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Cocaine and crack are two different forms of a drug that is derived from the coca plant. They are both abused for similar reasons and are highly addictive substances. Although these two drugs share many similarities, there are also some differences.

Cocaine vs. Crack: What’s the Difference?

Cocaine is a powerfully addictive illegal stimulant that is sold on the street as a fine, white, crystal powder. Crack is a highly-concentrated form of cocaine that has been processed into a rock crystal (also sometimes called “freebase cocaine”). The effects caused by smoking crack are instant, whereas it can take anywhere from a few minutes to an hour for users to feel the effects of powder cocaine.

What Is Cocaine?

Cocaine is an addictive stimulant that is made from the leaves of the coca plant, which is native to South America.1 Sold as a fine, white powder on the streets, cocaine dealers often mix it with fillers such as flour or cornstarch to make more money. It is also frequently cut with other drugs such as amphetamine, synthetic opioids, or fentanyl, which can greatly increase the risk of overdose among cocaine users.

Cocaine is classified as a Schedule II drug because it has a high potential for abuse as well as some medical uses. It is rarely ever used medically in the United States but cocaine hydrochloride solution can be used as an anesthetic for the upper respiratory tract. It can also be used to reduce bleeding of the mucous membranes in the mouth, throat, and nasal cavities. However, there are other better treatments for these issues.

Recreational use of cocaine is illegal but common. There are many different street names and slang terms for cocaine but some of the most common are:

  • Coke
  • Coka
  • Crack
  • Flake
  • Soda Cot
  • Rock
  • Blow
  • Snow2

People who abuse cocaine do so for its stimulating effects and the powerful, euphoric high that it causes. It produces these effects by flooding the brain’s reward system with dopamine, which strongly reinforces the behavior. Cocaine users quickly develop a tolerance and need stronger, more frequent doses to achieve the same high and prevent withdrawal.

Cocaine users may use various methods to get high, such as snorting the powder, rubbing it into their gums, or dissolving the powder and injecting it. It’s also frequently used with heroin. This combination is called a “speedball.”

Over time, the brain’s reward circuit also adjusts to the increased levels of dopamine caused by the cocaine and becomes less sensitive to it. To avoid unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, users take larger and more frequent doses. This behavior can quickly result in addiction and regularly snorting, injecting, or consuming cocaine orally can cause other harmful long-term side effects, such as:

  • Loss of smell
  • Nosebleeds
  • Frequent runny nose
  • Cough
  • Respiratory distress
  • Higher risk of infections like pneumonia
  • Bowel decay from reduced blood flow
  • Higher risk for contracting HIV, hepatitis C, and other bloodborne diseases
  • Skin infections
  • Skin scarring
  • Collapsed veins
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Sudden cardiac arrest
  • Convulsions
  • Stroke
  • Overdose
  • Death1

How Long Does Cocaine Stay in Your System?

The half-life of cocaine is about one hour, which means it takes about an hour for half of the cocaine in the bloodstream to leave the body.3 However, if a person abuses cocaine heavily for a long time, the drug can accumulate in the tissues of the body and be detected for longer, depending on the testing method that is used. The chart below shows the approximate drug test detection times for cocaine, although it may vary slightly from person to person.

Approximate Drug Test Detection Times for Cocaine

Urine testDetectable for 1-3 days
Blood testDetectable for up to 24 hours
Saliva testDetectable for 1-2 days
Hair follicle testDetectable for up to 90 days

Sources: https://www.verywellmind.com/how-long-does-cocaine-stay-in-your-system-80231, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1056499316300256?via%3Dihub

Signs and Symptoms of Cocaine Addiction

If someone is addicted to cocaine, he or she may display some of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Having cravings for cocaine
  • Being preoccupied with thoughts of using cocaine
  • Needing more cocaine to achieve the same effects
  • Losing interest in regular hobbies or activities
  • Isolating oneself from family and friends
  • Trying to stop using cocaine but being unable
  • Continuing to use cocaine despite the negative consequences or physical harm it causes
  • Lying to friends and loved ones about cocaine use
  • Stealing from loved ones to fund cocaine use

Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms

Cocaine withdrawal symptoms usually include:

  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Increased appetite
  • Unpleasant dreams
  • Insomnia
  • Slowed thinking4

The intensity and duration of these withdrawal symptoms will depend on the severity of a person’s addiction, their cocaine use patterns, their method of use, as well as the method they used to quit. Typically, quitting drugs cold turkey produces more severe withdrawal effects.

While cocaine withdrawal symptoms are not life-threatening, they can be very uncomfortable without medical assistance. A medical detox program for cocaine addiction can help reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms and provide clinical care for psychological symptoms like depression. Continued treatment in a rehab program can also help clients address the psychological aspects of their addictive behaviors, develop life skills, and learn relapse prevention techniques.

Compare Other Drugs

What Is Crack?

