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Cocaine vs Crack

Your husband has been using cocaine for as long as you can remember. He said the rush helped him get through his fast-paced factory job. You really didn’t mind it too much, he only did it for work and was a great husband and father. This was his only vice and you could handle that.

how is cocaine used

One day, he comes home in a fury, saying he just lost his job. You are confused as to why, when he explains he got caught smoking crack outside the building. What is crack? You only knew about cocaine, and he would either swallow it or rub it on his gums. What was he smoking? Is it the same thing?

In Sarasota County, 102 deaths were caused by cocaine between January and June of 2021. Clean Recovery Centers has been at the forefront of providing quality addiction treatment throughout the Suncoast. With multiple locations and housing certified by the Florida Association of Recovery Residences, we provide ease of access to care. Our blog is a free resource providing education to those wanting to learn more about substance use. Today, we are looking at the similarities and differences between crack and cocaine.

What is Crack vs Cocaine?

Cocaine and crack are two very similar substances. Cocaine is a powerful stimulant, and crack is a version of cocaine with added steps to produce. Cocaine was developed into its chemical form in the mid-1800s, and was readily available for a long period. Besides medical uses, cocaine was also put into beverages like Coca-Cola (where the company developed its name) to promote purchasing. In the 1920s, government officials and concerned loved ones became aware of the negative side effects of cocaine, and banned its use commercially and eventually medically. Cocaine use came in waves, seeming every other decade to rise in misuse.

In the 1980s, crack was developed from cocaine. It was widely popular as it delivers immediate effects. Despite the extra steps to produce, crack is typically a cheaper version of cocaine. This also adds to the popularity of crack.

Crack and Cocaine: The Similarities

Cocaine and crack share many similarities. Both substances are derived from the coca plant, which is native to South America. The coca leaf is widely used throughout Peru, Columbia, and many other South American countries to treat stomach conditions such as indigestion. However, when developed into cocaine and crack, the substance poses a risk of dependence. Crack and cocaine have similar color patterns including white to off-white, with occasional tan and brown tints. Side effects of crack and cocaine use include:

  • Increased sensitivity to light, touch, and sound
  • Bouts of increased energy and productivity
  • Paranoia with distrust of people around them, including those known
  • A sense of fearlessness or invincibility
  • Decreased appetite
  • Insomnia

Cocaine and Crack: The Differences

Although derived from the same plant, cocaine and crack do have a few differences. Cocaine comes in a powder form, whereas crack comes in a solid form that is rock-like. Cocaine can be used in different ways while crack has one main form of use. Let’s dive into the differences between the two further.

Chemical Makeup

The chemical process of making cocaine has three steps. First, the coca leaves are harvested and turned into coca paste. Coca leaves are added to water and sodium carbonate and soaked in an above-ground pit. Then, the leaves are soaked and mashed in kerosene, resulting in cocaine alkaloids. The cocaine alkaloids and kerosene separate from the water and leaves. These alkaloids are extracted from the kerosene and more sodium carbonate is added. This creates a paste that is off-white.

The next step involves adding the paste to an acid solution, typically sulfuric or hydrochloric with water. Potassium permanganate is then mixed with water and added to the new solution. The potassium permanganate helps extract undesirable alkaloids to leave pure cocaine alkaloids. The combined solution sits and then the excess fluid is drained, leaving behind a cocaine base.

One more step is needed to create cocaine from the base. The purity of cocaine is most important, and acetone or ether is added to the cocaine base in order to remove any other undesirable materials. A diluted hydrochloric acid is added again to produce crystallization. Acetone is removed and the remaining cocaine is now cocaine HCl. This is dried under heat lamps or air dryers to become pure cocaine powder.

To make crack, cocaine powder is heated and an additive is introduced. This can be ammonia or sodium bicarbonate. As the solution is heated and then cooled, a rock-like piece is formed. This is known as a crack rock, and it can vary in color. Crack and cocaine have similar chemical compositions because one is derived from the other.

Method of Use

Cocaine has different methods of use. These include snorting, swallowing, injecting, and rubbing on the gums. Each method promotes similar effects but can take different amounts of time to produce. Crack is only smoked and requires a device to heat and inhale the vapor.

Onset of Effects

The effects of cocaine are dependent on the method of use. Injecting cocaine is the fastest way to feel the effects as it enters the bloodstream directly. Snorting cocaine can delay the effects by minutes, but they are still felt rapidly. Swallowing cocaine still has effects but they can take up to an hour before they are felt.

Crack effects are also felt almost immediately. When crack vapor enters the lungs, it is distributed throughout the bloodstream. Although the effects are felt rapidly, they tend to wear off quickly.

Health Risks and Effects

Cocaine has many different risks to your overall health. Snorting cocaine results in the deterioration of the nasal cavity. Over time, this leads to tissue damage and death. When tissue death occurs, the damage is permanent and cannot be fixed without surgery. Swallowing cocaine can lead to bowel damage as cocaine works by reducing blood flow to vital organs. As blood vessels constrict, bowel damage can occur. Injecting cocaine increases the risk of infections, contracting HIV or hepatitis, and abscesses.

Smoking crack leads to the risk of developing chronic lung conditions. Similar to smoking tobacco, smoking crack causes COPD and chronic bronchitis. If left untreated, breathing can become difficult. Crack (and cocaine) reduce appetite, leading to malnutrition. Infections are more complicated to heal from when the person is malnourished, increasing hospitalization time and healing time.

Potential for Dependency

More of a similarity than a difference, both crack and cocaine pose the risk of dependence. Both substances rewire the reward system in the brain, creating a need for both crack or cocaine. This leads to the person’s brain signaling a need for either substance, resulting in dependence. Cocaine and crack dependence result in detrimental effects on the brain’s chemical system. Both substances can be very difficult to abstain from, but treatment can help reestablish healthy outlets that provide joy.

Cocaine vs Crack: Is Addiction Treatment the Same?

Cocaine and crack are both stimulants derived from the same plant. Addiction treatment will look similar, but every person’s journey is different. Some respond to different forms of therapy while others thrive in new hobbies and wellness components. The important note is that every person is different, and treatment modalities will vary among those managing crack and/or cocaine addiction.

Treatment Options for Cocaine Addiction in Sarasota County, FL

Cocaine and crack can become the main focus of life. However, the detrimental effects they have on the body and mind can take a toll on anyone’s well-being. Crack and cocaine rehab are the first steps to rediscovering yourself and finding your true passions. Through guided therapy and skill-building classes, you will be able to start your recovery on the right foot, free from cocaine or crack.

If you or someone you love has been using crack and/or cocaine, help is available now. Clean Recovery Centers has certified, rapid-resolution therapists at each of our locations to help our clients dive into the root causes of their addiction. We can navigate their traumas and find what works for them. Call us today at (888) 330-2532 to learn more about our program offerings.

Get clean. Live clean. Stay clean.

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