Cocaine Addiction: What Is Crack Cocaine?

The stigma of addiction is already difficult enough for many individuals to navigate on their own. Seeking help for addiction may be incorrectly believed by people with a substance use disorder (SUD) as a form of moral failing. However, no human life is worth the risk of harmful and illegal substances, such as crack cocaine. Here is what you need to know about this substance and where to find help for cocaine addiction when you need it.

What Is Crack Cocaine?

Crack cocaine, or simply “crack,” is a potent and addictive stimulant derived from powdered cocaine through a straightforward conversion process. 

Drug Awareness: Common Street Terms for Crack Cocaine

Crack slang terms are constantly being created by individuals and drug dealers to stay ahead of local law enforcement and DEA officers. These street terms evolve often and may even have regional variations.

Some of the most common terms for crack cocaine include:

  • Base
  • Beat
  • Casper
  • Chalk
  • Gravel
  • Hardball
  • Kryptonite
  • Love
  • Moonrocks
  • Rock
  • Stone

It is important to be aware of the prevalence of illegal and dangerous substances such as crack cocaine in order to effectively detect its presence and help people with substance use disorder find the treatment and recovery support they need. For a more comprehensive list of street names, see this report from the DEA.

Understanding Crack vs. Cocaine

Whether in powder or in crystalized form, cocaine has the same active pharmacological ingredients. Two distinct types of formulations exist: 

Manufacturing Process

For crack cocaine, the process involves the dissolution of powdered cocaine in a carefully concocted mixture of water and either ammonia or sodium bicarbonate, commonly known as baking soda. As the mixture is heated, the hydrochloride is extracted until a solid substance begins to form. 

Once the solid substance is separated from the liquid, it undergoes a drying process. Following this, it is carefully fragmented into distinct pieces, commonly referred to as “rocks,” which are subsequently made available for sale as crack cocaine.

Method of Consumption

Individuals typically engage in the administration of cocaine through various methods, including oral ingestion, intranasal consumption, intravenous injection, or inhalation. 

  • Cocaine: When individuals engage in intranasal use, they inhale cocaine powder through their nostrils, allowing for absorption into the bloodstream via the nasal tissues. In addition to other methods of consumption, individuals may choose to apply the drug topically to their gums for oral use. 
  • Certain individuals may also dissolve cocaine in water and inject it intravenously, allowing for the direct release of the drug into the bloodstream. This results in a heightened intensity of its effects. This method also puts the individual at a heightened risk of contracting diseases such as HIV.
  • Crack cocaine: Smoking crack is the most common method of consumption. The inhalation of crack cocaine results in a rapid and substantial administration of the substance to the respiratory system, leading to an immediate and profound sense of euphoria.

Is Crack More Dangerous Than Cocaine?

A common and often life-threatening myth surrounding crack cocaine is that it is more dangerous than the powder form of the substance. However, since these two products are essentially created from the same chemical makeup, they both pose similar health and safety risks to any individual.

History of the Drug

One of the most significant increases in crack cocaine usage took place during the infamous “crack epidemic” that spanned from the 1980s to the early 1990s, as this potent substance made its way through various urban centers across the United States.

The Crack Epidemic

During the early 1980s, a significant portion of the cocaine supply destined for the United States found its way to Miami, primarily originating from Colombia and being illicitly transported through the Bahamas. In a relatively short span of time, a substantial surplus of cocaine powder flooded the islands, resulting in a significant decline in its price, dropping by an astonishing 80 percent.

In response to the declining prices of their illicit merchandise, drug dealers found themselves at a crossroads. They ultimately opted to transform the powdered substance into “crack,” a solid variant of cocaine that could be conveniently smoked. This strategic move allowed them to cater to a broader customer base by offering smaller quantities of the product. This product boasted an affordable price point, a streamlined production process, and immediate usability. Ultimately, it proved to be exceptionally lucrative for dealers to cultivate.

Do People Still Use Crack Cocaine?

Currently, the abuse of this substance is unfortunately still prevalent due to its ability to provide an immediate high. Furthermore, its accessibility and affordability contribute to its widespread misuse, as it can be easily and inexpensively manufactured.

The Effects of Crack and Cocaine

Short-Term Side-Effects 

The short-term use of crack or cocaine can have immediate effects on your body. It can cause your blood vessels to become narrower, your pupils to enlarge, and your body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure to rise. 

While excessive consumption of cocaine can significantly heighten the individual’s euphoric experience, it can also result in unusual, unpredictable, and aggressive behavior. 

Some symptoms an individual may experience from short-term use include:

  • Sensations of restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Paranoia
  • Panic
  • Dizziness or nausea
  • Tremors
  • Muscle twitches 

Long-Term Side-Effects

Repeated cocaine use reduces the brain’s sensitivity to natural rewards, such as food and sex. Stress-related brain processes become more sensitive, too, leading to more unpleasant feelings and emotions when the substance isn’t available. To maintain the same amount of pleasure and relief from withdrawal, affected individuals may eventually need to take larger quantities of crack or cocaine and/or use it more often.

Ultimately, regular use of cocaine can lead to increased tolerance to its rewarding effects and heightened sensitivity to its toxic effects. This deadly combination can significantly raise the risk of experiencing an overdose.

How Cocaine Addiction Develops 

Cocaine primarily affects the brain’s limbic system, which is a network of interconnected regions responsible for regulating pleasure and motivation. This is how it produces its psychoactive and addictive effects. One of the immediate and temporary effects of taking crack or cocaine is an increase in the neurochemical dopamine, which leads to feelings of euphoria and a craving to use the drug again.

If you or someone you care about may be at risk of developing a cocaine addiction or is already struggling with addiction to cocaine, know that there are judgment-free resources and supportive professionals available who are ready to help you. Speak to your primary healthcare provider as soon as possible or reach out to an established drug rehab like Birmingham Recovery Center.

Overcome Crack Cocaine Addiction in Birmingham, AL

Birmingham Recovery Center provides treatment and helpful resources for overcoming crack or cocaine addiction in Birmingham, AL. Our kind, supportive team is ready to help you or your loved one get on the right path to experience a joyful life free from drugs. Contact us today to learn more about our programs.


  • Ian Henyon, LPC

    Having worked in a variety of clinical settings since 2008, Ian brings well over a decade of treatment center experience to the leadership role at Birmingham Recovery Center. As Executive Director, he is responsible for all aspects of BRC’s operations and provision of services. Being firmly grounded in the notion of servant leadership, Ian is focused on establishing a supportive work environment as a foundation for providing superior clinical services to BRC’s clients. Ian combines his extensive knowledge of treating addiction and psychiatric illness with the recognition that addiction is a disorder of the brain, to ensure that all clients are treated with the highest levels of respect and compassion. Ian is a licensed professional counselor. He is a graduate of the University of Georgia and he received a Master of Science degree from Prescott College.


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