What Is Crack Cocaine?
Crack cocaine is a processed form of cocaine that can be smoked, making it highly addictive and often deadly. Crack cocaine is more potent than powdered cocaine and the most addictive form of cocaine because it is ingested via smoking rather than snorting.
The half-life of crack cocaine is only 30 minutes, meaning it is an incredibly fast-acting drug. In comparison, snorting powdered cocaine has a half-life of 1-3 hours.
Cocaine is derived from the South American coca plant, whereas crack is cocaine that has been processed with water and ammonia or baking soda to achieve a freebase form that can be smoked. Crack cocaine gets the name from the sound it makes when it is smoked.
Cocaine use of any kind is illegal in the United States.
Crack Cocaine Side Effects
Since crack is smoked rather than snorted, its effects on the body are more intense and immediate than the effects of cocaine use.
Short-Term Effects of Crack Cocaine Use
- Intense euphoria
- Mood swings
- Dilated pupils
- Feeling energetic/alert
- Dry mouth
- Reduced appetite
- Increased body temperature
- Rapid or increased heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Cravings for more after the effects of the drug have worn off
Several of the short-term effects of crack abuse can lead to heart attack or stroke. Additionally, very high doses of crack cocaine can cause symptoms similar to amphetamine poisoning. The risk for overdose from crack is very high due to how rapidly it affects the body.
Both amphetamine poisoning and crack overdose cause these similar symptoms:
- Extreme elevated blood pressure
- Rapid heart rate
- Chest pain
- Extreme anxiety and agitation
- Possible seizures
Long-Term Effects of Crack Cocaine Use
- Psychotic behavior
- Persistent coughing
- Breathing issues
- Lung damage
- Weight loss
- Financial difficulty
Long-term cocaine use can also trigger depression and suicidal thoughts, especially if the user already struggles with mental health to begin with.
Both short- and long-term crack use can lead to the development of substance use disorder. However, the availability of addiction centers throughout the US makes it possible to recover from this drug addiction and return to a normal, healthy life.
Crack Cocaine Abuse and Addiction
Smoking crack delivers an intense but very short high which begins immediately after the inhalation, and dissipates within seconds or minutes, depending on how much of it is taken. According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, crack cocaine “is the most addictive type of cocaine because it enters the brain so rapidly” as a result of inhaling it (smoking).
Notably, the fastest way to get a drug into the brain is inhalation—even faster than IV injection. This is because of the large surface area of the lungs in connection to the body’s vascular system.
Signs of crack cocaine addiction include:
- Having no regard for safety or survival
- Losing all desire for food/water
- No longer caring about appearance
- Neglecting responsibilities at home/work/school
- Cravings for the drug
- Inability to stop using the drug
Some crack users take other drugs, such as alcohol and heroin, to counteract the effects of crack addiction. This is NOT an effective way to deal with this addiction and will actually increase your potential for overdose.
Instead, there are treatment centers and support groups throughout the US to help you or your loved one tackle their drug use and leave crack cocaine behind for good.
Crack Cocaine Withdrawal
When someone stops using crack cocaine without tapering through medical support, they will often experience withdrawal symptoms. Factors such as the length of time crack was used, how much was consumed, whether other drugs were involved, and the individual’s overall health and metabolism will have a unique impact on the withdrawal symptoms experienced.
The most common withdrawal symptom associated with crack cocaine withdrawal is experiencing extreme cravings for the drug. Other withdrawal symptoms associated with crack cocaine withdrawal may include:
- Irritability or agitation
- Increased appetite
- Unpleasant dreams
Crack Cocaine Overdose
Crack generates a very powerful, short-lasting high. As a result, many users smoke crack in repeated binges over a short period to sustain a high. This increases the risk of an overdose.
Because crack acts so rapidly, vaping this drug can lead to acute overdose—especially if you have taken another substance that slows down your metabolism, such as heroin or alcohol.
An overdose of crack cocaine is likely to cause the same symptoms as an overdose of traditional cocaine. However, the onset of these symptoms may be much faster in the case of crack.
