What is the Difference Between Cocaine and Crack?

DrugRehab.org What is the Difference Between Cocaine and Crack_

Where Do Cocaine And Crack Come From?

The coca-bush (erythroxylum coca) is natural stimulant that’s native to South America. Its leaves are believed to have been used in ceremonies by the Incas over 4,000 years ago to speed up their heart rates and better sustain survival in high elevations. Fast forward a few thousand years, and in the 1500s, Peruvians chewed on the leaves for the natural euphoric and numbing effect they produced—this was eventually put to a halt by Spanish conquerors.

DrugRehab.org What is the Difference Between Cocaine and Crack_ Coca-BushSince then the coca plant has grown in popularity among the rest of the world, especially since cocaine was first developed in 1859 by German chemist Albert Niemann. Years later, in the 1880s the coca-bush and cocaine made a name in medicine as an anesthetic, and ingredient in popular soft-drinks like Coca-Cola (Note: it’s no longer used in the beverage).

Nearly 100 years after the first appearance of cocaine, appeared crack. It was an experimental drug at first, that was born out of the 1970s and gained most of its popularity in the 1980s. Though both cocaine and crack are derivatives of the coca-bush, and widely popular in the world of drug abuse, they became popular in very different times of human existence.

What Is Cocaine And How Is It Produced?

Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant that can be snorted, injected into the bloodstream, or it can be freebased. Cocaine is usually a fine white substance and generally comes in powder form. The chemical, cocaine-chloride comes directly from the coca-bush, but when drug dealers get their hands on it they can cut or lace with other non-psychoactive substances such as “cornstarch, talcum powder, flour, or baking soda to increase their profits. They may also adulterate cocaine with other drugs like procaine (a chemically related local anesthetic) or amphetamine” (National Institute on Drug Abuse – NIDA).

What Is Crack And How Is It Produced?

Crack is a smokeable, less expensive, and more profitable version of cocaine. Crack comes further down the line from cocaine, and after it’s mixed with a legal non-euphoric substance like ammonia or baking soda it’s cooked down to remove the hydrochloride and produce a smokeable product—typically in the form of an off-white or yellow looking rock. A crack rock, unlike cocaine powder, is water insoluble. “The term crack… refers to the crackling sound heard when the mixture is smoked” (NIDA).

What Schedule Drugs Are Cocaine And Crack?

Cocaine and crack are labeled as Schedule II drugs by the DEA, because of their “high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence. These drugs are also considered dangerous.”

Can You Smoke Cocaine Or Snort Crack?

Cocaine can be mixed with marijuana; a combination referred to in some circles as a one-fifty-oner but by itself, cocaine isn’t normally smoked. Similarly, since crack comes in the form of a rock, it would be unfit to snort up one’s nose. These drugs are dangerous enough on their own as it is, and the preferred methods of use seem to be working—and no matter how a person uses the drug (unless in medicine) it’s illegal.

DrugRehab.org What is the Difference Between Cocaine and Crack_ Difference Between Crack and Cocaine

How Many People Are In Prison For Cocaine Or Crack?

“Over three-quarters of DWI offenders in jail reported using drugs in the past. Among jail inmates held for DWI, marijuana (73%) and cocaine-based drugs including crack (41%) were the most commonly used drugs. Thirty percent of those in jail reported drug use in the month prior to arrest” (Bureau of Justice Statistics). This source will go on to say that in 2002, 11% of U.S. prison inmates were high on cocaine or crack at the time of their arrest—a number that was down from 16% in 1996.

Is Crack More Dangerous Than Cocaine?

Both cocaine and crack are considered dangerous and can be fatal. There were approximately 7,000 cocaine fatalities from 2002 to 20015, and about 60% of those involved an opioid such as heroin (NIDA). Because most of these results were found during an autopsy, it’s inconclusive as to whether the drug being used was crack or cocaine.

