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How Crack Cocaine Abuse Compares to Traditional Cocaine Abuse

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Cocaine and crack cocaine are generally treated differently in the media. Cocaine is generally stereotyped as the drug of choice for rich men, while crack is often treated like a gritty, urban street drug.

If you or someone close to you is facing addiction to either cocaine or crack cocaine, you may already know that both drugs are highly addictive and dangerous, and have the potential to pull anyone’s life apart. It is important to seek out treatment for cocaine addiction as soon as possible.

What is Cocaine?

Cocaine is a powerful central nervous system stimulant and local anesthetic derived from the leaves of the South American coca plant. Cocaine comes in the form of small, white, irregularly shaped chunks, and typically comes in the form of a powder that can be snorted, smoked, or injected.

Cocaine use is largely driven by the effects experienced in the early stages of cocaine use: a generalized state of euphoria accompanied by increased energy, confidence, mental alertness, and sexual arousal. After a period of regular usage, increased amounts are necessary to achieve these effects. Also, time spent without the drug in a person’s system causes unpleasant reactions and after-effects such as restlessness, anxiety, agitation, irritability, and insomnia.

Over time with repeated use, cocaine can cause these negative reactions to increase dramatically and may produce psychosis in some users. Many people can use cocaine for a long time without suffering psychosis. However, those who do experience psychosis can go on to exhibit severe, dramatic symptoms.

What is Crack Cocaine?

Crack is a smokable form of cocaine that has been chemically altered by cooking it with baking soda until it forms solid blocks or crystals. These “rocks” vary in color, often appearing yellow, pale pink, or white.

Crack is heated and smoked using a metal or glass pipe. This form of cocaine is named for the cracking sound that occurs when it heats up.

Smoking crack allows this drug to reach the brain more quickly than with other methods and produces an intense, immediate, but very short-lived high that lasts about 15 minutes. This rapid, extreme, and immediate hit to the brain’s reward system is what makes this illicit stimulant so highly addictive.

How Does the Use of Cocaine Compare to the Use of Crack Cocaine?

Powdered cocaine takes longer than crack to produce effects, which are often less intense but last far longer. On the other hand, crack produces an intense, immediate high that lasts for a shorter time.

Social acceptance plays a major role in the prevalence of use for each drug and is the main reason for differences when it comes to using. A line of cocaine is often found to be more acceptable than a pipe of crack. However, that line becomes blurred when cocaine tolerance develops to the point where a user needs a strong, more intense high than what powdered coke can produce.

National surveys reviewing trends for drug use by age group in the U.S. reveal the following data about cocaine compared to crack cocaine use.

Among participants age 12-17:

  1. 90% of participants had used cocaine in their lifetime
  2. 70% of participants had used cocaine in the past year
  3. 20% of participants had used cocaine in the past month
  4. 10% of participants had used crack cocaine in their lifetime
  5. 10% of participants had used crack cocaine in the past year

Among participants age 18-25:

  1. 10% of participants had used cocaine at least once in their lifetime
  2. 60% of participants had used cocaine in the past year
  3. 40% of participants had used cocaine in the past month
  4. 60% of participants had used crack cocaine in their lifetime
  5. 40% of participants had used crack cocaine in the past year
  6. 10% of participants had used cocaine in the past month

Among participants age 26 and older:

  1. 10% of participants had used cocaine in their lifetime
  2. 40% of participants had used cocaine in the past year
  3. 50% of participants had used cocaine in the past month
  4. 30% of participants had used crack cocaine in their lifetime
  5. 30% of participants had used crack cocaine in the past year
  6. 20% of participants had used cocaine in the past month

The surveys indicate that crack cocaine is used far less often than cocaine despite how inexpensive and an accessible crack tends to be. This may be due to the negative portrayal of crack users, or the speed at which crack users tend to become addicted. Regardless of the reason, cocaine is found to be more commonly used and abused than crack.

Whether you or someone you know is snorting cocaine or smoking crack, there are ways to quit. Learn about your treatment options today.

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