A man addicted to crack cocaine contemplates life

Cocaine has been one of the most popular drugs of abuse in America since the late 1970’s.

A 2016 data report found that cocaine was the second most commonly abused illicit drug by the United States, behind only marijuana. (1) Of the 5.9 million cocaine users reported in 2016, 930,000 reported having used crack cocaine the same year. (2)

Here we take a look at what crack cocaine is, how it differs from powder cocaine, and the long-term effects of crack cocaine abuse.

What is cocaine?

Cocaine is an alkaloid extracted from coca shrubs indigenous to South America that has a A woman addicted to crack is laying on the groundlong history of both medical and recreational use.

Cocaine is used medically for its local anesthetic properties, and recreationally for its intense euphoric and stimulant high in which it produces when insufflated or injected.

Street cocaine typically comes in two forms: powder cocaine, and crack cocaine. (3)

What is crack cocaine?

Crack cocaine is the common name for the form of cocaine that can be smoked. Powder cocaine decomposes at the high temperatures necessary to smoke it, and therefore cannot be smoked.

How is crack cocaine different from powder cocaine?

Reacting powder cocaine with basic substances such as baking soda allows the hydrochloric acid to escape, ultimately yielding crack cocaine.

The resulting crack cocaine rocks vaporize much more readily than powder cocaine, allowing them to be smoked without decomposing the cocaine alkaloid. (4)

What are the effects of crack cocaine?

Crack takes effect almost simultaneously with smoking, and lasts for approximately five to fifteen minutes. The following effects are common with the crack cocaine high (5):

  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Euphoria
  • Increased rate of breathing
  • Dilated pupils
  • Hyper-stimulation
  • Anxiety and paranoia
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Intense drug craving

What are the long-term effects of crack cocaine use?

Crack cocaine addiction causes several long-term health consequences that are both directly related to the drug itself, and also indirectly due to the lifestyle that typically accompanies it.

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Crack cocaine causes drastic changes to the brain’s natural reward system that can take years to heal. Cocaine causes damage to several organs in the body as well, with particular regard to the heart.

Crack also causes lung inflammation and severe pain, which is often times referred to as “crack lung”. (6)

Final Note

This article is intended for those considering a new way of life, free of the pain of drug and alcohol addiction. For more information on recovery and anyone seeking help with addiction and substance abuse problems, please call True Recovery at (844) 744-8783 or visit us online.


  1. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-DetTabs-2016/NSDUH-DetTabs-2016.pdf
  2. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/cbhsq-reports/NSDUHDetailedTabs2017/NSDUHDetailedTabs2017.htm#tab1-1A
  3. https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/cocaine
  4. Pharmacology and Abuse of Cocaine, Amphetamines, Ecstasy and Related Designer Drugs: A Comprehensive Review on Their Mode of Action, Treatment of Abuse and Intoxication, Page 25
  5. http://www.cesar.umd.edu/cesar/drugs/crack.asp#4
  6. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine/what-are-long-term-effects-cocaine-use