Home Blog Recovery News WHAT IS CRACK?



You’ve probably heard people refer to crack before, if not in person then on television. Crackheads, crack houses, crack babies – if you were around in the mid-1980s when crack first became very popular, you’ve probably heard all of these terms. But what exactly is crack, and how is it used?

Crack is the shortened term for crack cocaine. It’s the most potent form of the drug, and it’s made by processing cocaine with baking soda or ammonia so that it dries into a solid, or “rock” form. Hydrochloride is also removed from the cocaine, which gives it a higher melting point and allows it to be smoked. Once it’s been processed, crack looks like a yellowish-white rock. It’s then cut or broken up into smaller pieces that usually weigh a few tenths of a gram. It can be crushed and snorted, combined with marijuana, mixed with heroin, injected, or smoked through a pipe. A cracking sound is produced when it is heated to be smoked, which is where the name comes from.

Cocaine is a dangerous drug in any form, but crack cocaine is particularly risky, especially if you smoke it. Smoking crack allows it to reach the brain more rapidly than other methods, and the resulting high is very intense but only lasts about 15 minutes. This leads to people using it more frequently. It’s possible to become addicted after just one use. Some of the short-term effects of crack are:

  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Constricted peripheral blood vessels
  • Increased rate of breathing
  • Dilated pupils
  • Hyperstimulation
  • Intense euphoria
  • Decreased appetite
  • Anxiety and paranoia
  • Aggressive, paranoid behavior
  • Depression
  • Intense drug craving
  • Sudden death

Long term effects include:

  • Severe depression
  • Irritability and mood disturbances
  • Aggressive, paranoid behavior
  • Delirium or psychosis
  • Tolerance and addiction, even after just one use
  • Auditory and tactile hallucinations
  • Heart attack and heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Respiratory failure
  • Brain seizures
  • Sexual dysfunction (for both men and women)
  • Reproductive damage and infertility (for both men and women)
  • Increased frequency of risky behavior
  • Death


Crack is a stimulant that acts on the central nervous system. It causes an excess of dopamine – a neurotransmitter that controls the parts of the brain associated with reward and pleasure and helps regulate emotional responses. This means that after you use crack, your brain starts associating it with reward, reinforcing the idea that you should use it again, and you’ll develop strong cravings.

Penalties for the use of crack are quite stiff compared to other drugs, even cocaine. Under federal law, a single gram of crack is subject to the same penalties as 18 grams of cocaine. Possessing 28 grams of crack carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years, while 500 grams of cocaine is required for the same sentence.

If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504 to get started.



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