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Cocaine: Crack vs Coke

Both cocaine and crack cocaine are very addictive and commonly-abused drugs. Cocaine is derived from the coca plant and is found in both powder and rock forms. The powdered form of the drug is referred to as cocaine or coke, while the rock form is referred to as crack. While both substances have similarities; there are also important differences between these drugs.

Chemical Differences

Cocaine is a hydrochloride salt in its powdered form, and crack cocaine is formed from powdered cocaine by combining it with water and baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate and boiling the mixture until it turns solid. When the combination is cooled, it is broken into tinier pieces, and then these pieces are sold as crack. These small “crack rocks” are generally white, cream, tan, or light brown.

Crack is the most potent form of cocaine; it is also the riskiest. Crack cocaine contains between 75%-100% pure cocaine, far stronger and more potent than regular cocaine.

Method of Use

Crack and cocaine also differ in the way in which they are used. Cocaine is snorted, while crack is smoked. The drug is referred to as crack because of the crackling sound that is produced when the drug is heated and then smoked, according to the Center for Substance Abuse Research.

Intensity and Addictiveness

Another distinction between crack and cocaine is the way the user experiences a high from the substance. The intensity and duration of the effects can be explained by the way the drug is taken. When cocaine is injected or smoked, the euphoric feeling from the substance is more intense, with a higher but shorter feeling of pleasure. These powerful effects make crack very addictive.

When cocaine is snorted, it takes longer for the effects to kick in (about five minutes), but the high lasts longer (about thirty minutes). The effects of snorted cocaine dissipate within one or two hours. In contrast, the effects of smoking crack are felt in under a minute, with the climax occurring within five minutes after smoking and lasting an hour at most. If cocaine is injected, the effects begin, peak, and last for about as long as crack. Injection is not as common as the other methods of cocaine consumption, but it is used by some.

The intensity of the crack high contributes to the severity of its addictiveness. In addition, crack is highly concentrated, making it incredibly addictive. The addictive power of crack makes it possible for a person to become addicted to the drug after just one use.

Price and Accessibility

The price of each substance also differentiates crack and cocaine. Cocaine is expensive to buy directly, so crack is a cheaper alternative. As a result, crack production makes consuming cocaine more accessible and affordable to users of all classes. As a less expensive alternative, crack became more popular than coke to lower socioeconomic demographics. Crack became more prominent in low-income and minority communities and created a social divide in who ingested this hazardous drug. By the 1980s, there was a devastating epidemic of crack use in these communities.

Crack is also sold at prices low enough that even teenagers can afford to buy it, at least at first, until the money runs out. When a user is addicted enough, their expenses increase in direct proportion to the increasing amount they need to satisfy their addiction.

Consequently, there is a connotation with coke and wealth and a belief that coke is associated with more affluent drug users, whereas crack use is associated with those in lower-income classes and underserved communities. However, despite this widespread belief, information from the National Institute on Drug Abuse showed that in 1991, the majority of crack users were, in fact, Caucasian.

Users who want a stronger high are often drawn to crack over coke. Usually, individuals who are addicted to crack begin by snorting coke but transition to crack use when their habitual cocaine use becomes too expensive to maintain. According to the National Study on Drug Use and Health, in 2008, there were 1.9 million cocaine users, of which 359,000 used crack.

Effects on the Body

The side effects of crack vary because of the uncertain purity of the cocaine used to manufacture it. This is important to note because it amplifies the risk and unpredictability of the drug.

The impact of crack on the body is similar to cocaine, even though crack’s effects can be more intense. The side effects of crack and coke include:

  • Euphoria
  • Heightened alertness
  • Dilated pupils
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased heart rate
  • Intense cravings

Smoking crack causes these effects to occur more quickly and more intensely than cocaine because crack is absorbed through the membranes of the lungs, entering the bloodstream and the brain within ten to fifteen seconds. As a result, the risk of overdosing on crack is dangerously high. Overdosing from crack could lead to convulsions, coma, and death. Other symptoms of crack overdose are rapid heart rate and hyperventilation. The long-term effects of crack use include mood changes and instability, irritability, restlessness, depression, anxiety, paranoia, and hallucinations.

When a substance is highly addictive, it is likely that the addicted individual will suffer from withdrawal symptoms. Since both crack and cocaine are highly addictive, issues with withdrawal are common. Symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Agitation
  • Intense cravings
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Muscle pain
  • Suicidal thoughts

If you suspect you or a loved one has developed an addiction to cocaine or crack there is hope. At Boardwalk Recovery Center, we treat individuals with many different “drugs of choice” and customize our addiction treatment programs to each person’s unique needs. Contact us today to find out how we can help put you on the path to long-term recovery. At Boardwalk Recovery, we are here to help.

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