspect someone else has overdosed, you should do the following:

  • Stay calm
  • Put them in the recovery position (laying on their side)
  • Call an ambulance
  • Hold a damp washcloth on their forehead

Call 911 immediately if you or someone you know is overdosing on crack.

Treatment Options for Crack Cocaine Addiction

Various treatment options and therapy programs can help you recover from crack addiction. These programs will consider your needs and other conditions.

Available treatment programs include:

Ways Crack Cocaine is Used

Crack is nearly always smoked. This method delivers large quantities of the drug to the lungs, producing an immediate and intense euphoric effect. 

Crack is heated and smoked, usually in a small glass pipe. Crack can also be injected or snorted.

Smoking (Freebase)

When you freebase cocaine, the drug reaches the brain faster than when snorted in powder form. This causes the user to feel an intense “rush” followed by a “crash,”,which causes irritability and cravings.

Crack can be smoked or freebased through:

  • A glass pipe or tube
  • A plastic bottle
  • Foil


Crack can be injected directly into a vein. This is referred to as "shooting" cocaine. Injecting cocaine is dangerous because it’s more likely to lead to:

  • Addiction
  • Disease
  • Infection
  • Severe physical and behavioral side effects  


You can snort cocaine by crushing it into a fine powder, dividing it into lines, and snorting it through the nose. Snorting is the most common way to ingest cocaine. Snorting cocaine can damage your nose, especially if not finely ground. 

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Updated on April 3, 2024
9 sources cited
Updated on April 3, 2024
  1. “Crack Cocaine Usage Statistics - Crack Use & Crime Rates - Drug-Free World.” Foundation for a Drug-Free World, DrugFreeWorld, www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/crackcocaine/international-statistics.html 

  2. Crack Cocaine Fast Facts, U.S. Justice Dept., www.justice.gov/archive/ndic/pubs3/3978/index.htm

  3. “Cocaine.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 28 Apr. 2021, https://medlineplus.gov/cocaine.html

  4. “The Global Cocaine Market.” United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, United Nations, www.unodc.org/documents/wdr/WDR_2010/1.3_The_globa_cocaine_market.pdf

  5. “How Many People Use Cocaine?” Drug Policy Alliance, Drug Policy Alliance, https://drugpolicy.org/drug-facts/cocaine/how-many-people-use-cocaine

  6. National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Respiratory Effects.” Drugabuse.gov, National Institute on Drug Abuse, 14 July 2020, www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/health-consequences-drug-misuse/respiratory-effects 

  7. NIDA. "How is cocaine addiction treated?." National Institute on Drug Abuse, 11 Jun. 2020, https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine/what-treatments-are-effective-cocaine-abusers 

  8. “Short- & Long-Term Side Effects of Smoking Crack Cocaine - Drug-Free World.” Foundation for a Drug-Free World, Foundation for a Drug-Free World, www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/crackcocaine/effects-of-crack-cocaine.html 

  9. “What Is the Difference between Cocaine and Crack?” Drug Policy Alliance, Drug Policy Alliance, https://drugpolicy.org/drug-facts/cocaine/difference-crack

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