Crack is a highly-concentrated form of cocaine that has been processed into a rock crystal. It is often considered to be the purest form of cocaine. When it’s sold on the street, it looks like small, white, irregularly-shaped rocks. The drug gets its name from the crackling sound it makes when it is heated and smoked.5

Since crack is more concentrated than the powder form of cocaine, some consider it to be even more addictive, and it’s possible to become addicted after just a single use. People who abuse it do so by heating it to produce vapors, which they inhale. Some crack users may also sprinkle it on marijuana or tobacco and smoke it like a cigarette.

In contrast to the powdered form of cocaine, the effects of crack are even more powerful and intense. Abusing crack can produce a strong, euphoric high, with effects that can be felt in mere seconds. It’s often referred to as a “rush.” When a person smokes or injects cocaine, the drug reaches the brain within seconds and the euphoria is caused by the extremely rapid buildup of dopamine in the brain.

Once a person is addicted to crack, it is very difficult to stop using it. It is also much cheaper than cocaine, which makes it a prime alternative for cocaine users. Other drugs of abuse, such as prescription opiates and benzodiazepines are also much more pricey.

How Long Does Crack Stay in Your System?

The half-life of crack is only 15 minutes, so it leaves the body quicker than many other drugs. There isn’t always a fixed period of time that crack stays in the body and the amount of time it may take to clear from your body will vary depending on the following factors:

  • How much crack a person smoked
  • The person’s tolerance to crack
  • How long a person has used crack
  • A person’s body structure, metabolism, and genetics

Approximate Drug Test Detection Times for Crack Cocaine

Urine testDetectable for 1-3 days
Blood testDetectable for up to 24 hours
Saliva testDetectable for 1-2 days
Hair follicle testDetectable for up to 90 days

It’s important to note that crack may also be detectable for a longer period of time among those who use it regularly for a long time.

Signs and Symptoms of Crack Addiction

The signs of crack addiction are the same as those of cocaine and may include:

  • Having cravings for crack
  • Being preoccupied with thoughts of using crack
  • Needing more crack to achieve the same effects
  • Losing interest in regular hobbies or activities
  • Isolating oneself from family and friends
  • Trying to stop using crack but being unable
  • Continuing to use crack despite the negative consequences or physical harm it causes
  • Lying to friends and loved ones about crack use
  • Stealing from loved ones to fund crack use

Crack Withdrawal Symptoms

Coming off of crack is more difficult than quitting cocaine because it is a purer form of the drug. As a result, crack withdrawal symptoms can be more severe. Crack withdrawal symptoms usually include:

  • Intense cravings for crack
  • Irritability
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Increased appetite
  • Unpleasant dreams
  • Insomnia4

Because crack withdrawal can be very difficult, medical detox is often recommended. This professional treatment gives clients the best opportunity at sustaining their sobriety long-term and remaining as comfortable as possible during crack detox and withdrawal.

Cocaine Uses vs. Crack Uses

Although cocaine can be used medically in the U.S., both cocaine and crack cocaine are used recreationally.

Cocaine uses:

  • Local anesthetic
  • Medication to reduce bleeding of the mucous membranes in the mouth, throat, and nasal cavities
  • Recreational use
Crack uses:

  • Recreational use

Cocaine vs. Crack: Addiction and Dependence

Cocaine and crack are both highly addictive drugs, but crack is arguably the most addictive of the two. Crack is the purest form of the drug and it produces much faster and more powerful highs, which, in some cases, can cause a person to become addicted after one use. However, people using either cocaine or crack have a high risk of developing physical dependence and addiction.

Cocaine vs. Crack: Side Effects of Abuse

Side Effects of Cocaine and Crack Cocaine Abuse
  • Euphoria
  • Increased alertness
  • Decreased appetite
  • Powerful euphoria (the “rush”)
  • Dilated pupils
  • Increased heart rate
  • Intense cravings

Get Cocaine Addiction Treatment Treatment Today

Cocaine addiction is a powerful disease that hijacks the brain and the body. Many people who are addicted to cocaine find themselves powerless to the physical effects, withdrawal, and cravings they experience as a result of using. However, all hope is not lost.

If you’re addicted to cocaine or crack and you’re ready to get sober, the caring professional staff at Briarwood Detox Center is here to help. You don’t have to face your addiction alone. We can help you get through withdrawal and transition into the next stage of treatment.

Our cocaine detox program is personalized to address your comfort and individual needs so you can rest in the privacy of our detox center without any worries. All you have to do is call (XXX) XXX-XXXX to get started. We accept most forms of insurance and can also help you explore alternative payment options such as using your HSA to pay for detox.

 

References:

  1. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/cocaine
  2. https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/resource-center/Publications/Intel%20Products/DIR-020-17%20Drug%20Slang%20Code%20Words.pdf
  3. https://methoide.fcm.arizona.edu/infocenter/index.cfm?stid=170
  4. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000947.htm
  5. https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/sites/getsmartaboutdrugs.com/files/publications/DoA_2017Ed_Updated_6.16.17.pdf#page=51
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