Overdose symptoms include:
- Chest pain
- Increased heart rate
- Extremely elevated blood pressure
- Hallucinations and paranoia
- Formication (sensation of insects crawling on or under the skin)
If you suspect an overdose of crack cocaine, call 911 immediately and stay with the victim until help arrives. Use a cold compress in the event of a fever. If a seizure occurs, clear the surrounding area of any sharp objects and roll the person onto their side to help facilitate breathing.
Crack Cocaine Addiction Treatment
Crack cocaine addiction treatment involves many different methods depending on the severity of the addiction. These treatment options can include medications, psychological counseling, or a combination of the two. Recovery from crack abuse is possible, but it depends on many factors including the patient’s commitment to recovery.
If you or a loved one need help to overcome a crack cocaine addiction, there are a range of treatment options available.
Crack Cocaine Detox
The first step to treating crack addiction is to get the drug out of your system, also known as detoxification. Detoxing from crack cocaine can have very serious side effects without appropriate medical supervision. It is strongly recommended to seek the guidance of a health professional to safely detox.
Many times the detox process will occur at a treatment facility or rehab center, depending on your level of addiction. During this phase, your vitals will be monitored to ensure your safety. Detox from crack cocaine can also be managed on an outpatient basis with an addictions specialist.
Crack Cocaine Treatment Programs
A comprehensive treatment program delivers medical care designed to address the physical nature of the addiction, individual counseling and therapy to address the psychological component, and group counseling sessions to encourage interaction, build trust, and prevent the feeling of isolation during the recovery process.
Inpatient Rehab Program
An inpatient rehab program provides a safe, comfortable and drug-free residential setting to help you work on the issues that keep you from achieving long-term sobriety. This program typically lasts between 30 to 90 days.
Partial Hospitalization Program
Alternatively, a partial hospitalization program provides you with outpatient care for your crack addiction, allowing you to leave the facility for work and other obligations.
Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) and Additional Therapies
Additional support such as an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) or the Matrix Model may be better suited for someone with a minor addiction, or as part of your ongoing treatment after initial rehab is completed.
The good news is that there are many treatment options available to recover from crack addiction, which allows you and your doctor to tailor your recovery solution to your individual needs.
Crack Cocaine Statistics
Crack cocaine first appeared in the early 1980s as a common street drug that was both potent and inexpensive. By 1987, the ER visits had doubled year over year and crack was available in all but four states in the U.S., making crack easy to come by and extremely dangerous.
At present, crack cocaine statistics are included alongside all cocaine statistics. The National Center for Drug Abuse reported in 2017 that 1 out of 5 drug overdose deaths were linked to cocaine.
Statistically, the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse indicates that people of all ages use crack cocaine, and an estimated 6.2 million US residents (12 and up) reported using crack at least once in their lifetime.
Offering Hope for a New Tomorrow
There is no denying the gravity of addiction. Watching someone you love deteriorate emotionally and physically because of their crack addiction can be heart-wrenching.
Addiction treatment often requires support while family members need help understanding how to alter their routine to help avoid any triggers which could lead to relapse. We understand the recovery process for your loved one can be complicated for you as well. There are support groups available to you as well as to your loved one to help both of you overcome the negative impact that addiction has had on your family.
Crack Cocaine FAQs
What does crack cocaine look like?
Crack rocks—tiny, off-white rocks that resemble pieces of hard candy with jagged edges. It is generally sold as “rocks” because it can be smoked, which lets users get high faster than if they had to first inject or ingest it.
How is crack cocaine abused?
Crack is typically smoked, which delivers rapid effects to the brain and lungs. Crack is often smoked on its own (freebasing), but drug users have also sprinkled it into marijuana or tobacco before smoking it together.
Is crack cocaine illegal?
Yes. Crack cocaine is illegal in the United States, where it is classified under the Controlled Substances Act as a Schedule II drug.
What is the difference between "crack" and "coke"?
Coke usually refers to the powdered form of cocaine, which is often ingested by snorting. Crack cocaine is a different substance entirely and is made by mixing powdered cocaine with baking soda or ammonia and water to form a rock. This rock is then smoked to achieve a high. Both forms of cocaine are illegal and present a high risk for developing addiction, even after minimal use.