Crack vs. Cocaine: What’s the Difference?

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What’s the Difference Between Crack and Cocaine?

Contrary to popular belief, crack and cocaine are two separate drugs. People often mistake the two as interchangeable, however they are individual drugs that damage the body differently. This article discusses crack, cocaine, and their effects.

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Crack vs Cocaine

Due to the similarities between the two drugs, many people believe that the two are the same and go by different names. Though the two substances share some similarities, like how they are both addictive, they also have their fair share of differences. To better identify each drug for what they are, let us break them down into the categorized variations.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, cocaine (coke) and crack are listed, among others, as the most commonly used drugs with the most probable rate of being abused or mishandled by the user.

Despite the belief that cocaine and crack are identical to the other (their appearance and level of effectiveness, among other things), the list of differences is quite extensive. Let us divide the two, and further break them down to better portray and help paint a better picture of the two materials’ differences.

Drug addiction and substance abuse are among us, especially crack and cocaine. We must first become educated to end addiction, especially on the most commonly mishandled substances. If you or someone you know is suffering from or partaking in addiction, please call us at 405-583-4390. Again, do not hesitate to reach out for help or more information.

Fundamentals of Cocaine

Originating from the leaves of coco plants in South America, then transformed into a hydrochloride salt (powder), the substance cocaine is a compelling, addictive stimulant. According to the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, the material is ranked fifth in most harmful drugs to individuals/ users and in threatening drugs to others.


Cocaine’s most common form is its natural white mineral powder.

Street Names

Because cocaine is typically found and bought off the streets, the substance goes by many names. Such names include Blow, Snow, Dust, C, Aunt Nora, Binge, Flake, Nose Candy, Mojo, Paradise, Bernice, and Charlie.

How Does Someone Use Cocaine?

Primarily, cocaine is a refined substance typically snorted through the nasal cavity, directly injecting the substance into the bloodstream. However, someone can also get high by rubbing the fine mineral on their gums.


In 2014, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that an estimated 1.5 million cocaine users were 12 years of age and older. In fact, findings showed those between the ages of 18 and 25 are at an increased rate of cocaine use than any other age group.


According to the U.S Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration, as of March 2017, the average cost of one gram of cocaine is approximately $160.

Impacts and Effects of Cocaine

Like numerous other illicit drugs and substances, when cocaine is administered and reaches the reward circuit portion of the brain, dopamine (chemical messenger, also known as the “feel-good” hormone) distributes at an excessive rate.

Usually, when dopamine discharges, it is reprocessed back into the cell that spreads it. Yet, when one administers cocaine, the substance blocks the “feel-good” hormone from being recovered and used again, preventing the brain’s communication system from progressing.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, when the brain becomes overwhelmed with dopamine, the reward circuit adapts to the increased hormone levels and becomes less responsive. This behavior causes people to become addicted and obsessed with the fine illicit powder, as well as what motivates them to administer higher dosages of the substance.

Time of Effect:

Snorting cocaine takes 1 to 5 minutes to absorb and enter the brain. As a result, its effects will peak between 20-30 minutes, then diminish with an hour or two. After injecting the powder into the bloodstream, it takes an estimated 15 and 30 minutes to absorb. Making the effect (s) of the drug lasts roughly between 20 and 60 minutes.

Physical Impacts:
  • Recurrent runny nose
  • Loss of smell
  • Nosebleeds
  • Skin infections
  • Collapsed veins
  • Difficulty swallowing
Mental Effects:
  • Irritable
  • Delusional
  • Mentally vigilant
  • Oversensitive vision, hearing, and contact

Fundamentals of Crack

Deriving from its original form of cocaine, then mixed with water and baking soda (or another substance), the illicit material, crack cocaine, is known to be compelling. The drug gets its name from the form it reflects—rocks or fragments. According to the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, crack is ranked first in life-threatening drugs. Further, it ranked third for danger to others.


The appearance of crack typically resembles that of rocks or broken pieces of firm forms.

