Crack Cocaine Overview

In this crack cocaine overview we learn about the effects of the drug, some of the street names for crack cocaine, and signs and symptoms of crack cocaine use and abuse. Because crack cocaine is so addictive it is crucial to get help and treatment early.


Crack cocaine, an illegal drug that became popular in the 1980s, is still a serious health problem in the United States.

Crack cocaine is a form of cocaine, which is made from the leaves of the coca plant. Cocaine and crack cocaine are stimulants or uppers that affect the central nervous system. Crack comes in white or off-white chunks called rocks. While cocaine has been abused as a drug for over 100 years, crack cocaine was introduced more recently. It was a very popular illegal drug in the 1980s, and its use has declined since that time, but it is still one of the most common illegal drugs in the United States.

Crack cocaine use affects people from every age, gender, ethnic group, educational level, and economic status, but it is more prevalent among young, poor, males. This is in part because it is relatively cheap to produce, so its sales are targeted to poorer neighborhoods.

Use of crack cocaine is very dangerous. It is smoked, which means it affects the brain within seconds, causing a high that wears off quickly. Addiction to crack cocaine can occur very quickly, and death can result even the first time a person uses crack. Mixing crack with other drugs or alcohol increases the risks. Some of the effects of using crack, even the first time, can include:

  • Irritation
  • Aggression
  • Mental illness
  • Coughing or breathing problems
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Chest pains
  • Seizures or convulsions
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack

Crack cocaine use often leads people to other risky or illegal behaviors, either because they are high and are unable to make good decisions, or because they are addicted to the drug and will do anything to get more of it. For these reasons, crack cocaine use is tied to illegal behavior, poor performance in other activities, and sexually transmitted diseases.

Cocaine and crack cocaine have many street names, including:

  • Bedrock
  • Candy
  • Crumbs
  • Dice
  • Freebase
  • Gravel
  • Grit
  • Hail
  • Hard rock
  • Ice Cubes
  • Rock

Because crack cocaine is very addictive, many people who use crack must seek treatment for crack addition. There is no one best type of treatment; each individual has to find the treatment program that works best for him or her. Treatment programs may be inpatient or outpatient, and should include counseling and therapy.

Some signs of crack cocaine addiction are:

  • An obsession with crack, always thinking about how to get more of the drug
  • Giving up other activities or people for crack
  • Using crack secretly
  • Stealing or having sex to get more crack

If you or someone you know is abusing or addicted to crack, seek help immediately. Using crack can lead to mental illness, sexually transmitted diseases, illegal activity, and death, but with treatment, many crack cocaine users can overcome their addiction.


U.S. Department of Justice, National Drug Intelligence Center, Crack Cocaine Fast Facts [online]

National Institute on Drug Abuse, Research Report Series: Cocaine Abuse and Addiction [online]

National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIDA InfoFacts: Crack and Cocaine [online]

Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett, Cocaine: Facts Everyone Should Know [online]

Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, Cocaine and Crack [online]

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