Crack cocaine is the crystal form of cocaine. It usually comes in a powder form. It normally comes in solid blocks or crystals that vary in color, from white, pale rose, or yellow. People who use it will heat it and smoke it. It crackles or pops when heated, which is where it gets its name.

Crack cocaine is the most powerful form that cocaine comes in, and it is also the riskiest. The Partnership for a Drug-Free World says it is “between 75 and 100 percent pure, and much stronger and more potent than regular cocaine.”

Crack is almost always smoked. Smoking delivers great quantities of the drug to the lungs, which immediately produces a euphoric effect on the user. The Department of Justice notes that the illegal drug is highly addictive and can be fatal to some people who use it.

A 2014 survey on drug use found that 913,000 people met the criteria as having a cocaine use disorder. Five thousand of them died from a cocaine overdose.

Crack addiction can occur very fast. Read how it can cause addiction, how to identify crack use, and what to do if you or someone you care about needs help to end crack use.

What is Crack?

Cocaine is a stimulant drug that comes in a white powder form, sometimes called a “rock.” It can be snorted, rubbed into the gums, dissolved, or injected. Crack cocaine, commonly called crack, is the freebase form of cocaine. Crack is cocaine that has been processed so that it can be smoked. It comes in small pieces that have a hard, sharp feel. Crack is smoked by heating it in a glass pipe. It can also be mixed into marijuana or a cigarette.

When the drug is consumed in this way, it results in a more rapid and intense high than snorting cocaine powder. However, that high is short-lived and usually leaves the user in a deep depression when there is no more crack to smoke. People who smoke crack may go to extensive lengths to get more of it to have that fast, intense euphoric feeling again.

Crack Addiction and its Signs

When a person snorts cocaine, it can take 15 to 45 minutes for the full effect of euphoria to be felt. That feeling usually lasts about 30 minutes to an hour. Crack can take effect within seconds, and the person feels that sense of euphoria immediately.

People who use crack regularly can have a severe substance use disorder, otherwise called addiction. There are several telltale signs that can help you identify if crack addiction is present.

  • Lying to obtain crack
  • Stealing to obtain crack
  • Making crack a higher priority than anything else
  • High drug tolerance to crack
  • Cannot quit smoking crack despite making attempts
  • Feeling withdrawal symptoms of crack when it’s not used, such as irritability, depression, fatigue, strong cravings for it, and anxiety.
  • Going on a crack binge

What is a Crack Binge?

Crack cocaine, with its quick and intense effects, and can cause those using the drug to spend hours in a crack binge where they repeatedly smoke high doses. Each time you use crack, you will feel a less intense euphoric feeling because your brain is becoming tolerant of the drug. In turn, this will cause you to use a stronger/larger amount of it to feel the same euphoric effect.

The longer the binge lasts, the more you will experience discomforting withdrawal symptoms like restlessness, irritability, and paranoia. Crack is a stimulant, and users can go for three days without sleeping. The lack of sleep can cause exhaustion, hallucinations, and psychosis. 

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) 2020 Stimulant Drug Fact Sheet states that “During heavy use, all other interests become secondary to recreating the initial euphoric rush.”  

Crack is very dangerous, and addiction to it could cause a fatality.

How Dangerous is Crack Addiction?


Crack can cause some very adverse health effects for the user. Many foreign substances that are smoked can wreak havoc on the lungs. However, crack is incredibly harsh on the lungs, causing respiratory failure. When you inject crack intravenously, you can contract HIV or hepatitis C from shared needles.

Crack puts unbearable stress on the heart, which can create high blood pressure with repeated use. Cocaine and crack cocaine also have the potential to damage the major organs in these ways:

  • Heart: Crack use is linked with an increased risk of stroke, inflammation of the heart muscle, deterioration of the ability to contract, and aortic ruptures.
  • Lungs: Crack cocaine smoke can cause bleeding of the lungs, difficulty breathing, and worsen asthma.
  • Brain: Crack can cause bleeding within the brain (an intracerebral hemorrhage) and balloon-like bulges in the brain. It can also create cognitive problems, such as not being able to pay attention, memory loss, an inability to make decisions, and trouble performing motor tasks.

Overdose is a strong possibility with crack cocaine due to the user’s extreme urge to obtain the initial high experience.

Crack Addiction Treatment

Addiction is known as a chronic disease of the brain affecting the reward system. Its chronic nature implies that there is no “cure” for addiction. That does not mean that you or someone you know addicted to crack cannot get help and learn how to stay off of the drug forever.

Treating addiction has come a long way since the 1980s when crack was a “popular” drug of choice. Modern technology, increased research, and continuing education and assessments have led to high rates of successful recovery. Substance use treatment centers employ the most recent treatments and therapeutic programs to better help the person addicted to crack and other substances.

Crack cravings can be mighty powerful and very hard to overcome. Some people may experience those cravings for the rest of their lives. Addiction treatment includes tools and resources to help manage cravings and prevent relapse.

If a relapse occurs, it is not a sign that addiction treatment did not work. In fact, the National Institute on Drug Addiction notes that people who underwent substance use treatment had a relapse rate similar to other chronic diseases. People who were in addiction treatment had a 40 to 60 percent rate of relapse. A customized relapse prevention plan provides the skills a person needs to not relapse.

Cognitive behavioral therapies are the most effective treatments for addiction. These types of therapies will be useful in digging deep to find the root of addiction and learning new, more positive, and healthful ways to cope with crack addiction when use has stopped.

There is hope for those who fight the battle to end crack addiction.

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