What Is Crack Cocaine

What is crack cocaine? Crack cocaine is a form of cocaine. Read more to find out where it comes from, how it is made, and what effects it has on the body and mind of the individual that is using crack cocaine.


Because crack cocaine is a common illegal drug, it is helpful to understand what it is, where it comes from, and what it can do to people who use it.

Cocaine is one of the most common illegal drugs in the United States. Crack cocaine is a highly addictive crystal or rock form of cocaine that is smoked rather than snorted or injected like other forms of cocaine. Crack cocaine is so addictive because of the way it interacts with the user’s brain.

  • Crack cocaine is a stimulant or “upper” that affects the central nervous system.
  • When crack is smoked, it reaches the brain very quickly.
  • Once in the brain, crack interferes with the chemical dopamine that affects how our brains understand pleasure. The user gets overdosed with dopamine while smoking crack, which gives them a high.
  • Because crack gives users a fast high, it also wears off very quickly - in 5 to 10 minutes.
  • The high is followed by a down, which can lead to aggression, depression, and cravings for the drug.

Crack cocaine users can build up a tolerance to crack, so the highs last a shorter and shorter time, requiring the users to take more of the drug to get the same high. On the other hand, the body’s ability to cope with the effects of cocaine can decrease over time, meaning smaller doses of cocaine become more dangerous.

Cocaine comes from the leaves of the coca plant, which grows in South America. Only a small amount of cocaine can be extracted from each leaf, so cocaine is very expensive in its pure form. For this reason, cocaine is usually not sold in pure form - it is mixed with common substances or other drugs before it is sold on the street. In its powdered form, cocaine is usually snorted or dissolved and injected.

Crack cocaine is the crystal or rock form of cocaine. To create crack cocaine, powdered cocaine is dissolved in water with ammonia or sodium bicarbonate and boiled until the crystals or rocks of crack cocaine form. It is then sold as chunks, rocks, or chips.

Crack is relatively cheap to produce, so it is frequently marketed to young, poor drug users. Both the sellers and the users of crack cocaine often have or develop involvement with other illegal activities to support their habit. Once a person is addicted to crack, he or she loses interest in everything else.

Cocaine and crack cocaine have many street names, including:

  • Bedrock
  • Candy
  • Coke
  • Crumbs
  • Devil drug
  • Dice
  • Freebase
  • Glo
  • Gravel
  • Grit
  • Hail
  • Hard rock
  • Ice Cubes
  • Jelly beans
  • Piece
  • Product
  • Rock
  • Sleet
  • Snow coke
  • Tornado

Common paraphernalia associated with cocaine include:

  • Small scales to weigh cocaine
  • Razors or other devices to cut cocaine
  • Devices to smoke the crack cocaine
  • Packaging for the crack, including tin foil, vials, baggies, or envelopes

Crack is especially dangerous when mixed with other drugs, and many people use crack with other drugs. Though crack is cheaper than other forms of cocaine, it is still an expensive habit that often leads people to steal to get the cash for crack, or trade sex for drugs or money. The drug also makes people lose control of their decisions, so they are more likely to do things that are dangerous like drive under the influence, have unprotected sex leading to pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease, or be the victim of rape or other crimes. The long term effects of using crack can include depression, hallucinations, and other serious psychological conditions. It can cause death by heart attack or stroke from the drug’s impact on the circulatory system.


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

Related Article: Effects of Crack Cocaine >>