Cocaine and Crack

What is Cocaine

Cocaine is an extremely addictive substance that is comprised of coca leaves (Erythroxylon coca), derived primarily from South America. The main chemical in cocaine is cocaine hydrochloride and was isolated from the plant more than 100 years ago.

“In the early 1900s, purified cocaine was the main active ingredient in many tonics and elixirs developed to treat a wide variety of illnesses and was even an ingredient in the early formulations of Coca-Cola”

How is Cocaine Used?

Most typically, cocaine is either ingested, inhaled, smoked or injected into a person’s body. When the drug is mixed with water and injected, it is released directly into the bloodstream and the effects can be more intense.

“When people smoke cocaine (inhalation), they inhale its vapor or smoke into the lungs, where absorption into the bloodstream is almost as rapid as by injection. This fast-euphoric effect is one of the reasons that crack became enormously popular in the mid-1980s”

What is Crack

Cocaine and Crack

When cocaine is mixed with water and baking soda, it creates the substance “crack.” The name crack comes from the crackling sound it makes when it is heated and smoked. Because of the potency of crack, it is extremely addictive and can be dangerous to use. It is possible that someone will become addicted to it after just one time using it.

Symptoms of Crack or Cocaine Use

  • Frequent disappearances (to get high)
  • Cracked or blistered lips from smoking out of a hot pipe
  • Dilated pupils
  • Burns on fingers
  • Increased breathing rate
  • Uncharacteristic irresponsibility
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Restlessness

Difference Between Crack and Cocaine

Cocaine and crack differ in their appearance. Cocaine is usually in a white powder form and crack is in the form of a rock-like substance and is white, tan, brown or cream colored. They are also different in how someone uses them. Cocaine is typically snorted, and crack is smoked by taking the powder substance and mixing it with water and baking soda.

Cocaine and crack are also produced in different ways. “The intensity and duration of the high largely relate to how the drug is taken, per the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Generally, when cocaine is injected or smoked, the drug takes effect more quickly, resulting in a more intense but shorter high. When cocaine is snorted, it takes longer to feel its effects but the resulting high lasts longer.”

When crack or cocaine are used, they produce different results in the body, mainly having to do with how they are administered and taken. The effects of cocaine happen within 1-5 minutes of use and will peak somewhere between 20-30 minutes. It will release from the body within 1-2 hours of using. When someone uses crack the effects are almost immediate, under a minute, peaking within 3-5 minutes and can last anywhere from 30-60 minutes. If cocaine is injected it can have similar peak times as crack, but that is not the most typical form that people use it, it is most commonly ingested.

Cocaine and Crack Treatment

Treatment for cocaine and crack will include behavioral counseling at either an inpatient or outpatient treatment center or a 12-step program. The first step in any treatment circumstance will be for the person to go through ‘detoxification’ or detox. Detox is when the person stops using a drug, causing uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms to occur.

“Treatment programs are run by therapists and physicians who personalize recovery based on each patient’s needs. Many programs use a variety of therapeutic techniques, including individual psychotherapy, psychoeducational groups, process groups, support groups, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational Interviewing, dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT).”

These types of therapy will help the patient to understand the underlying issue and problem that caused them to use drugs in the first place. It also allows them to develop healthier coping strategies for the future so that they can maintain a healthier lifestyle and remain sober and clean.

Withdrawal from Crack and Cocaine

  • Anxiety
  • Exhaustion
  • Changes in mood
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Dreams that are unpleasant

Delayed withdrawal symptoms could include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation or shaking
  • Anger or emotional outbursts
  • Inability to feel pleasure
  • Lack of motivation
  • Cravings
  • trouble sleeping

Types of Treatment

According to a 2013 study, around 6% of people that were admitted to a drug treatment program were cocaine users. “The majority of individuals (68 percent in 2013) who seek treatment for cocaine use smoke crack and are likely to be polydrug users, meaning they use more than one substance.”

Treatment for cocaine and crack use needs to be individualized for each person who is seeking treatment. Not everyone will benefit from the same type of treatment depending on their circumstances. Below are listed some of the typical methods used to treat cocaine and crack use:

Behavioral Interventions

In both residential and outpatient treatment programs, behavioral treatments have been known to be effective in treating cocaine addiction. Contingency Management (CM) is a voucher-based prize system that rewards its’ patients for remaining clean from drugs. Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is effective in treating relapse of cocaine use. This type of therapy helps the patient recognize situations in which they would typically have an urge to use drugs and helps them develop critical skills that prevent them from using and continue to remain abstinent for a long-term period of time.

Drug Replacement Therapy

Currently, there are no approved medications used to treat cocaine addiction from the Food and Drug Administration. Some prescriptions including Disulfiram has been known to reduce cocaine use in controlled clinical trials. Also, there has been a cocaine vaccine developed to reduce the risk of relapse.

Sober Living facility or home

After treatment is complete, a person may not feel comfortable going right back to their home or “normal life.” There is a high risk for relapse right after treatment and it can be helpful for a person to live in a sober living facility to reduce the chances of relapse. This type of facility helps to foster healthy coping strategies and continue the methods that were learned while they were in treatment.

Narcotics Anonymous

Narcotics Anonymous or known as “NA” refers to a 12-step program where people meet on a regular basis to help support each other in recovery and remaining drug-free. The 12-step program provides tools to people going through recovery that will help them to stay clean.

“We try to share our experience, strength and hope in a way that demonstrates that recovery is available in Narcotics Anonymous. ~It Woks How & Why/Tradition One, pg. 132”

The goal of NA is to support people who are trying to quit using drugs by providing empathy and connection in a safe environment. It also helps to be surrounded by others that have been through a similar situation as you.

“An atmosphere of love and care in our meetings helps comfortable and safe. ~It Woks How & Why/Tradition One”

If you or someone you know is suffering from a drug addiction problem, it’s important to get help right away. There are treatment options available near you that can help with the symptoms associated with a drug addiction problem.


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