Cocaine And Crack Can Be Laced With Other Drugs

Cocaine and crack are regularly laced with other drugs such as meth, marijuana, and opioids. Some people will mix cocaine or crack with heroin which makes for a less intense come-down from the heroin. This mixture of stimulant and depressant is known as a speedball and it can be a fatal combination. What tends to happen when a user mixes an upper with a downer is the drugs cancel each other out—the cocaine reduces the effects of the heroin, so users will continue using heroin to get the high their brain and addiction is seeking.

The serious issue and danger occurs when the cocaine wears off well before the heroin. After that, a user is left with an intense, and often deadly heroin high. Because of the mind blowing euphoria that comes with speedballing; addiction and overdose are much more likely to happen.

Euphoria from Cocaine and Crack

In an interview with ATTN:, clinical pharmacist Jenni Stein described the euphoria produced by cocaine and crack. “A high from snorted cocaine will hit you in about 1-5 minutes, be at its peak within 20-30 minutes, and last 1-2 hours. A high from inhaled or injected cocaine will hit you in less than a minute, be at its peak within 3-5 minutes, and last 30 minutes to an hour.”

DrugRehab.org What is the Difference Between Cocaine and Crack_ Cocaine High

Stein went on to describe crack; “the onset and peak occur much faster with inhaled [if smoked] and injected cocaine, and the user experiences the effects of the drug ‘all at once’—so the user will get higher than if the same amount of cocaine were snorted.”

What Are The Short And Long-Term Effects Of Cocaine And Crack?

As defined by NIDA, “cocaine prevents dopamine from recycling, causing excessive amounts to build up between nerve cells. This flood of dopamine ultimately disrupts normal brain communication and causes cocaine’s high.”

Some of the short-term effects of cocaine are:

  • extreme happiness and energy
  • mental alertness
  • hypersensitivity to sight, sound, and touch
  • irritability
  • paranoia—extreme and unreasonable distrust of others

Some of the long-term effects of cocaine, as described by NIDA, are:

  • constricted blood vessels
  • dilated pupils
  • nausea
  • raised body temperature and blood pressure
  • faster heartbeat
  • tremors and muscle twitches

Cocaine Versus Crack Withdrawals

Both cocaine and crack can have similar withdrawals, however one difference is that because the high from crack is an intensified version to that of cocaine, it’s over faster and adverse symptoms occur sooner. Some of the most common withdrawal symptoms of both crack and cocaine are increased appetite, anxiety, depression, nightmares, insomnia, general discomfort, and restlessness.

Do Crack And Cocaine Have Different Effects On The Health?

No matter how you use it, cocaine is a powerful drug and can lead to serious health risks whether it’s snorted, smoked, or injected. After prolonged use of cocaine or crack, it begin to take a serious toll on a person’s health. From NIDA, few of those risks include:

  • Snorting: loss of sense of smell, nosebleeds, frequent runny nose, and problems with swallowing.
  • Consuming by Mouth: severe bowel decay from reduced blood flow.
  • Intravenous Injection: higher risk for contracting HIV, hepatitis C, and other blood-borne diseases. However, even people involved with non-needle cocaine use place themselves at a risk for HIV because cocaine impairs judgment, which can lead to risky sexual behavior with infected partners

How To Treat An Addiction With Rehab

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For More Information Related to “What is the Difference Between Cocaine and Crack?” Be Sure To Check Out These Additional Resources From DrugRehab.org:



National Institute on Drug Abuse – Cocaine
National Institute on Drug Abuse – What is Cocaine?

Neural Pathway to Treat Cocaine Addiction Might Be Possible

Neural Pathway to Treat Cocaine Addiction Might Be Possible

Pharmaceuticals Could Help Cocaine Addiction

Using other types of drugs to treat drug addiction such as cocaine is not a new concept but it may be debatable. Repeated cocaine use and addiction to cocaine increases the brain’s amount of dopamine (the pleasure centers of the brain). Every time a person uses cocaine, they are essentially changing the chemistry of their brain. Those who have fewer dopamine receptors in their brain are more likely to develop an addiction because they are seeking out cocaine, which is a dopamine-increasing drug.

