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Cocaine vs Crack | Differences, Similarities, Side Effects, and more!

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Cocaine and crack are two stimulant drugs that are commonly used for recreational purposes. Both drugs produce feelings of euphoria, alertness, and increased energy, but they differ in their production, purity, and route of administration. 

Cocaine is usually consumed in a powdered form and is snorted or injected, while crack is typically smoked and is made by mixing cocaine hydrochloride with a base such as baking soda or ammonia. 

Both cocaine and crack can have serious negative consequences on an individual’s physical and mental health and can lead to physical dependence and addiction. In this article, we will explore the differences between crack and cocaine and the risks associated with their use.

What is Crack?

Crack is an illegal street drug known for its psychoactive effects. It is derived from cocaine, but has a higher concentration of cocaine and other chemicals such as baking soda. It is made by pouring a solution of cocaine hydrochloride and baking soda into boiling water, resulting in what looks like small bits or ‘rocks’. 

The result of this combination makes it smokeable in a pipe or melted down, allowing it to quickly enter the bloodstream for a faster, more intense high. Crack is commonly referred to as freebase cocaine and carries a high risk of addiction due to its potency. 

Its intensely stimulating effect on the central nervous system can create long-term effects such as paranoia, depression and headaches.

Chemical Composition of Crack

Chemically crack is made of two components – benzoylecgonine and sodium bicarbonate.

What is Cocaine? 

Cocaine is an illicit stimulant drug that produces a euphoric high when taken in large doses. It can be snorted or injected directly into the bloodstream for an intense effect. Cocaine is illegal in the USA as it has a high tendency of dependency and misuse.

Chemical Composition of Cocaine

Cocaine is chemically composed of tropane alkaloid known as benzoylmethylecgonine which works by triggering the release of dopamine.

Crack vs. Cocaine: Fact Sheet

Crack is typically smoked and is made by mixing cocaine hydrochloride with a base such as baking soda or ammonia. Cocaine, on the other hand, is usually snorted or injected and is produced in a powdered form. 



Generic Name Crack Cocaine
Drug Type Recreational CNS stimulant, Anesthetic
Active Ingredients  benzoylecgonine and sodium bicarbonate Benzoylmethylecgonine
Used as treatment for: None Anesthetic and painkiller
Available Form(s) Crystals, powder, and  liquid Powder and liquid
Is it a controlled substance? Yes, Schedule II drug Yes, Schedule II drug
Legal Status Illegal Illegal, can only be prescribed medically
Risk of Withdrawal Effects Yes  Yes 
Risk of Addiction Yes  Yes 

Cocaine Dosage and Side Effects:

Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant drug that works by inducing temporary feelings of euphoria, alertness and energy when taken in high dosages. As with any other drug, regular consumption of cocaine can lead to dependence and addiction. 

The amount of cocaine needed to feel the desired effects depends on the user’s overall tolerance level, but can typically range between 10-50 mg per day.

The effects of the drug range depending on the amount taken but generally increase with higher doses. Regular users who have built up a tolerance to cocaine may find themselves needing much larger doses to achieve the same effects they experienced when they first used the substance. 

While a small dose may result in feeling more energized and alert, a large dose of cocaine can cause seizures and dangerous heart problems such as arrhythmia or cardiac arrest. The side effects of this powerful drug also include trembling, paranoia, anxiety, dizziness, nausea and insomnia as well as more severe symptoms like fatal overdose.

Crack Dosage and Side Effects:

Crack is a form of cocaine that is typically produced by mixing cocaine hydrochloride with a base, such as baking soda or ammonia, and heating it until the mixture forms a solid substance that can be broken or “cracked” into small pieces. Crack is usually smoked, although it can also be injected or snorted.

There is no recommended dosage for crack as it is purely used for recreational purposes and thereby not used in any medical scenario. The effects of crack can be felt within seconds to minutes after use and typically last up to an hour. 

