What is the Difference Between Crack and Cocaine?

What is Crack?

What is the Difference Between Crack and Cocaine?

Crack cocaine or better known as “crack” is the crystal form of cocaine, which is typically in a powder form. It can be in the form of crystals or solid rocks and has different colors varying from a yellow paste to white or pale rose.

Crack is the most potent form of cocaine, and it is the riskiest. Crack is somewhere between 75-100% pure and is much stronger than regular cocaine. It is typically heated and then smoked and can make a cracking sound once it is heated, giving it its’ name. When someone smokes crack it goes straight to the brain, causing a very intense reaction and high that lasts only about 15 minutes or so. Substances that are smoked will typically be more addictive, making crack more often misused and someone can become addicted after their first time trying it.

Side Effects of Crack

People that use crack have signs and symptoms that would indicate they are using. Some of the most common side effects are:

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

Dangers of Crack Cocaine

The biggest concern of using crack cocaine is the potential and likelihood for addiction. When someone uses crack there is an immediate release of excess dopamine in the brain which triggers the reward response. This means that even after the first time using someone’s brain will begin the “rewiring” process in order to maintain the high feeling obtained from crack.

“According to a survey conducted in 2010, children as young as 13 have been exposed to the drug. In fact, 23 percent of eighth-graders, 32 percent of tenth graders, and 45 percent of twelfth graders reported that crack was “fairly easy” or “very easy” to obtain. Considering that one hit can spark a lifelong addiction, these numbers help illuminate the severity of the issue.”

What is Cocaine

Cocaine is a highly addictive substance that stimulates the brain and creates an alertness, excess of energy and attention. It is illegal in the United States and derived from the Coca plant which is native to South America. There are other names that people use to refer to cocaine such as:

  • Coke
  • Crack
  • Blow
  • Rock
  • Snow

Types of Cocaine

Most commonly, cocaine is in the form of a powder and snorted, but it can also be in rock-like crystals that are typically heated up and inhaled or smoked. The drug works by sending high levels of dopamine to the brain that trigger pleasure. The buildup of dopamine causes the body to have intense feelings of alertness and energy.

Some of the short-term side effects of cocaine include:

  • Extreme sensitivity to touch, sound, and sight
  • Decreased appetite
  • Paranoid feeling
  • Anger/irritability
  • Intense happiness

Health Effects of Cocaine

There are many health consequences that can happen upon using crack and cocaine. Some of the health problems can include:

How Crack and Cocaine are Different

Cocaine is in a powdered form and made from hydrochloride salt. Crack is derived from a powdered cocaine, mixed with water and another substance (usually baking soda) and then boiled making it into a solid form. This process makes crack into a crystal like solid broken into smaller pieces like rocks.

“The name crack derives from the crackling sound that is produced when the drug is heated and then smoked, according to the Center for Substance Abuse Research. Since crack is so highly concentrated, it is extremely addictive. While not common, it’s possible for a person to become addicted to crack after just one use.”

Crack and Cocaine are different in their appearance; crack being in a solid, rock form and cocaine being in a powder substance. Crack and cocaine are also used in a different way, crack typically being smoked, and cocaine being snorted.

Crack and Cocaine Addiction

Because crack is so potent, there is a high potential for overdose and possible death even after one use. An overdose typically presents as dilated pupils and sweating along with some other symptoms such as:

  1. Seizures
  2. Anxiety
  3. Rapid heart rate
  4. Nausea
  5. Chest aches
  6. Illusions or hallucinations
  7. stroke

“After an addiction to crack develops, the user needs more of the drug to feel its effects and will experience symptoms of withdrawal if they attempt to quit.”

The majority of people who use crack are using it because they are already addicted to cocaine and have more opportunities to use crack due to the accessibility and affordability of it. Cocaine has been known to be called the “rich man’s drug” and in contrast crack is fairly cheap. This allows most individuals, even those in vulnerable circumstances to have the opportunity to purchase crack. From Addiction Center, “But as addicts need more of the drug to perpetuate their high, a crack addiction can spiral into a habit that costs between hundreds and thousands of dollars a week to maintain.”

Treatment for Crack and Cocaine Addiction

In a 2013 study, it was discovered that 6 percent of the admissions patients in treatment were using cocaine. Most people in addiction treatment for cocaine are polydrug users, meaning they take additional substances other than cocaine.

Treatment for cocaine should address the substance misuse problem itself as well as other co-occurring mental health disorders that could be contributing to their addiction problem.

Types of Treatment for Cocaine Addiction

Behavioral Therapy for Cocaine Addiction

There are many behavioral therapy techniques that have been proven to be a successful strategy for treating cocaine addiction. Often, behavioral therapies are the only treatment options for drug addiction and are best used when they are in conjunction with pharmacological treatments.

One of the most common behavioral treatment strategies is contingency management or referred to as “motivational incentives.” This strategy uses a voucher or prize-based system that rewards people who continually stop using cocaine or other drugs.

Another form of treatment is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) which helps in preventing relapse. This strategy helps a person determine the situations in which they are most likely to use, avoid those situations and develop better coping strategies for those situations.

Medications for Cocaine Treatment

There are currently no medications that can be used to treat cocaine addiction. There is lots of research being done6 to try and develop either a medication or vaccine to help with underlying causes for addiction and withdrawal symptoms upon detoxification to help with recovering from cocaine addiction.

From drugabuse.gov, “Researchers are currently testing medications that act at the dopamine D3 receptor, a subtype of dopamine receptor that is abundant in the emotion and reward centers of the brain.”

Researchers are working on developing medical interventions to address the problems that arise during cocaine overdose.

Getting Help for Cocaine and Crack Addiction

The first step in finding treatment for cocaine and crack addiction is understanding that you may have a problem and seeking out help. There are treatment centers and recovery programs available to help a person find the best strategies to overcome their addiction either in a residential treatment center, intensive outpatient program or outpatient program.

If you are someone you know is experiencing symptoms of cocaine or crack addiction, help is available. Reach out to someone right away to find a treatment center near you.


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