What’s the Difference Between Crack and Coke?

June 19, 2020 - Substance Abuse

Medically Reviewed by Brooke Mckenzie

the Difference Between Crack and Coke
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Aside from the names, what is the difference between crack and cocaine?

Drugs come in a variety of forms. But just because one type looks different from the other, there isn’t a “safe” way to ingest cocaine. Any kind of cocaine usage leads to physical and mental harm that requires in-house treatment.

What is the difference between crack and cocaine, and how can I tell if someone I love is suffering from a cocaine addiction? We explore exactly what cocaine and crack are and how they affect your body below.

What Is the Difference Between Crack and Cocaine?

Cocaine is derived from the coca plant. It comes in both a powder and rock form. Powdered cocaine is typically called cocaine or coke, while the rock form is referred to as crack or crack cocaine.

Both forms of the drug send high levels of dopamine into your brain to increase pleasure. Dopamine is a natural chemical, and as it builds up, it creates intense feelings of energy and alertness. This is referred to as being high on cocaine.

Cocaine and crack are faster acting stimulants that make a person extremely happy and sensitive. It decreases a person’s appetite, which is why models have been known to use the drug to stay slim. On the other hand, cocaine can make a person paranoid, angry, and irritable.

Research shows people are more inclined to try coke as opposed to crack. A 2017 SAMHSA report found 40.6 million people admitted to trying cocaine at least once, while only 9.6 million claimed they had tried crack.

What Is Cocaine?

Cocaine is a hydrochloride salt when it’s in its powdered form, resembling baking soda. It originated from South America, where people would chew and ingest coca leaves to experience a high.

When it was first discovered, cocaine was an active ingredient used by surgeons to reduce pain. It has even been identified in early Coca-Cola formulas.

Today, cocaine is considered a Schedule II drug. It can be administered by a doctor as anesthesia and for certain surgeries. But most of the time, cocaine is a highly addictive party drug.

Cocaine typically comes in a fine, white powder form. It may be referred to as coke, snow, powder, or blow.

In powder form, cocaine is snorted. Some people rub it onto their gums or inject the drug directly into their bloodstream using a needle.

Snorting cocaine takes three to five minutes to experience a high that lasts 15 to 30 minutes. Injecting coke through a needle takes a user 15 to 30 minutes to feel the high. Once injected coke takes effect, it lasts anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes.

What Is Crack?

Crack is the crystal form of cocaine. It comes as a solid block and may be yellow, pale rose, or white.

Crack must be heated and smoked. People experience the euphoric high as they breathe the drug into their lungs. Crack got its name from the cracking noise the pipe makes as it heats the crystals.

Crack is a purer form of cocaine. Drug dealers often dilute coke using corn starch and other powders. Crack may sometimes be cooked down to remove the hydrochloride and create a product that’s easier to smoke, but it’s still 75% pure by the time a person uses the drug.

Since crack is so natural, it’s astonishingly strong. Smoking crack gives a person a powerful high that is more intense than snorting coke.

The effects of smoking crack are immediate and last anywhere from five to ten minutes. Due to its short bursts, crack leads to binge and crash cycles that cause severe physical dependence.

Cocaine comes at a high price and is known as the “rich man’s drug.” Crack, on the other hand, is more affordable.

However, since crack is more addictive than coke, and an addict will rely on larger doses to support his or her habit. After a while, a crack addiction becomes just as expensive as cocaine usage.

Long-Term Side Effects of Cocaine and Crack

People who use cocaine and crack regularly pose severe health risks to their bodies. Common physical symptoms that occur due to cocaine abuse include:

  • Frequent headaches
  • Seizures
  • Heart disease and stroke
  • Increase blood pressure
  • Irritable behavior and mood swings
  • Sexual problems
  • Lung damage (specifically for crack users)
  • Frequent nosebleeds, a runny nose, and a loss of smell (specifically for coke users)
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Cognitive problems like trouble concentrating, focusing, and being forgetful

Cocaine damages your brain, which is why people experience cognitive problems.

Normally, dopamine recycles itself back into the cell that released it and shuts off the signal between nerve cells. But cocaine prevents dopamine from being recycled.

Instead, large amounts of dopamine build up and stop nerve cell communication. The high level of dopamine reinforces the drug-taking behavior, making a person experience intense cocaine urges that only large doses of cocaine can fulfill.

As a person relies on more frequent and heavier dosages of cocaine, the drug continues to interfere with their body’s natural chemistry. Cocaine makes it hard to concentrate, sleep, and react to things. The drug’s addictive nature makes people think about cocaine constantly.

Crack and Cocaine Treatments

When a person is addicted to crack or coke, counseling and behavioral therapies are the most successful treatments. Cocaine abusers need to stay in a rehabilitation center to receive medical detoxes and in-house therapy. There is no known medicine used to cure cocaine addition.

Once a person quits cocaine and starts focusing on treatment, he or she will experience severe withdrawal symptoms. This includes:

  • Intense crack or coke cravings
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • An increased appetite
  • Nightmares
  • Chills and muscle aches (similar to the flu)

It is possible to overdose on crack and coke. When this happens, a person will experience an increased heart rate, trouble breathing, severe chest pain, vomiting, and possibly a seizure. Cocaine overdoses often lead to a heart attack or stroke, and that person must be rushed to the ER immediately.

Get the Help You Need

While crack and cocaine are sometimes used interchangeably, they are two different drugs. Cocaine, in its powdered form, is snorted or injected using needles. Crack comes as a hardened crystal and is smoked using a pipe.

Now that you know what is the difference between crack and cocaine, it’s essential to notice signs of cocaine and crack addictions in your loved ones. Both crack and cocaine are harmful to a person’s physical and mental health and require rehabilitation treatments.

DreamLife Recovery specializes in personalized drug treatment plans for both men and women. Learn more about the services we offer and how we can help you by contacting our expert team in Donegal, Pennsylvania.

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  1. “What is Cocaine?.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 20 Jul. 2020, https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine/what-cocaine Accessed 17 Mar. 2021
  2. Ahrnsbrak, R. et al. (2017, September). Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-FFR1-2016/NSDUH-FFR1-2016.pdf
  3. Biondich, Amy Sue, and Jeremy David Joslin. “Coca: The History and Medical Significance of an Ancient Andean Tradition.” Emergency medicine international vol. 2016 (2016): 4048764

Medical Reviewer:

Brooke Mckenzie: Brooke McKenzie earned a bachelor’s degree and a Masters’s in Social Work, followed by earning her LCSW in 2009. She has worked in progressively more responsible positions in substance abuse since 2004, filling various roles from clinician to clinical director. Brooke spent the last 10 years as the Executive Director of a drug and alcohol facility, overseeing all levels of care including detox, residential, PHP, IOP and outpatient programming. Brooke’s determination for continuous growth and to combine her clinical experience with project management skills, led her to her most recent accomplishment of earning her MBA in Project Management from Seton Hill University. She places great emphasis on creating an atmosphere of professionalism and communication, whether that is with her colleagues, her patient’s families, outside organizations, or most significant – her patients. These assets continue to lead her success and growth in the field of behavioral health.