What is Crack? - Where Does It Come From & How Is It Used?
what is crack

What is Crack?

Crack cocaine is an illicit Class A drug derived from the Coca plant; the same plant powdered cocaine “Coke” is extracted from. Crack has extremely powerful stimulant and euphoric effects and is the most potent form of cocaine available.

The Difference Between Crack and Cocaine 

Crack, the solid form of cocaine, is also the purest. Crack is between 75% to 100% stronger than the powdered version sold on the streets.

The name “Crack” comes from the cracking and popping sound that the drug makes when it is heated for use. As it is the more concentrated form of cocaine, it is also the most expensive and is often referred to as “a rich man’s drug”.

The reality is that anyone can use crack cocaine, and anyone can buy it; rich or poor, addiction to this drug can affect anyone. Those that become addicted to crack cocaine, unless they have access to unlimited amounts of money will usually find themselves begging, borrowing, stealing and committing a crime in order to sustain their addiction.

How Dangerous Is Crack?

Deaths related to crack/cocaine in the UK are shockingly high; in fact, they are at an all-time high. This is thought to be attributed to more individuals accessing the drug and increased purity levels.

Crack cocaine is an extremely addictive and dangerous recreational drug. Any individual that is, or has suffered from a crack addiction will understand the intoxicating vice-like grip that this drug has. One never seems to be enough in any addiction, but with crack, this is especially true. While the powdered form of cocaine is simply referred to as cocaine or coke, the rock form is often referred to as crack or crack cocaine.

Producing immediate and powerful euphoric effects, this stimulant is notorious for the overwhelming cravings that it induces during come down. Very rarely can crack be used on a recreational basis only. More often than not, recreational use quickly turns into a full-blown addiction. With crack addiction comes extreme consequences and the annihilation of everything good in the person’s life.

If you are thinking of trying crack for the first time, we hope that this page will deter you from doing so. At the very least we hope to inform you of the facts about crack so you can make an educated decision for yourself.

If you, or someone you know, has a problem with crack and need help, we hope that this will urge you to pick up the phone and speak out about your problem.

 cocaine deaths

In 2018 there were 637 deaths related to cocaine/crack in England and Wales, almost double the number registered a few years earlier in 2015 when there were 320 deaths. This is the seventh consecutive year that crack/cocaine deaths have continued to rise at an alarming level.

With an age-standardised rate of 11.1 deaths per million people in 2018, the latest rate is significantly higher than every other year since the time records first began in 1993.

Crack cocaine and cocaine is also frequently cut with other illicit drugs, including the highly potent and deadly drug fentanyl. Looking at a lump of crack from the outside, it is impossible to tell what is in it. It is only once smoked or injected the full effects will be felt. By this time it is often too late to do anything about it.

How Crack Is Made

Crack is made from purified powdered cocaine – which is a hydrochloride salt. To make crack, dealers boil powdered cocaine together with baking soda (or a similar substance) and water. After cocaine and baking soda are combined, the mixture is boiled to speed up the chemical reaction, after which it is removed and cooled quickly. The solid settles out at the bottom and is removed and dried until all of the water has evaporated to produce a solid or base. Base is the name given to the purified form of cocaine, as it is the “base” derived from the drug. The result is a yellowish-white material that looks like pieces of soap or plaster, these can be broken into smaller chunks and when these rocks are heated, they make a popping, crackling sound – hence the name, crack

What Does Crack Cocaine Look Like In Pictures?

Cracks usual appearance comes in varying shades of off white, pale pink and yellow. Some dealers will add food colouring to make their “brand” of crack cocaine stand out.

what does crack look like

Crack cocaine looks like small stones or rocks – The slang terms and street names for crack cocaine very much related to its appearance and origin. Crack is about 75 to 90 percent cocaine. Pure powder cocaine is actually a combination of cocaine and hydrochloric acid.  This makes it water-soluble When the hydrochloric acid is removed, the powder is no longer water-soluble and forms the waxy, rock-like material.

