Confidential Assessment

Call: (888) 409-5356

What Is The Difference Between Cocaine And Crack?

What is the Difference Between Cocaine And Crack?

It can be very difficult to understand what is the difference between cocaine and crack. This is because these drugs are almost identical. In fact, the official name of crack is crack cocaine. It is also known as cocaine base. Crack is cocaine that has had a hydrochloride salt removed. By taking out this molecule, the cocaine can be smoked. This leads to a higher purity of cocaine. The greater purity creates a more intense high. It also leads to addiction more easily. There are also different dangers for each drug.

What is Cocaine?

Cocaine comes from the Erythroxylon coca plant. These grow mostly in South America. People have been using leaves from these plants for thousands of years. Here is a basic timeline of the evolution of cocaine:

  • 3000 B.C.E. – Indigenous people find chewing the leaves of the coca plant produce a mild high.
  • 1859 C.E. – Physician Paolo Mantegazza publishes a personal account of the energizing effects of chewing coca leaves. He shows it to be a painkiller.
  • 1860 C.E. – Chemist Albert Niemann isolates the drug within the coca plant that creates intoxicating effects. This drug is cocaine. It is officially named cocaine hydrochloride.
  • 1860 – 1898 C.E. – Doctors use cocaine in surgical procedures. It helps reduce pain and bleeding during surgery.
  • 1884 C.E. – Psychologist Sigmund Freud Writes “Uber Coca.” His praise of the drug helps create a frenzy of use.
  • 1886 C.E. – John Pemberton invents Coca-Cola. A beverage containing cocaine, sugar and extracts from the Cola plant.
  • 1902 C.E. – 200,000 cocaine addicts are identified.
  • 1907 C.E. – Cocaine imports to the United States triple between 1900 and 1907.
  • 1914 C.E. – Politicians pass the Harrison Narcotic Act. This outlaws importation of coca leaves to the United States. It also outlaws the import or manufacture of cocaine for non-medical purposes.
  • 1980’s C.E. – Crack cocaine begins appearing as an alternative street drug.

Clearly, there is a huge gap between when coca leaves were first discovered and the invention of cocaine. That is because science hadn’t progressed far enough to understand how coca leaves work. When scientists began to discover the benefits of cocaine, it quickly became dangerous. When cocaine occurs naturally, it is difficult to extract from the leaves. However, it becomes much more potent when the leaves are processed.

How Cocaine Becomes Crack

Turning cocaine into crack is a simple process. It only requires a few basic steps:

Boil cocaine in water.

Add baking soda.

Break up resulting mass into “rocks.”

This process removes the hydrochloride salt. It also turns the cocaine into a solid mass. This solid mass is crack. Crack gets its name from the crackling sound the rocks make when smoked. With the hydrochloride taken out, the crack cocaine has a lower melting point. Therefore, it turns to smoke when it is heated. Users can then inhale the smoke for a more concentrated high.

Using Cocaine vs. Crack

Users of cocaine normally inhale it through the nose. They may also dissolve and inject it. Crack users typically smoke it. However, crack can also be inhaled or injected. Cocaine alone cannot be smoked. This is due to its higher melting point.

The effects of snorting, injecting and smoking are all similar. In each case, users report the following effects:

  • Euphoria or extreme happiness for the short term.
  • Increased energy levels.
  • Enhanced focus.
  • Reduced physical pain.
  • Increased heart rate.
  • Decreased appetite.

Though these are the same for both crack and cocaine, there’s still many differences. For example, the highs of inhaling cocaine are less than smoking crack. Cocaine also needs more time to take effect.  Generally, inhaling cocaine requires 3-5 minutes before the high is felt. Injecting cocaine can require even longer. It can take up to 10-30 minutes for the full effect of an injection to occur. On the other hand, when smoking crack, the effects are almost instant. However, the euphoria of smoking crack lasts for less time. The high from smoking crack is usually only 5-10 minutes in duration. The high from injecting cocaine can be 20-60 minutes. Inhaling cocaine falls in the middle. Usually snorting cocaine provides a 15-30 minute high.

Though these differences are subtle, they can cause major changes in how the users feel. Crack is more highly addictive because the rush is faster and the high is greater. The crash is also worse. Because of these quick, extreme highs and major lows, crack causes dependency faster. Along with increased dependency, crack comes with its own unique risks.

What is the Difference Between Cocaine and Crack: Dangers

Since cocaine and crack are very similar, they have similar hazards. However, there are some increased risks when using crack. This is due to the greater potency of cocaine that crack has. Here’s an outline of the dangers, and how they are different between crack and cocaine:


  • High risk of dependency.
  • Possibility of overdose.
  • Damages tissue and cartilage inside the nasal passages. This can lead to nosebleeds or a constant running of the nose.
  • Increased stress and agitation along with paranoia, anxiety and discontentment caused by damage to the reward pathway of the brain.
  • Faster heart rate along with higher body temperature.
  • Possibility of heart attack, disturbed heart rhythm and stroke.


  • High risk of dependency as well as faster addiction rate than cocaine.
  • Higher risk of overdose due to increased concentration of cocaine in crack rocks.
  • Damages the lungs from inhalation. This can lead to chest pain, trouble breathing and severe lung damage causing the coughing up of blood or lung failure.
  • Has the same stress, agitation, paranoia and anxiety, but these symptoms are more intense in crack use.
  • Much faster heart rate.
  • Greater potential for heart attack, stroke and/or irregular heartbeat.

As you can see, the problems between the two drugs are very much alike.

In addition to these issues, there is also the difference in freebasing cocaine and intravenous or IV cocaine use.

Additional Dangers of Freebasing Cocaine and IV Cocaine Use

It’s a common mistake to think that freebasing cocaine and smoking crack are the same thing. In freebasing, the hydrochloride salt is also removed. This makes it similar to crack. However, the freebasing process involves using ether to increase the purity of the cocaine. Ether is highly flammable. As a result, smoking freebase can lead to explosions and fires. Prior to the invention of crack, deaths from these explosions was common in freebase users.

Cocaine can also be taken intravenously. Using cocaine this way carries all the same risks of inhaling cocaine. It also carries a higher chance of overdose because it is being put directly into the bloodstream.

Getting Help with Crack or Cocaine Addiction

Knowing what is the difference between cocaine and crack won’t help much if you need to recover from addiction to either one.

Addiction to any form of cocaine is very serious. The extreme highs that come with use of any form of cocaine make users crave it. This makes recovery more difficult. If you or someone you know uses cocaine of any kind, they are in grave danger of dependency. Getting over this dependency requires help. Our staff is trained specifically to deal with addiction to crack or cocaine. They will be able to help manage the pain from withdrawal and start the recovery process. This is a deadly drug that can kill at any time. Don’t wait to get assistance. Call now to stop the addiction cycle and gain freedom from this deadly drug.

Contact us for help today

Ready to start? We’re here for you.

(888) 978-1697

Send us a message

Your Name