Crack usage can have a long list of negative side effects, many of which can lead to serious physical and mental health problems. Aside from the obvious psychological dependence on the drug, crack users are at risk of developing cardiovascular issues such as increased heart rate and blood pressure. This increased heartbeat can be accompanied by chest pains, racing thoughts, insomnia, anxiety and paranoia. 

Additionally, the chemicals in crack severely damage tissue in the lungs over time, leading to an irreversible lung condition known as bronchiolitis obliterans that restricts airflow and leads to breathing difficulties. 

Respiratory illness is also a common side effect of smoking crack for an extended period. In addition to physical harm, users may experience delusions or cognitive impairment that can last for days or months after using the substance. 

Cocaine vs. Crack: Can You Withdrawal for Either?

Yes, it is possible to experience withdrawal symptoms when stopping the use of both cocaine and crack. Cocaine and crack are both stimulant drugs that can lead to physical dependence and addiction. When an individual becomes physically dependent on a substance, they may experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using the drug.

Withdrawal from cocaine and crack can involve a range of physical and psychological symptoms. Physical symptoms of withdrawal from cocaine or crack may include fatigue, muscle aches, and changes in appetite. 

Psychological symptoms may include depression, anxiety, and irritability. In severe cases, withdrawal from cocaine or crack may also involve more severe symptoms such as hallucinations, psychosis, and suicidal thoughts.

The severity and duration of withdrawal symptoms can vary depending on the individual and their level of dependence on the drug. In general, getting off cocaine or crack tends to be less severe and shorter-lived compared to withdrawal from other substances such as alcohol or opioids. 

However, withdrawal from cocaine or crack can still be challenging and may require professional support to manage safely. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction to cocaine or crack, it is important to seek help from a qualified healthcare professional or addiction treatment center.

Crack vs Cocaine: Prevalence in the United States

Despite the fact that both crack and cocaine are illegal drugs in the United States, their misuse remains widespread. In the past year, as per SAMHSA annual drug report, about half a million individuals (12 and older) started using cocaine for recreational purposes. The same study estimated that about 104,000 people in the US had used crack in the past month. Crack is a highly addictive and potent form of cocaine, and it is associated with a high risk of dependence and serious negative health consequences. However, data on the use of crack cocaine specifically is more limited. 

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, crack was responsible for the majority of cocaine-related emergency department visits in the US in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but since then, the number of crack cocaine-related emergency department visits has decreased. 

According to US National Survey on Drug Use and Health, conducted in 2006, over 8 million people above the age of 122 reported using crack at least once in their life. 

Bottom Line: Crack versus Cocaine

In conclusion, crack and cocaine are both highly addictive stimulant drugs that can have serious negative consequences on an individual’s physical and mental health. While the effects of these drugs may be similar, they differ in their production, purity, and route of administration. 

Both crack and cocaine can cause physical dependence and addiction, and withdrawal from these drugs can involve a range of physical and psychological symptoms. It is important to be aware of the risks associated with these drugs and to seek help if you or someone you know is struggling with addiction.

FAQs on Cocaine and Crack 

Which is more dangerous, Cocaine or Crack?

Crack is more dangerous than cocaine as it is a potent form of cocaine.

What to do in case of crack overdose?

When someone suspects that a person has overdosed on crack cocaine, the best course of action is to call 911 immediately. If possible, provide emergency professionals with as much information as possible about the situation, such as the approximate amount of drugs taken, the length of time since they were ingested and any observed signs or symptoms. While waiting for help to arrive, try to remain calm and stay with the person until assistance arrives. 

Are there any medications that can help with crack or cocaine addiction?

As of present, there are no approved medications to treat cocaine addiction. However, some anti-depressants and anxiety meds are often prescribed by medical professionals to treat the underlying issues of addiction. 


Warren Phillips

Warren is a Licensed Master Social Worker, who specializes in substance abuse and mental health treatment. Clinically, Warren has developed a therapeutic skillset that utilizes a strengths-based perspective, Twelve Step philosophies, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Motivational Interviewing.

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