Common Street Names For Crack Include:

Crack, Pebble, Rock, Stone, Apple jacks, Bad rock, Base, Base ball, Black rock,  Boulder, Sugar block

What is Crack Used For?

Crack is most commonly used by placing it on a pipe, heating the part of the pipe where the rock is placed, and inhaling the fumes through the pipe. Household items can also be used or adapted to heat the crack in for inhalation. The name crack comes from the crackling sound that the substance makes when individuals smoke it in a pipe or cigarette.

It can be crumbled into a joint and smoked with tobacco.

Crack can also be diluted into a solution and injected intravenously for a shorter, sharper hit.

Common Paraphernalia – How To Know If Someone Is Using Crack Cocaine

If you are concerned that someone you care for may be a crack cocaine user, it can be helpful to know the paraphernalia that is commonly associated with this drug

crack cocaine user

Common Crack Paraphernalia Includes:

Lightbulbs with the inner works removed

Light bulbs can be used to heat crack as an alternative to a glass bong or pipe. The used light bulb will likely have scorch marks on the bottom – this is where it has been heated through the bulb

Steel wool, steel or copper gauze/mesh, faucet aerators

When smoking crack using a traditional pipe, placing steel wool or copper mesh in the pipe with the crack acts as a filter and helps to secure the drug in place. Faucet aerators are filter screens obtained by screwing off older faucets. You may find such items lying about or in possession of someone who is smoking the drug.

Straws, hollowed-out pens and tin foil

Straws and tin foil are used to freebase cocaine, a method for inhaling pure fumes. The crack is placed on the tin foil and heated from underneath to release the fumes which are then inhaled through a straw.

Hollowed out pens are also commonly used for straws during freebasing. All items will have a brown/yellow residue or scorch marks on, indicating drug use.

Aluminium cans

Finding aluminium cans, commonly soda/pop cans with pin-sized holes in the indentation or with a straw device inserted and sealed with tin foil is a common household smoking device.

This particular paraphernalia can be associated with other drugs such as hash and cannabis. Nevertheless, it indicates drug use in some form and so should not be ignored.

Glass pipes, bongs and stems

The preferred smoking implement for is a crack pipe. Typically a crack pipe has a long glass stem with a glass ball attached to the bottom. The crack is placed in the ball and heated (using a lighter or similar) The fumes are then inhaled through the stem.

The stem of a used pipe will have a brown residue in, and the glass ball will have scorch marks where it has been heated to release the fumes.

Needles, tourniquets, “cooking up” equipment

Crack can be administered by intravenous injection. The crack will first of all need to be turned into a liquid solution using “cooking up” equipment, the same equipment used for intravenous heroin use.

Crack and heroin can be injected together at the same time, and this is known as Snowballing. Although this method is less common, it is still used and is extremely dangerous.

Finding any drug injecting equipment is a massive cause for concern as is finding any paraphernalia associated with abuse of the drug. Please do not ignore the signs and speak to the person concerned and urge them to seek immediate professional help.

The Effects Of Crack Cocaine

So what is it about crack that is so addictive?

How does it make you feel?

Effects are relatively short-lived, at least when compared to other class A drugs. The onset of the effects can be felt almost immediately, but they only last on average for 5 to 15 minutes; after which the user will experience a comedown period with intense cravings for more of the drug.

The intense cravings that are a side effect often lead to a crack binge. During a  binge, the user will smoke the drug, rock after rock in order to stay high for longer. Binging on this drug is extremely harmful, not only to a person’s physical health but to their mental health also.

Crack is a super-strong central nervous stimulant that affects the user’s brain. When it is used, excessive amounts of dopamine are released in the brain as a result and the individual experiences the effects in a much more intense fashion, but its effects are short-lived.

The short term effects of crack cocaine:

  • Increased blood pressure and rapid heart rate
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Dilated pupils
  • Hyper-stimulation
  • Intense euphoria
  • Decreased appetite
  • Loss of inhibitions
  • Hypersexual arousal
  • Anxiety and paranoia
  • Aggressive, paranoid behaviour
  • Depression
  • Intense drug craving
  • Intense craving for more 
  • Addiction
  • Risk of heart attack
  • Death – One hit of crack cocaine can cause sudden overdose or death.

