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What’s the Difference Between Crack and Coke?

by | Last updated Mar 10, 2021 at 3:32PM | Published on Mar 10, 2021 | Drug Addiction, Stimulants Addiction

difference between crack and cocaine

Cocaine and crack are highly addictive substances derived from the coca plant. The white powdered form of cocaine is what we know as cocaine or coke, while the rock form is often called crack or crack cocaine. But, if both substances come from the same source, what’s the difference between crack and coke? The answer lies in the details, side effects, and interactions with other substances. 

What Exactly is Cocaine and Crack?

Cocaine and crack might look different on their surface, but these drugs have no pharmacological differences. 

Cocaine is hydrochloride salt in its powder form. In this state, people can snort it, inject it, or swallow it. This delivery method instantly affects how the body reacts to the substance and how it affects the brain. 

Crack is powdered cocaine mixed with other substances, usually baking soda and water. Crack cocaine can only be smoked, which produces quicker onset of effects. Also, sometimes dealers mix crack with other addictive substances to give consumers a more powerful“high” that keeps them coming back for more. 

Differences Between Crack and Coke

Cocaine and crack are undoubtedly different in appearance; although they are the same substance, there are also some differences in their effects. The intensity and duration of a cocaine high will depend on how the drug is taken.

Who Uses It

Overall, cocaine is more expensive to buy on the streets. This is why crack was developed to offer a cheaper alternative to cocaine on the streets. By the 1980s, there was an epidemic of crack use among low-income and minority communities. 

Generally speaking, people who want a more intense and faster high are usually attracted to crack cocaine. Some people start cocaine abuse and then transition to crack as they try to maintain this drug addiction. According to the National Study on Drug Use and Health, around 2018, there were 1.9 million cocaine users, 359,000 used crack cocaine. 

Effects of Crack vs. Cocaine

The effects of crack and cocaine can vary a lot from person to person. In addition, effects from crack might differ depending on the purity of the cocaine, who manufactures it, and what additives they use to make crack. Eventually, crack, and cocaine has similar effects; the difference is that crack users will feel these more intensely:

  • Euphoria
  • Heightened alertness
  • Dilated pupils
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased heart rate
  • Intense cravings 

Crack reaches the brain quicker and in a more intense matter because it’s smoked. The effects of crack can start within the minute of smoking crack, peak in 5 minutes, and last 30-60 minutes. When cocaine is snorted, its effects happen after 5 minutes, peak within 30 minutes; and last for about 2 hours. When cocaine is injected, though, its effects are similar to crack. 

Side Effects and Risks

Cocaine is a dangerous drug that can cause convulsions, coma, and death. Even more dangerously, crack cocaine. Because the latter is often mixed with other substances to make it last longer for dealers, it can contain potentially hazardous substances that can lead to overdose. Common side effects include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Paranoia
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Headaches
  • Mood disorders
  • Nosebleeds
  • Nasal problems 
  • Weight loss 
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts 

Addiction

Since crack and coke are identical in their pharmacology, neither is one or more addictive than the other. However, it’s easier to become addicted to crack since it lasts for a shorter period of time. This means users are likely to use more to get a longer euphoric experience when compared to cocaine users. 

Still, according to a 2017 SAMHSA report:

  • 40.6 million individuals admitted to at least using cocaine once
  • 9.6 million individuals admitted to at least using crack once

Overall, the quick and short high of crack makes it more dangerous for addiction than cocaine. Crack reaches the brain in a more intense manner, and it is also faster acting than cocaine. However, it all depends on the method of administration. For example, those who smoke cocaine are also more likely to crave more.

The perception of which drug is more dangerous is also associated with legal penalties. For example, crack-possession penalties are more severe than cocaine-possession ones. The ratio for the discrepancy is 18 to 1. For instance, if someone holds 28 grams of crack, they’ll receive the same sentences as having 500 grams of cocaine. 

Getting Help

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) , 5.9 million people admitted to using cocaine in 2017 in the United States.

If you or someone you know is struggling with cocaine and crack addiction, reach out to Lighthouse Recovery Institute. Call today to speak with an admissions specialist who can help you find the treatment that works for you. Begin your recovery journey today. 

NIDA. 2020, October 14. How is methamphetamine different from other stimulants, such as cocaine?. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/how-methamphetamine-different-other-stimulants-such-cocaine on 2021, March 12

NIDA. 2020, September 8. What are the long-term effects of methamphetamine misuse?. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/what-are-long-term-effects-methamphetamine-misuse on 2021, March 12

Sussman, S., Pentz, M. A., Spruijt-Metz, D., & Miller, T. (2006). Misuse of “study drugs:” prevalence, consequences, and implications for policy. Substance abuse treatment, prevention, and policy, 1, 15. https://doi.org/10.1186/1747-597X-1-15

NIDA. 2018, June 6. Prescription Stimulants DrugFacts. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/prescription-stimulants on 2021, March 12

Lighthouse Editorial Team

Lighthouse Editorial Team

Our editorial team includes content experts that contribute to Lighthouse Recovery Institute’s blog. Editors and medical experts review our blogs for accuracy and relevance. We consistently monitor the latest research from SAMHSA and NIDA to provide you with the most comprehensive addiction-related content.
Medical Disclaimer:

Lighthouse Recovery Institute aims to improve the quality of life for anyone struggling with substance use or mental health disorder. We provide fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options, and their outcomes. The material we publish is researched, cited, edited, and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide in our posts is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be used in place of the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider.

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