Scientists have recently found a neural pathway that was undiscovered until now. Using pharmaceuticals may be the next best way to help those recovering from a drug addiction. The neural pathway is thought to maintain a person’s likelihood to relapse. Relapse is central to a cocaine user’s problems because of cocaine’s changes to the brain, making the habit so hard to shake.

In a recent study using lab mice, scientists were able to increase or decrease the animals’ relapse by controlling their Activin receptors. Activin receptors are closely linked to pleasure and reward in the brain. Cocaine changes the brain’s connection to neurons because it changes the shape of cells. Scientists don’t yet fully comprehend why Activin receptors link up with cocaine usage, but they think that the receptors control certain genes which stop cocaine from changing neural pathways. The goal of using pharmaceuticals with neural pathways is to prevent relapse from happening.

What Else Can Mice Reveal?

Scientists say that 1 in 5 people who try cocaine will develop an addiction. Some people, however, do not develop an addiction and scientists are trying to figure out what makes their brains different from those who do develop an addiction. In the study with mice, scientists allowed the animals to poke their noses through an enclosure that contained cocaine. Some of the mice obsessively poked their noses through, seeking more cocaine, while other mice only poked their noses through a few times and couldn’t care less. Scientists discovered that the mice that were not addicted to cocaine showed a strong resilient factor. The resilient mice had stronger inhibitory circuits which gave them better control over how often they visited the drugs.

Why Neurons And Addiction Go Hand-In-Hand

It used to be common knowledge to think that our neural pathways were well-established and rather rigid when we reached adulthood. Recent research however, shows that our brains are much more intricate and adaptive than that. The brain is constantly making new neurons and pathways throughout our lives. For example, if someone is in a tragic car accident and suffers from brain damage, neurons rebuild new pathways around the damaged area. This is called neuronal plasticity. And it happens more often than you’d think.

How We Can Think About Neuroplasticity And How It Changes Us

Imagine you are driving to your favorite restaurant, which you have visited many times. Your brain is wired and recognizes if you have used the same roads over and over again to reach your final destination. Now imagine the next time you drive to your favorite restaurant, a new construction sign is posted and the road is closed for 3 months. You must take a detour that you’ve never used before to get to your favorite place. After driving the detour (maybe several times if you keep visiting the restaurant), your brain learns to adjust and adapt to this new route.

This detour method and adaptation is exactly the same way our brains operate when it comes to cocaine or drug addiction. When a person retrains their brain to associate cocaine with stress-relief or even pleasure, the brain gets rewired to think that this is the new and correct path to take. It’s a good feeling that is hard to break and your brain just wants to keep repeating that feeling over and over again. You have, in effect, changed your neuron pathway the same way you would if you had to learn how to drive a new detour. This is why looking into neuron pathways is so important if we want to understand addictions. Luckily, just as the brain rewired itself for cocaine addiction, the brain can rewire itself after an addiction. Though it is very difficult to do, it can be done. And that is why pharmaceutical use to stop cocaine addiction relapse may help.

Hope For The Future

While scientists are still trying to figure out exactly how neurons and Activin receptors are linked to addictions such as cocaine, perhaps pharmaceuticals that prevent a relapse from happening is the next best thing.

If you’d like to know more about how neural pathways can help cocaine addiction, please contact us at DrugRehab.org.If you’d like to know more about how neural pathways can help cocaine addiction, please contact us at DrugRehab.org. We are here to give you the best information for getting into treatment for addiction and making moves toward a new and drug-free future.

Understanding Cocaine’s Effect On The Brain

Understanding Cocaine's Effect on the Brain

Cocaine’s effect on the brain has been dubbed “a silent disease” despite the far-reaching and immediate consequences. It’s not called a silent disease because it does little harm, but rather that those who ingest even small amounts of the substance semi-regularly are doing great harm. Even small cocaine exposures can quickly reduce the amount of oxygen-rich blood reaching the vital neural network of the brain. Cell death quickly follows. Premature aging of the brain can result in early onset dementia as well as other behavioral, social, and perceptual changes.

What Is Cocaine?

Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant derived from the leaves of the coca plant. The effects of cocaine as a central nervous system stimulant include short-lived heightened focus and extreme euphoria. Use of the drug can also cause a number of cardiovascular complications including the constriction of blood vessels, elevated blood pressure and heart rate, and increased risk of stroke and heart failure.

Cocaine is available on the street as a highly refined powder that is water soluble and injectable or snorted via the nasal passage. Cocaine may also be smoked in the form of crack cocaine. Cocaine’s long-term effects can include damage to grey matter in the brain as well as other structural and biochemical and resulting behavioral changes.

Cocaine’s Immediate Effect On The Brain

When cocaine is first introduced to the body and brain, the resulting euphoria is intense. Cocaine generates a dopamine response related to the reward centers of the brain, and simultaneously increases norepinephrine and serotonin, which when released at levels sustained by cocaine use, leave a person experiencing a heightened level of focus and concentration, along with increased confidence or energy and euphoria associated with the dopamine release.

This high, however, is short-lived, often lasting 15 minutes, and can perpetuate use of the substance, or a cocaine binge. Unfortunately, as someone increases frequency or the amount of cocaine they are ingesting, their normal brain function begins to shut down. Natural release of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin is suppressed as the body becomes dependent on cocaine for similar effects.

Cocaine’s Adverse Effects On The Brain

As abrupt as the effects of cocaine are felt, cocaine’s adverse impact on the brain is equally swift. New research indicates the cocaine-addicted brain ages at twice the rate of a normal brain. The loss of grey matter, the vital communication network in the brain, can lead to stroke and early-onset dementia.

Stroke is the result of reduced blood flow to the brain, common among individuals who abuse cocaine. And recent research at Harvard University shows that even low level exposure to cocaine can restrict blood flow to the brain. The researchers at Harvard exposed test subjects to relatively low amounts of cocaine, compared with what would normally be sold on the street. It was discovered that even at these extremely low doses, blood flow constriction occurred in nearly every subject. It follows that levels obtainable on the street generate an even greater adverse impact on brain health, reducing blood flow and vital oxygen to the cells that need it, resulting most often in the death of grey cell matter.

Cocaine’s Impact On Behavioral Controls Of The Brain

Areas of the prefrontal cortex of the brain are literally rewired by exposure to cocaine. The prefrontal cortex regulates everything from our personality to cognitive function, decision-making, and behavior. This area of the brain can change or adapt over time as necessary to external stimuli, including stress, but when a powerful stimulant like cocaine is introduced, this rewiring can take place in a matter of days and weeks.

One experiment involving mice indicated that when given the choice of an uncomfortable enclosure versus a comfortable enclosure, mice chose the comfortable environment. However, when confined to the uncomfortable enclosure and exposed to cocaine, then re-tested, the mice quickly began showing preference for the uncomfortable enclosure they previously rejected.

This same region of the brain, when altered by cocaine, can turn a moral and sensible individual into a person capable of criminal and violent behaviors. In a healthy individual, the prefrontal cortex regulates decision making and is involved in sorting good thought processes from bad, associates positive action with positive results, avoids negative consequences by avoiding behaviors or situations that are more like to result in negative consequences, etc. In the cocaine-addicted brain, this highly social and regulated part of the brain becomes chaotic and may result in violent outbursts, antisocial behaviors, and an inability to associate action with consequence.

Studies have found a correlation between repeated exposure to cocaine generates a wide range of related psychological symptoms in addition to impaired cognitive function, including paranoia, social avoidance or withdrawal, severe insomnia, anxiety, impulsivity, delusions, hallucinations, violent outbursts, homicidal or suicidal thoughts or actions, and depression.

Treat The Addiction, Heal The Addicted Brain

Healing the brain after an addiction to cocaine is one of the greatest challenges to long-term recovery. It can take months for dopamine levels to return to any pre-cocaine exposure levels, resulting in feelings of apathy, lethargy, and general malaise. This is one of the primary reasons for relapse in the first year of recovery.