The main risk for crack cocaine users comes in its short term use – even a single hit could well be your last.

Crack can increase blood pressure, speed up a person’s heart and respiratory rate so much so that the individual goes into cardiac arrest and dies. Healthy individuals as young as teenagers have been known to suffer heart attacks from using.

Because of the intense cravings that crack produces, even your first use of this drug could lead you down the deadly and destructive road of addiction.

effects of crack cocaine

Source Wikimedia

The Long-term Effects and Risks Of Crack Cocaine Use

Long term effects include Sexual dysfunction and infertility (in both men and women), heart attack and heart disease, lung disease, brain seizures, sexually transmitted diseases and infections as a result of unsafe sexual practices and increased risk-taking, tolerance and addiction (can happen in both short term and long term use) and death.

Long term users and those that binge on the drug can often experience a form of psychosis. This is not always temporary or reversible. Regular use can also induce co-occurring illnesses such as anxiety, depression, panic disorder, OCD, personality disorders and schizophrenia.

Lung Damage

Smoking crack or freebase can cause bleeding in the lungs when the small blood vessels burst. Many crack smokers develop a cough and chest pain that worsens with deep breathing. They may cough up phlegm that is black or tinged with blood. Both powder cocaine and crack can also cause the lungs to fill with fluid (pulmonary edema) from injury to the small vessels lining the air sacs.

Crack Cocaine and Pregnancy

It is difficult to estimate the full extent of the consequences of maternal drug use and to determine the specific hazard of a particular drug to the unborn child. Factors to be taken into consideration could be that these women have poor access to health care, smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol, so it is difficult to isolate the effects of cocaine on the health of the baby. However, many cocaine-exposed babies are born prematurely and with low birth weight. These infants tend to be jittery, cranky and overly sensitive to any form of sensory stimulus. Cocaine abuse can cause premature separation of the placenta from the uterus, a condition that can cut off the baby’s blood supply and result in brain damage. Scientists have concluded that more research is needed on the long-term effects of prenatal cocaine exposure.

Crack Cocaine Addiction

Is crack cocaine addictive? As previously mentioned it is extremely addictive and produces intense drug cravings during the comedown period. These cravings often lead to tolerance and addiction. Once addicted, the cycle of addiction can be extremely difficult to break.

what is crack

How Does Crack Cocaine Affect The Brain?

Addiction occurs when the brain is repeatedly exposed to a stimulating chemical substance or activity. This changes the way the brain’s pleasure/reward system operates. The brain rewires itself in response to stimuli, creating new pathways. This results in obsession and compulsion. At the same time, crack causes damage to brain cells and tissues. Addiction recovery is possible, but it does take time, and it does take professional guidance and treatment.

Addiction is never straightforward in its treatment. More often than not, for an individual with an addiction to crack cocaine, residential drug rehab is recommended as the best course of action.

Crack Cocaine and Heroin Addiction

Because the comedown period from crack, and indeed some of its effects, can leave a user feeling “wired,” i.e. over-stimulated, edgy, restless and paranoid, a frequent user will often search for a drug to counteract these effects. This can lead to a dual addiction.

crack and heroin

Heroin is renowned for its relaxing properties and is in many ways, the polar opposite to crack in its effects. Crack addicts often become addicted to heroin or other depressant drugs. Those that are dually addicted tend to be more complex to treat and require a full medical drug detox and rehabilitation programme in order to recover from all addictions presenting.

