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What is Crack Cocaine?

Crack cocaine is a form of cocaine that is processed to be smoked. Crack cocaine appears as small pieces or shavings of soap but has a rigid, sharp feel. Users smoke crack cocaine by heating it in a glass pipe or mix it into a marijuana “joint” or a tobacco cigarette.

Crack is cooked cocaine powder that is mixed with baking soda, and broken into small rocks. Crack got its name because it crackles when it is heated and smoked.

Street names for crack cocaine include atari, base, cloud, hubba, pony, rock, and yeyo.

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 hence, 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 the high 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 that is typically white, cream, tan, or light brown. 

Crack and cocaine also produce a different type of high. When someone injects or smokes cocaine, the drug takes effect more quickly, resulting in a more intense but shorter high. When someone snorts cocaine, it takes longer to feel its effects, but the resulting high lasts longer.

These two forms of cocaine produce very different effects in the body, related primarily to how users take them. When someone snorts cocaine, its effects occur in about 1-5 minutes; they peak within 20-30 minutes, and they dissipate within 1-2 hours. 

The results of crack take hold in under a minute, peak in 3-5 minutes, and last 30-60 minutes. If someone injects cocaine, however, the effects begin, peak, and last for about as long as crack.

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 a person smokes freebase cocaine, the drug reaches the brain more faster than when snorted in powder form. This causes the user to feel an intense “rush” followed by a “crash” that can produce an intense craving for more of the drug. Drug users can smoke crack or freebase through a glass pipe, tube, plastic bottle, or foil.

Injecting

It is possible to inject cocaine, referred to as “shooting” cocaine. Injecting cocaine is dangerous because it’s more likely to lead to addiction, disease, and severe physical and behavioral side effects.  

One study found that those who injected cocaine were more likely to become addicted. They also used the drug more frequently and in more significant amounts than people who snorted or smoked cocaine. People who inject crack cocaine are also at an increased risk of developing a hepatitis c infection and abscesses. 

Snorting

Most people snort cocaine – they crush it into a fine powder, divide it into lines and snort it through the nose. Snorting is the most common way to ingest cocaine. Snorting cocaine can damage your nose, especially if it is not ground finely. 

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Why Do People Smoke Crack? 

Crack can make people feel better for a while. The more often people use crack, the more they crave it, and the harder it is to control their use.

After using crack, people come down or “crash.” The crash makes people feel irritable, edgy and exhausted. When people smoke crack often, and over a long period, and then suddenly stop, they will experience intense cravings that make them want to use again. These cravings may continue for a long time after they stop using. 

The Prevalence of Smoking Crack

Nearly 1.9 million adults in the United States 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 United States of America and the United Kingdom, 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?

The 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 

What are the Short-Term Effects of Smoking Crack?

The short-term physical effects of crack include:

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

The short-term mental effects of crack include:

  • Euphoric sensations
  • Anxiety 
  • Paranoia

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What are the Long-Term Effects of Smoking Crack?

The 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

The 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 that can result in sudden death.

Crack users often develop cracked and blistered lips, known as “crack lip,” from users holding a scorching crack pipe against their lips.

One of the significant dangers of smoking crack is that there is a strong chance of developing an addiction, 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 her 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 depends on their tolerance to the drug and the purity of the crack. 

The following factors increase the likelihood of a crack overdose: 

  • The user being unaware of how much of the drug they’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:

  • 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

If you suspect someone 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

Treatment Options for Crack Cocaine Addiction

Treatment options for crack addiction include inpatient, outpatient, detox, and partial hospitalization programs. Types of addiction treatment include group or individual counseling, medication, and other therapies under health care professionals’ supervision.

The proper treatment program will consider the patient’s individual needs, including coexisting physical and mental health disorders and other substance use.

If you or a loved one struggle with substance use, contact a drug addiction specialist today to find the proper addiction treatment for you.

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Resources

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“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 

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

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

“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

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

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 

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

“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 

“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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