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Home · Addictions Treated · Crack Cocaine

Crack Cocaine

Some addictive drugs have variations that are just as bad and as widely used as the original form. In some cases, those variations are far worse than the original drug. Thus, they are viewed and approached separately. Crack cocaine, or just crack, is one such drug that has that distinction.

What is Crack Cocaine?

Crack is a variation of cocaine that is considered to have the highest potency and addictiveness of all cocaine forms. Like cocaine, it is illegal without any legitimate purpose, medical or otherwise, in the U.S. It is not naturally occurring and can only be produced by being synthesized from regular cocaine and other ingredients. Some users will buy regular powdered cocaine and make their own crack for personal use, but already-made crack can be acquired. Those that do produce crack cocaine for distribution in the U.S. usually do so within the country using cocaine that is smuggled in from Mexico and Central America.

One of the newer forms of cocaine, crack was made and came into usage in the 1980s. By the middle of the decade, it had spread throughout the country to the point that it was deemed an epidemic. Its popularity during this time was likely due to the fact that crack was easy and cheap for drug dealers to produce, and it was easy to use. Today, the demand for crack isn’t as high as it was during the crack epidemic of the 1980s—other illicit drugs have flooded the market since—but it is still a problem.

Crack’s visual appearance is similar to jagged rocks or crystals, but it can be closer to a brittle chunk of plastic when in a purer state. They are often whitish, but they can also be light yellow or even pinkish in color. It may be slightly opaque or solid. While crack rocks can be crushed into a powdered form for use, it isn’t purchased or sold as such and will remain in the crystal rock form.

While most simply refer to crack cocaine as crack, it has been called by other street names. These include base, gravel, hail, cloud nine, and dip. If combined with other drugs, like amphetamines, heroin, and marijuana, it can be given names like croack, moon rock, and caviar, respectively.

Effects of Use

Crack is frequently used by being heated and then smoked, which causes it to crackle (hence the name). The effects come in two parts: a high and a crash. The high is an intense, but short, sensation of euphoria and confidence brought on by a massive release of dopamine in the brain. Users may also have a burst of energy and alertness. When the crash hits, it can be as equally intense, causing feelings of paranoia and depression, and may seem on edge until the crash passes. Throughout the entire experience, the user will often have intense cravings for more crack—which often contributes significantly to addiction.

The drug has been known to interfere with a person’s sleep schedule and dietary habits, mostly because those are things that they’re not thinking of when under the influence of crack. They are also likely to experience physical changes like an increased heart rate and respiratory functions, muscle cramping, pupil dilation, and a higher body temperature. They may have problems breathing, like coughing, from smoking. Emotional changes such as hostility, agitation, and anxiety are also not uncommon.

Crack can also be taken orally, with the user placing a piece of crack on their tongue and allowing it to dissolve. In such an instance, it has anesthetic properties, and the user may find that their tongue, mouth, and lips are numbed. This usually accompanies the above symptoms.

Long-Term Effects

From consuming high amounts for prolonged periods of time, crack users often face several long-term effects. The drug itself is a stimulant, and its ability to raise cardiopulmonary functions can cause the user to have a heart attack, seizures, stroke, or a complete failure of respiratory functions. Even if none of these occur, crack users often have persistent heart and lung problems. Damage to the liver and kidneys are also common long-term effects of crack cocaine use. Changes to a person’s behavior and mental state are also possible.

There are also two conditions that develop from smoking crack: crack lips and crack lungs. The pipes and other paraphernalia used to heat and smoke crack are often still very hot when the user brings them to their mouth. This causes them to regularly burn and blister their lips, fingers, and tongue. Items that have been turned into pipes, like plastic tubes, can also lead to cuts on top of crack lip. Crack lung is the accumulation of lung damage from smoking crack, which can cause breathing problems, infections, and hemoptysis (coughing up blood).

As there is the possibility of other substances being mixed with crack cocaine, either another drug when using it or in its production, additional long-term effects and damage are possible. Exposure to infections and diseases while using crack may also lead to long-term effects.


Any amount of crack can cause an overdose, due to its high potency and the likelihood that it is mixed with other dangerous substances. Binges, where the user repeatedly takes large amounts of a substance in a short amount of time, can also lead to an overdose. The initial effects of crack use may be of a higher intensity. Overdosing users may have a full-on psychological episode, with intense paranoia and hallucinations. They may become violent, to themselves and others, and exhibit erratic behavior. Coma and death are also possible in a crack overdose.

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