Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant that typically comes in powder or solid form. Both crack and powder cocaine can lead to a host of physical, psychological and behavioral problems, including addiction. But the drugs differ from each other in a variety of ways.
Powder cocaine causes a rush of energy and feelings of euphoria and happiness. Crack, which is derived from powdered cocaine, is a rock-like form of cocaine that can be smoked to achieve a high. The drug causes short but intense euphoric effects.
In the 1980s, crack use created an epidemic that affected thousands of people in poor urban communities in the United States.
Powder and crack cocaine differ in appearance, side effects, duration of effects, demographics and incarceration rates. Despite these differences, both drugs can have devastating effects on a person’s health.
Cocaine is derived from the coca plant, which is indigenous to South America. The drug comes in a fine, white crystalline powder.
Crack is produced by dissolving powdered cocaine in a mixture of water and ammonia or baking soda. The result is a yellowish-white rock that can be broken into smaller rocks weighing a few tenths of a gram.
Powder cocaine users often use a straw or rolled-up dollar bill to snort cocaine through the nose, but it can be used in other ways.
Cocaine in powder form can be:
Crack, on the other hand, is most often smoked to achieve a high. People generally smoke crack using a water pipe or glass pipe. Although crack can be crushed and snorted or injected, this practice is not common.
The street price of crack and cocaine differ significantly, and costs vary by location. In 2002 in Texas, a gram of powdered cocaine cost $50 to $100 in Dallas, $80 to $100 in Houston and $50 to $60 in El Paso, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. In contrast, crack sold for $20 per rock, which is one-fifth to one-quarter of a gram.
During that same time in Florida, the DEA reported that powder cocaine cost $20 to $110 per gram, and crack cost $5 to $20 per rock.
Both powder and crack cocaine produce excess amounts of dopamine, a brain chemical that affects how people feel pleasure. The pleasurable effects of powder cocaine can last from 15 to 30 minutes when snorted. The effects of smoking crack last from five to 10 minutes.
The physical effects of using powder cocaine or crack last between one and two hours. They include:
Long-term health problems associated with repeated cocaine use include hallucinations, convulsions or seizures, heart disease, stroke, respiratory failure and death by cocaine overdose. With repeated use cocaine addiction can develop.
Crack is the most potent form of cocaine. Its physical effects include:
After the high subsides, people often have a more intense desire to reuse the drug. This can lead to drug dependence. Using crack one time can cause addiction to the drug. Prolonged use of the drug can cause mood disturbances, psychosis, heart attack, brain seizures and death. Long-term crack use can lead to a substance use disorder.
|Powder Cocaine||Crack Cocaine|
|Appearance||White, crystalline powder||Yellowish-white rock|
|Method of Administration||
|Street Price||$100 to $125 per gram||$5 to $30 per rock|
|Duration of the High||15 to 30 minutes when snorted||Five to 15 minutes when smoked||U.S. Demographics (2016)||
|Average Prison Term (2009)||87 months||115 months|
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 1.9 million people aged 12 or older were cocaine users in 2016, including about 432,000 crack users. People aged 18 to 25 had the highest percentage of current cocaine users, and the group of people aged 26 or older had the highest percentage of crack users.
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicated that more whites used crack than blacks or African Americans in 2016. But blacks or African Americans used crack more frequently in the past month, according to the report.
A 2015 study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence examined the socio-economic disparities among powder cocaine users and crack users.
Using federal data, researchers discovered that:
In 2010, former President Barack Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010. This law was enacted to reduce the statutory penalties for crack offenses. It also ended the mandatory minimum sentence for simple possession of crack and increased statutory fines.
Sentences for Crack Possession
Before this law was passed, the United States had a 100-to-1 crack-to-powder cocaine sentencing disparity. Since the law went into effect, the ratio dropped to 18-to-1.
Seeking rehab for cocaine or crack addiction is an important step toward achieving sobriety. At rehab, trained addiction specialists can help clients properly taper off cocaine and avoid reusing the drug.
Therapy and support group meetings, such as Narcotics Anonymous, can help people learn the underlying causes of their cocaine use. These resources can also teach people ways to avoid triggers and cravings that lead to relapse.
If you are addicted to cocaine, consider calling a cocaine hotline. These confidential and toll-free helplines can provide useful information about the effects of cocaine and the importance of sobriety. They can also connect you with a nearby rehab center that addresses your specific needs.
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