How Long Crack Cocaine Stays In Your System For

Drug tests cannot differentiate between crack and powdered cocaine, as essentially they are the same base substance. How long crack stays in your system once you have stopped using will depend on a number of variables, including:

  • Your BMI
  • Gender and age
  • How much you are using and how long you have been using it for
  • Your metabolic rate
  • Your hydration levels
  • The type of drug test used

As a general guide crack stays:-

  • in urine 1 to 4 days
  • stays in your blood for up to 24 hours
  • stays in your saliva for 24 to 48 hours
  •  stays in your hair for up to 3 months

With a chronic long term user, trace amounts will be detectable for longer. It takes the body longer to metabolise crack where there is a residue build up in tissues and organs (4)

How To Stop Smoking Crack

Although it isn’t recognised for creating a physical dependence as such, this particular point is debatable. One of the physical and psychological effects of crack cocaine abuse is the overwhelming cravings for more that it produces. This craving can keep an individual in the perpetual self-destructive loop of addiction – even when they want to stop.

If you are using or smoking crack and want to stop, the best approach is to seek and access as much professional support as possible. Having a strong network of supportive addiction professionals and others in recovery can prove invaluable in terms of moral and psychological support.

If you are unable to stop smoking crack despite various attempts and methods to do so, Rehab Guide recommend an inpatient detox.

Within the safety of one of our elite drug rehabs, you will be provided with a full medical detox and 24/7 support from qualified professionals. You will also have the opportunity to undertake one of our bespoke rehabilitation programmes. Our drug rehab programmes are designed to tackle the issues underpinning your addiction and teach you a set of healthy coping mechanisms and skills as well as essential relapse prevention techniques.

With our expert help, you can stop using crack, find recovery and live a productive and drug-free life. Call us to find out more about our CQC registered detox clinics and rehab centres.

Treatment Options For Addiction

The first step in treating any addiction is to achieve abstinence from the substance that is causing you problems. In other words, before therapeutic measures can be of maximum benefit, the crack has to stop! For some, this will mean an inpatient detox, away from the temptation of dealers and drug-using associates.

Once abstinent, evidence-based therapies are recommended to help the individual change their mindset from a drug addict to a person in recovery. If you cannot fund private rehab treatment, then we advise you to contact your local drug and alcohol team, your GP, and access mutual aid groups in your local area.

Crack addiction can be overcome in the community, but you will need to be highly motivated to access as much support as possible. One wrong decision, one moment of temptation, especially in the early days of recovery, can easily take you back to full-blown addiction once more.


Stopping crack cocaine where there is a tolerance often produces withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can be prevented with the help of medical detox.

Undergoing a  detox within a registered detox facility, you will be provided with approved pharmaceutical medication to help you cope with the early drug withdrawal symptoms. For many, this can prove to be the difference between successfully stopping and not.

The medication will successfully help to reduce cravings and other withdrawal symptoms, including restlessness, agitation and flu-like aches and pains.

Call Rehab Guide today for immediate admission to a registered detox clinic near you.

Crack Cocaine Rehab

Rehab is an essential part of the recovery process from addiction. A  rehab programme will teach you vital coping strategies and tools that will help you to sustain ongoing recovery.

All addiction treatment delivered within our rehabs are evidence-based and delivered by fully qualified professionals including doctors, nurses, specialists, counsellors and therapists. We also ensure that each rehab programme is tailored to your individual treatment needs for those seeking help from crack use and mental health concerns. We know that one size does not fit all when it comes to successfully treating addiction.

For more information on our bespoke treatment programmes and for a free, no-obligation, confidential addiction treatment assessment, call Rehab Guide today on 02072052845. Recovery from crack cocaine IS possible. Let us help you and show you how.






Author 'John


Trained in addictionology in the Johnson Model, and specializing in substance abuse for individual and couple counselling. John's personal experience has given him a wealth of insights, which he integrates into practice. His extensive training has allowed him to gain expertise in individual and group counselling, concurrent disorders, case management, executing treatment plans and relapse prevention. He started this free helpline as a result of a life change and to help others get sober and live a life free from drugs and alcohol. John covers a variety of topics relating to addiction and recovery in his articles.


You can contact us by completing our form below and a member of our team will be in touch with you shortly.

    Sign up to our Newsletters by Email