Cravings for cocaine as well as depression and the symptoms described above can persist for months. Managing these and other withdrawal side effects is one way to improve the long-term success outcome for the cocaine-addicted individual, as well as reducing overall harm to the brain.

Locate Treatment Options Near You For Cocaine Addiction

DrugRehab.org is an online resource designed to connect you with the drug treatment options that meet your individual needs and preferences.Let us connect you with the professional support and evidence-based drug treatment programs that can help you reclaim your life from a cocaine addiction. Contact us and discover a new and rewarding life in recovery beginning today.

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Types of Addictions: Cocaine

Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine is an illegal stimulant that produces intense, short-lived euphoria — and potentially life-threatening effects such as heart attack or stroke.  In the United States, cocaine is involved in more emergency room visits than any other illicit drug, according to 2011 data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Derived from the South American coca plant, cocaine is known to be extremely addictive.  The drug is typically snorted through the nose as a fine white powder, or dissolved in water and injected into the veins (which increases the risk of overdose).  Freebase cocaine is known as “crack” — a rock crystal form of the drug that is smoked and crackles when heated.

Addictive and Dangerous

Cocaine stimulates the brain’s reward pathways and floods the body with feel-good dopamine, causing a powerful euphoric rush.  Users may also feel agitated, confident and hyper-energetic.

Tolerance to cocaine develops quickly and requires larger, more frequent doses to sustain the characteristic cocaine high.  This can lead to addiction and devastating health consequences.

Cocaine’s Health Risks

Cocaine impairs judgment and can cause great physical and psychological harm.  Its adverse effects may include:

  • Severe paranoia, anxiety and hallucinations
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Seizures, stroke
  • Malnutrition (related to appetite suppression)
  • Sudden cardiac arrest
  • Abdominal pain/intestinal damage and nausea
  • Chest pain, respiratory infections
  • Nosebleeds and nasal damage from snorting cocaine
  • HIV, hepatitis and other blood-borne diseases from injecting cocaine
  • Risk of fatal overdose, especially when cocaine is combined with other drugs


While the abuse of opioid drugs such as heroin and prescription narcotics is on the rise, cocaine use has been declining in recent years.

In 2012, there were an estimated 1.6 million cocaine users in the United States, vs. 2.4 million users in 2007, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.  Cocaine users represent approximately 0.6 percent of the U.S. population; the average age at first use is 20 years old.

Spending by drug users on cocaine has decreased by nearly half, from $55 billion in 2000 to $28 billion in 2010, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy.  Drug experts attribute the decline to a crackdown on Colombian production and trafficking of cocaine — as well as higher prices per gram, and less cocaine purity in the U.S. market.

The good news is that cocaine addiction rates and overdose deaths are also down, but there is still cause for concern.  Many people remain dependent on cocaine — endangering their physical and mental health, especially when binging on the drug.  They also risk criminal arrest and financial and family hardship.

Do You Have a Cocaine Problem?

Cocaine’s highly addictive properties make it easy to become dependent on the drug.  Even after periods of abstinence, there is a high risk of relapse — as certain cues or memories can trigger powerful cravings for cocaine, according to research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

If you have a strong urge to use cocaine, and need increasingly more to get high — or if you continually binge on cocaine despite the consequences, you may be at risk for addiction.

A confidential self-test for cocaine addiction is available online from Cocaine Anonymous, a 12-step fellowship of people in recovery.  Click here to take the test:


Physicians diagnose cocaine dependence by using the gold-standard DSM-5 criteria, developed by the American Psychiatric Association.  A person must meet at least two of 11 criteria within the same 12-month period, such as a strong urge to use cocaine; spending a great deal of time trying to obtain, use or recover from cocaine; building a tolerance for the drug; and having withdrawal symptoms after stopping cocaine use.

Cocaine Addiction in a Loved One

Signs of cocaine use in a loved one may include periods of disappearance and returning in a notably excited, talkative or agitated state.  You may observe that your loved one is not eating much, sleeps very little or all the time (following a drug binge or “crash”), has mood swings or is more prone to aggression and risky sexual behaviors.  Your relative may also lose interest in work and family life, as cocaine use becomes all-consuming.

