What Is Crack Cocaine?

Published on

Crack cocaine is a smokable form of cocaine that is highly addictive. It also comes with its own side effects, in addition to sharing risks with other forms of cocaine abuse.

Crack Cocaine

Crack cocaine is a smokable form of white powder cocaine. It is usually much cheaper and easier to obtain than powder cocaine.

Most commonly referred to simply as “crack”, this type of cocaine got its name from the cracking sound that it makes when burned.

Both cocaine and crack cocaine are known for their euphoric effects. The effects from the use of crack cocaine, however, have a faster onset and are more short-lived.

Because of its short but intense effects, people can quickly build up a tolerance to it as larger amounts of crack are needed in order to achieve the same effects.

How Crack Cocaine Is Made

In order to make crack cocaine, powder cocaine hydrochloride must first be mixed with water and either baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) or ammonia.

This solution is then boiled down, removing hydrochloride from the cocaine powder form and leaving the solid form of crack cocaine in its place.

This process can also be thought of as reducing cocaine to its base form, which is why this type of cocaine is sometimes called “freebase”.

The Difference Between Crack And Powdered Cocaine

The main difference between crack and powdered cocaine is in how they are made. This determines their form and how they can be used.

Ways People Use Crack Vs. Powdered Cocaine

Powdered cocaine is most commonly snorted, meaning inhaled through the nose. This form of cocaine is not smokable.

Crack cocaine, on the other hand, is most commonly smoked. Crack can also be crushed up and snorted, although this route of cocaine administration is less common.

Both powder cocaine and crack cocaine can be dissolved into liquid form and injected directly into a vein or muscle or through the rectum.

Powder cocaine is soluble in water, while crack cocaine has to be dissolved in a slightly acidic solution first in order to be made into a form that is injectable.

Physical Characteristics

Powder cocaine and crack cocaine are easy to tell apart because they have very different physical characteristics.

In its original form, powder cocaine is usually white or off-white in color. It has a naturally sweet and floral smell and a tart and bitter taste.

Crack, on the other hand, comes in small, irregular-shaped crystals or rocks that are usually opaque and off-white to yellow in color. Crack cocaine has a very chemical smell.

Because of its crystal-like appearance, crack cocaine has nicknames like candy, chalk, nuggets, and sleet.

What Risks Come With Crack Cocaine Abuse?

Crack cocaine is no more dangerous than powder cocaine, however, they are both very dangerous and addictive substances.

The risks of crack cocaine abuse increase when crack is combined with other illicit drug use, whether another stimulant such as methamphetamine or a depressant such as opioids.

Health risks associated with crack cocaine abuse include:

  • increased heart rate
  • high blood pressure
  • constricted blood vessels
  • agitation
  • depression
  • psychosis
  • muscle pain
  • suicidal thoughts
  • heart attack
  • stroke
  • overdose death

In legal terms, it can be riskier to smoke or be found in possession of crack cocaine, which tends to be associated with heavier prison sentences and longer minimum sentences.

Are Side Effects Of Crack Cocaine Use Different From Other Forms Of Cocaine?

Side effects from smoking crack and using cocaine are generally the same and can include disturbed sleep, loss of appetite, nausea, and increased heart rate and rate of breathing.

Potential health problems that are specifically associated with smoking crack cocaine as opposed to other methods of ingestion are the development of lung damage or a worsening of asthma.

Crack cocaine use can also be more dangerous because of the chemicals involved and potential additives, although powder cocaine may have additives as well.

What Are The Treatment Options For Crack Cocaine Addiction?

An addiction to crack cocaine can be difficult to overcome without the help of health care professionals.

It is often beneficial to treat a person’s co-occurring mental health disorders alongside their addiction in order to achieve long-term recovery.

Treatment programs for substance use and drug addiction can include:

  • medical detox
  • dual diagnosis treatment
  • behavioral therapy
  • relapse prevention support
  • group therapy
  • 12-step programs
  • holistic therapies
  • case management
  • harm reduction support

Find A Substance Abuse Treatment Center Today

If you or someone you love is living with an addiction to crack cocaine, please do not hesitate to reach out to our helpline.

We can help you get started at a professional treatment facility as soon as you are ready, and answer any questions that you have about drug use or substance abuse in the meantime.


Canton, Massachusetts

Bedrock Recovery Center


Levels of Care:

Payment Options: Insurance Accepted, Self Pay

View Center Profile

Plymouth, Massachusetts

Ohio Recovery Center


Levels of Care:

Payment Options: Insurance Accepted, Self Pay

View Center Profile
Spring Hill Recovery Center


Detox Rehabs Logo