Street Names:

Since the drug is sold regularly on the streets, it goes by a list of various names. Such names include Cloud, 8-ball, Rock, Hard rock, Jellybeans, Nuggets, Dice, Cookies, Crumbs, Snow coke, Candy, and Hail.

How Does Someone Use Crack?

On account of crack cocaine being formed by boiling the mixed substance and the finished product resembling rocks, crack is handled by smoking the material. Also, the substance is heated to produce vapors to inhale.


Coherent to the information collected by the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, approximately 6,222,000 U.S. citizens, ages 12 years old and up, practiced using crack at least once. During the assessment, participants disclosed that 150,000 students between 12 and 17 used crack cocaine. Also, 1,003,000 young adults used the illicit substance, that was between the ages of 18 and 25.


Though there is no definitive answer for an exact number, studies and research have found that crack cocaine is cheaper than its original derivative. The reason is that cocaine’s starting price is costly, and many people cannot afford pure material. So, crack cocaine became a more affordable stimulant solution for those who could not afford the original material—making crack cocaine more affordable and accessible to users.

Impacts and Effects of Crack

When smoking crack, the effects are instantaneous. However, its effects will only last between 30 and 60 minutes. Because the result is immediate, after absorption, practicing this behavior can lead the said individual who is using it to develop cycles of binging and crashing. Thus, making them physically dependent on the said substance.

Physical Impacts:
  • Asthma
  • Increased risks of respiratory infections
  • Coughing
  • Blistered lips
  • Burnt fingers
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lung damage
Mental Effects:
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Depression
  • Psychosis
  • Hysteria
  • Confusion

Risks of Overdose and Sentencing

According to the National Library of Medicine, whether it is the original form or the derivative, the number of cocaine overdosages is continuously increasing. To get an idea of the number, in 2016, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that 17.6% of deaths within the year resulted from cocaine overdosages.

Now, a factor that could play a role in the increasing numbers of cocaine overdosages is how accessible the substance(s) is. For example, as mentioned before, the primary purpose of crack cocaine is to offer a more affordable stimulant solution to those who cannot afford the original cocaine substance.

Prison Sentencing Disparities:

Before 1986, civil law treated cocaine and crack equally. Then came the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, which required a minimum of 5 years sentencing for first-time offense possession of 5 grams of crack. The sentencing was the same for a first-time offense of possessing 500 grams of cocaine.

Passing the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 caused many African Americans to become prosecuted for possessing as little as 5 grams of crack. In addition, because of the socioeconomic status of those who authorities charged, crack cocaine was and is more accessible and affordable to those residing in low-income households.

After the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, the 100 to 1 disparity diminished to 18 to 1. Therefore, for the adjusted crack-to-powder-cocaine fraction, it was fitting to lower the quantity to better execute equal sentencing.

In summary, crack users are more at risk for prison time because the drug is affordable and readily produced compared to the pure and original form.

Distinction Between the Two

Though there are many similarities between the two illicit drugs, the two substances are both unique. For example, the most notable difference between cocaine and crack is their appearance. Cocaine is a natural, refined, and purer substance, whereas crack resembles that of a rock. In addition, it is a solid substance with a higher addictive rate than its derivative.

However, in terms of their effects, the two are similar, if not identical, in that aspect.
Another notable difference between the two illicit drugs is that crack is more affordable and accessible than cocaine. Crack is cheaper because many people cannot afford the first-class rated white powder. Therefore, they choose the rocky substance because of its low costs and easy manufacturing.

Drug Addiction Treatment is Available

Nevertheless, the rates of cocaine addiction are on climbing. Whether it is in the form of white powder or fragments of rocks, illicit drug addiction must come to an end. Drug and substance addiction is nothing to laugh at or meant to mock. It is life-threatening.

If you or someone you know is suffering from or partaking in addiction, please call us at 405-583-4390. Do not hesitate to reach out for help or more information. Let us help before it is too late.


[1] Commonly Used Drugs Charts | National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) (

[2] Behavioral Health Trends in the United States: Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (

[3] What Does a Cocaine Overdose Look Like? – (

[4Does Cocaine Lower the Immune System? – Recover Today (

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