Physical changes in your loved one may include dilated pupils, a runny nose or nosebleeds (if cocaine is snorted), needle track marks (if cocaine is injected) or blistered, cracked lips and burned fingers (if cocaine is smoked).

Getting Help

You don’t have to fight cocaine addiction alone.  Effective treatment is available, including medically-supervised detoxification programs that can help ease withdrawal symptoms and prevent cocaine relapse.  Like millions of Americans in recovery from addiction, you can experience the rewards of a healthy, drug-free life.

“I’m confident that medications – or perhaps a vaccine – will be the future of cocaine addiction treatment,” says David J. McCann, Associate Director of the Division of Pharmacotherapies and Medical Consequences of Drug Abuse at the National Institute on Drug Abuse.  “However, it is important for patients to know that effective non-drug therapies, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, already exist. There is no reason to delay in seeking treatment.”

Cocaine addiction is typically treated in an inpatient residential facility.  To be most effective, the treatment duration should be at least 90 days, and severe addiction may require longer stays, according to research studies by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Your best option for long-term recovery is a program that addresses all aspects of your addiction.  This includes any dependence on other drugs, nutritional depletion caused by cocaine use, and mood disorders or mental health issues that co-occur with the cocaine addiction.

An effective program often includes research-proven psychosocial therapies, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which helps break patterns of destructive thinking to prevent cocaine relapse.  A strong “after care” program is essential, to build on the gains made in rehab.

On the Horizon: A Cocaine Vaccine, Medications that Ease Cravings

One of the most promising advances in cocaine addiction treatment is a potential vaccine, now in development at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City.  The vaccine works by creating antibodies that bind to the cocaine, making it too large to reach the brain and have any effect.

Once cocaine is ingested — whether it’s smoked, inhaled, or snorted — it goes to the bloodstream.  The anti-cocaine vaccine binds to the drug molecules, creating a larger molecule that is unable to cross the blood-brain barrier.  And when cocaine fails to reach the brain, the user does not experience a dopamine-induced “high” — which ultimately can break the cycle of addiction.  Even if the cocaine user has a relapse while taking the vaccine, the cocaine will have no effect.

Currently, there are no FDA-approved medications specifically for cocaine addiction, although doctors may prescribe muscle relaxants and anti-depressants to ease cravings and promote well-being. The National Institute on Drug Abuse is conducting trials on several promising medications that could help reduce cocaine dependence.  These established medications are already approved to treat other diseases and include vigabatrin, modafinil, disulfiram, topiramate and tiagabine.

Disulfiram, also known as Antabuse, is a common treatment for alcoholism that has been shown to reduce cocaine use in clinical trials.  Disulfiram discourages cocaine dependence by making the “high” much less pleasant and the user more anxious.  The combination of buprenorphine plus naltrexone is also being studied as a promising pharmacological treatment for cocaine addiction.

Resources for Recovery

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Drugrehab.org helps people achieve freedom from cocaine by finding the best care for lasting recovery.  We provide FREE referrals to respected rehabilitation centers nationwide – including the latest evidence-based treatment approaches and aftercare programs.  All calls are confidential and help is available 24/7.

Drugrehab.org is an independent service, not funded by or affiliated with any treatment center.  To find help for cocaine dependence, call our experienced counselors today at:

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Cocaine Anonymous is a 12-step fellowship of former cocaine-addicted individuals, with online forums and in-person meetings held throughout the United States.  To find the nearest C.A. meeting, go to the website or call 1-800-347-8998.


These websites include online forums, mutual aid organizations and 12-step programs for people with cocaine and other drug addictions:





1-800-NCA-CALL (800-622-2255)  24-hour helpline sponsored by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.>

1-800-662-HELP (4357)  24-hour National Drug and Alcohol Abuse Hotline offering information and referral services to people seeking treatment and other assistance; sponsored by the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT)



Reviews questions to ask when searching for a rehabilitation program.  A free publication from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.