What is the difference between Crack and Cocaine?

crack vs cocaine

Crack VS Cocaine

Crack vs Cocaine: Cocaine is a white powdered drug which originates from the coca plant and is native to South America. In contrast, crack cocaine, usually referred to as just crack, is a strong derivative of pure cocaine which is sold in a crystal rock form. Both drugs are highly addictive substances which have very negative side effects if abused. 

Overview of Cocaine and Crack

Cocaine is a very powerful stimulant chemical found in the leaves of the coca plant. Natives in the region would commonly chew on the leaves in order to extract the cocaine for thousands of years. Nowadays, cocaine is isolated and extracted from the leaf as cocaine hydrochloride. Cocaine is typically snorted or injected. The powdered street form of cocaine will often be ‘cut’ by dealers with other non-active substances such as cornstarch in order to boost their profits. However, there has been a recent increase in fentanyl-laced cocaine being sold which has caused a serious increase in overdoses over the past few years given the potency of fentanyl. For more in-depth information on cocaine and addiction resources visit here.

Crack (also referred to as freebase cocaine) is a potent derivative of cocaine which is obtained by mixing the powdered form with water and sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). Boiling the mixture helps solidify it in to a hard rock form which also removes most of the addictive hydrochlorides found in pure cocaine- however it does not completely rid the drug of its other addictive qualities. Crack gets its name from the crackling noise made when smoking the drug- which is typically done using a crack pipe.

Cocaine is officially listed as a schedule II drug by the Controlled Substance Act. According to the DEA, a schedule II drug has a very high potential for abuse but may have some limited medical uses. Cocaine may be used by medical professionals as an anesthesia for some surgeries. Given that crack is a form of cocaine, it falls under the same scheduling, however, crack has no approved medical uses.

Effects of Crack vs. Cocaine

The intensity of any high with any drug is mostly related to the way in which it is consumed. Snorting cocaine will take more time to reach the brain as it has to be absorbed by the blood vessels in the nose, sent to the heart, pumped to the lungs to become oxygenated and then sent to the brain. Whereas smoking the drug allows it to skip passing through the heart and go straight to the brain- typically taking 10-15 seconds to reach the brain. Given that crack is difficult to snort or inject, most people opt to smoke the drug, creating an intense and fast-acting high. Other methods include:

  • Oral use: effects felt 10-30 minutes after use and will typically last up to 90 minutes
  • Intravenous use (injection): effects felt 5-10 seconds after use and will typically last up to 20 minutes

Crack and cocaine generally exhibit similar effects on the brain and body including

  • Euphoriacrack vs cocaine
  • Increased alertness
  • Increased heart rate
  • Dilated pupils

FAQs for Crack and Cocaine:

Addictive aspects of crack vs cocaine -

Both versions of drug prohibits the release of dopamine causing the chemical to build up in the brain and amplifying the pleasurable and addictive effects of dopamine. This intense high is highly desirable and sought out by those who struggle with abuse and addiction. 

The high experienced by smoking crack is intense but only lasts around 5-10 minutes whereas snorting cocaine will last around 30 minutes. After the high wears off, the individual will experience a hard crash which will bring about extreme fatigue, anxiety, irritability and paranoia. With extended use, the drug can cause severe damage to the body including:

  • An increased risk of developing certain cancers 
  • Heart attack 
  • Stroke
  • Seizures

Both crack and cocaine possess a high risk of overdose.

How long does crack stay in your system?

Crack has a relatively short half-life of around 15 minutes which means it takes about 15 minutes for the drug to reduce to half of its initially ingested dose. However, crack can still be detected via blood, urine, saliva and hair follicle tests well past the last use. While it is dependent on usage crack can be detected in:

  • Blood, up to 12 hours after use
  • Saliva, up to 24 hours after useCrack vs Cocaine
  • Urine, up to 4 days after use
  • Hair 90 days after use 

A big factor in how fast traces of crack leaves your body is your history of useage. Someone who is a frequent user of crack can expect to have traces of the drug in their body longer than someone who has done it only once.

How long does cocaine stay in your system?

Cocaine has a half life of around 1 hour which means it would take around an hour for half of the drugs dose to leave the body. Depending on usage, cocaine can be detected in:

  • Saliva and blood around 12-48 hours after use
  • Urine around 1-4 days after use Crack vs Cocaine
  • Hair around 90 days after use

A big factor in how fast traces of cocaine leaves your body is your history of useage. Someone who is a frequent user of cocaine can expect to have traces of the drug in their body longer than someone who has done it only once.

What are some cocaine withdrawal symptoms?

Cocaine withdrawal symptoms can last as long as 10 weeks and can involve painful psychological and physiological side effects. Common symptoms include:

  • Strong cravings
  • Lethargy and fatigue
  • Hyperactivity 
  • Insomnia
  • Poor concentration
  • Tremors
  • Depression

Given that it is a derivative of cocaine, crack shows similar withdrawal symptoms.


The extent and severity of your symptoms will vary depending on:

  • Your usage history (i.e. long time user, first time user, etc.)
  • The extent of your addiction
  • The use of other drugs (also known as polysubstance abuse)
  • Whether you have co-occurring disorders or other mental/physical health conditions

Why do people smoke crack?

Smoking crack can provide a much more intense high and rush. Smoking anything will typically reach the brain faster than snorting. When you smoke a substance, the chemicals do not have to pass the heart as oxygenated blood from the lungs are already being pumped to the brain. The intense high achieved from smoking crack is usually has a one time effect. The desire to experience a first time high can cause people to up their dosage in search of that high; however, rarely is it achieved.


If you or a loved one is need of help for crack or cocaine addiction, please reach out today.


Chicago CBS – Dangerous Fentanyl-Laced Cocaine Linked to Overdoses

DEA – Controlled Substances

National Institute on Drug Abuse – What is cocaine?


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