Cocaine is an oft-abused drug and found in both powder and rock forms. The powdered form of cocaine is usually referred to as cocaine or coke, and the rock-like form is more often referred to as crack cocaine or “crack.”
What’s the Difference Between Crack and Cocaine?
As a powder, cocaine is hydrochloride salt. Crack, however, is derived from powdered cocaine by mixing it with water and another substance, frequently baking soda (sodium bicarbonate). After the baking soda and cocaine are mixed, the compound is boiled, and formed into a solid substance. It is then cooled and broken into smaller sections, and these pieces are sold on the street as crack.
The name “crack” is based on the crackling sound that is produced when the drug is heated and smoked. Because crack is so concentrated, it is very addictive and has a high potential for abuse.
Cocaine and crack differ markedly in appearance. Cocaine is commonly found on the street as a white powder, and crack is a rock-like form that can vary in color from white to tan or light brown. Crack and cocaine are also different in the way in which they are used—while cocaine is usually snorted, crack is most often smoked, though it may also be injected.
Another difference between the substances is the high that is experienced. The magnitude and duration of the high are strongly related to how the drug is administered. Generally, when cocaine is smoked or injected, the drug takes effect more rapidly, resulting in a more intense but brief high. When cocaine is snorted, it takes a little bit longer to feel its effects, but the high that is produced lasts longer.
When cocaine is snorted, effects onset in under five minutes, peak within 20-30 minutes, and they will have dissipated in about an hour. However, the effects of crack can begin in under a minute, peak in 3-5 minutes, and last 30-60 minutes—if powdered cocaine is injected, a similar schedule may follow.
Crack vs. Cocaine Use
Cocaine is relatively expensive to buy on the streets. Crack was created as a cheaper alternative to cocaine, making it much more affordable to users. As a more cost-effective alternative, it became more accessible to those with less income. While these people had limited disposable income available to spend on drugs, they were still seeking ways to get high.
By the 1980s, there was a crack epidemic in low income and minority communities. As a result, there was a public perception that cocaine is associated with more well-to-do drug users. In contrast, crack use was associated with those in lower income brackets, particularly minorities. Despite these widespread stereotypes, data from 1991 gathered by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) revealed the majority of crack abusers were actually caucasian.
Generally, those who want a more intense, rapid, and less expensive high are drawn to crack. Some people start using powdered cocaine and then transition to crack use when the habit becomes too pricey to maintain.
Effects and Risks of Crack vs. Cocaine Use
The effects of crack can fluctuate due to variations in the purity of the cocaine used to produce it. This fact adds to the seriousness and unpredictability of smoking crack. The effects of crack use are comparable to cocaine use, albeit more intense, and may include the following:
- Dilated pupils
- Decreased appetite
- Increased alertness
- Increased heart rate
- Intense cravings for more
Smoking crack often results in these effects manifesting faster and more intensely than with powder cocaine. This occurs because the rock form of the drug is absorbed more rapidly through the membranes of the lungs and enters the bloodstream and the brain within 10-15 seconds. On the other hand, a cocaine high lasts longer.
As such, the risk of overdosing is remarkably high and can lead to convulsions, coma, and death. Symptoms of a crack overdose include rapid heart rate (tachycardia) and hyperventilation.
It is not hard to develop a crack or cocaine abuse problem because the drug in both forms is very addictive. Upon cessation of use, withdrawal symptoms often arise and may include the following:
- Agitation and irritability
- Intense cravings
- Extreme fatigue
- Muscle pain
- Suicidal thoughts
Treatment for Cocaine Addiction
Psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), can be a very effective approach to addiction and mental health treatment. Positive lifestyle changes, practical and healthy coping mechanisms, and new life skills are all taught through CBT. Individuals can learn to identify stressors and triggers, and self-harming behaviors, such as substance abuse, are addressed and replaced with healthier patterns of behavior.
After detox, ongoing support is also crucial during recovery. Family and peer support groups such as 12-step programs provide positive environments that are conducive to long-lasting recovery and relapse prevention.
If a person experiences comorbid disorders, such as substance abuse and a mental health disorder, a dual diagnosis treatment plan offers the highest likelihood of success. Programs such as those employed by Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery provide a comprehensive and integrated approach that treats both disorders concurrently. This approach is administered under the care of medical and mental health professionals who collaborate to improve outcomes and produce positive results.
You can regain your life and experience the happiness and wellness you deserve—and we can help! If you are struggling with an addiction to cocaine, other drugs, or alcohol, please contact us as soon as possible!