What is Crack Cocaine? [Everything You Need To Know]

What is Crack Cocaine? [Everything You Need To Know]

Crack cocaine is probably a drug you’ve heard of before. And maybe even a drug you have opinions on, or on the users of it.

However, you may not know all the technical elements about what is crack cocaine.

For instance, when you think cocaine, you may imagine partyers snorting a line in a bathroom. But crack cocaine is not quite the same thing as cocaine, although it is derived from it.

Or maybe you think of the stereotype of a ‘crackhead,’ which can be diminishing and offensive for those suffering from a crack cocaine addiction.

And that’s what this guide is for. So you can learn everything you need to know about the drug.

So, exactly what is crack cocaine?

What is Crack Cocaine?

preparing dose of crack cocaine

Crack cocaine is an addictive, potent stimulant drug, which means it stimulates activity in your body and mind upon use. It is a processed version of powdered cocaine that a user then smokes. According to RxList, the effects of smoking crack cocaine are felt almost immediately, and comparable to those of intravenous injections, although they don’t last long.

The History of Cocaine

Cocaine used to be believed to be a great drug to use in treatment. According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Sigmund Freud celebrated its use in his scientific papers in the 1880s.

However, according to the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, cocaine became a prohibited drug in Canada in 1911. Obviously, over time and awareness of the negative effects of cocaine developed (as pointed out by the CAMH article). Although that will not have necessarily stopped the use of cocaine recreationally.

It was in the 1980s that crack cocaine began being produced, according to Britannica. This is in line with the rise of the crack epidemic in the U.S.

More modernly in Canada, according to our article 6 Facts on Drug and Alcohol Addiction Statistics in Canada, 2019 data shows that cocaine is second only to alcohol in the costs to the criminal justice system, even though rates of cocaine use are considered low. Although that’s not specific to crack cocaine, crack cocaine is a type of cocaine, in a sense, similar to how in our article What Is Crystal Meth – Definitions, Effects, Intervention and Treatment Options, crystal meth is not the same as meth, but it is a version of meth.

The Difference Between Cocaine and Crack Cocaine

As mentioned above, crack cocaine is derived from cocaine, but they are not the same thing. We’ve laid out the differences between the two drugs in the table below:

Features Crack Cocaine Cocaine
Description A smokeable form of cocaine A stimulant drug, typically seen as a white powder
Origins A processed version of cocaine Derived from the coca plant found in South America
How It’s Taken Typically smoked Typically snorted

What is Crack Made Out Of? 

Crack is a natural drug, made from a processed version of cocaine using ammonia or baking soda and water, which is derived from the coca plant.

However, filler ingredients can be found in cocaine as well, which can range in how dangerous, psychoactive, or toxic they may or may not be.

The ingredients or aspects of creating crack cocaine have been laid out in the table below.

how crack cocaine is made


Ingredients Where It Comes From
Coca Leaves Coca is the plant cocaine is derived from. It largely grows in South America
Chemical Solvents and Oxidizing Agents It depends on the solvents and agents used
Filler Ingredients Filler ingredients are often unknown at the time of purchase, so what they are and where they’re from may not be known
Ammonia or Baking Soda Both ammonia and baking soda can be purchased. Ammonia is common in many products and may be more difficult to find in pure form
Water Water is readily available in most places


How It’s Made

  • Step 1: The coca plant is grown, and the leaves are harvested.
  • Step 2: The coca leaves are crushed and soaked in chemical solvents to create a paste.
  • Step 3: The same report then states that oxidizing agents are then used to create cocaine
  • Step 4: Cocaine is further processed using water and either ammonia or baking soda, and heat to create crack cocaine

[Source: Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction]

Once crack cocaine has been created, it’s ready to be smoked.

What Kind of Drug is Crack?

Crack can be organized in a few different ways, including:

  1. Drug type
  2. Legal classification

Type of Drug

There are three types of drugs:

  1. Hallucinogens
  2. Depressants
  3. Stimulants

Hallucinogens are substances that cause a sensory experience and are typically thought of as non-addictive (although it is possible to develop an addiction). Hallucinogens can cause hallucinations.

Depressants slow your body and mind activity down, which can cause lowered inhibitions. Alcohol is a very common example of a depressant.

Stimulants increase the activity in your body and mind, which can cause feelings of euphoria. As previously established, this is the type of drug that crack cocaine is.

But what does this mean? Exactly what is crack cocaine doing to your body (or stimulants in general)? Some common effects of stimulants are:

  • An increase in your blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature
  • An increase in mental alertness
  • They can cause sleeplessness
  • They can cause nausea, headaches, and vomiting

If you’d like to learn more about drugs in general and how they affect the body and mind, check out our article The Comprehensive Guide to Addiction and the Brain.

Legal Classification & Documentation in Canada

Crack is an illegal drug in Canada under Schedule I of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, which specifically prohibits ‘coca’ in essentially all its forms.

In Part I: Offenses and Punishments of the Act, the possession of drugs in particular Schedules, including Schedule I is not allowed, and can possibly cause imprisonment for up to seven years.

This section also outlines that ‘possession for purpose of trafficking is also punishable with a prison sentence for at least one year, depending on circumstances.’

It outlines as well that the production of substances in Schedule I (which includes cocaine) can result in a life sentence, with a minimum sentence of at least three years.

Essentially, what this means is that crack cocaine is an illegal drug to make, possess, and sell in Canada. All three of these acts can result in a prison sentence.

Crack Cocaine Addiction 

Crack cocaine is an addictive drug. There are general stages of falling into addiction. However, there are also specific effects of crack cocaine.

The Stages of Addiction

In general, there are 6 stages in developing an addiction. These stages include:

  1. Initial use
  2. Experimentation
  3. Regular use
  4. Use with risk
  5. Dependence
  6. Addiction

These stages of addiction are outlined in this table below, with information from a similar table in our article Is Addiction a Disease? How Drug Addiction Changes the Brain.

If you recognize yourself or someone you know in the stages you listed below, don’t be afraid to contact Andy Bhatti to discuss what can be done.

Stage of Addiction Description
Initial Use This stage is when a user uses a substance for the first time
Experimentation This stage occurs when a user begins experimenting with substances, however, it’s in certain situations and not necessarily with any regularity
Regular Use This stage occurs when the user begins using the substance regularly, as part of his/her/their routine, although that doesn’t necessarily mean the substance is used every day.
Use with Risk This stage is when the user’s substance use has begun to negatively affect the user’s life
Dependence This stage happens when a user becomes dependent on the substance
Addiction This stage occurs when the dependency grows into an addiction

What Type of Drug is Crack Cocaine

Being a drug, crack cocaine does cause effects. It causes short-term effects and long-term effects after prolonged use.

The short-term effects of crack cocaine can be divided into the more ‘positive’ effects that those who use the drug are chasing, and negative short-term effects that can also appear after using crack cocaine.

Some of the short-term effects, both positive and negative, and long-term effects are listed below.

Positive Short-Term Effects

  • A feeling of euphoria
  • Increased focus or alertness

Negative Short-Term Effects

  • A feeling of depression
  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature
  • Nausea, and other bodily reactions

Long-Term Effects

  • Addiction
  • Increased tolerance
  • Higher risk of overdose
  • Sleep issues
  • Malnutrition
  • Change in behaviour

How to Prevent Crack Addiction 

addiction prevention

The only way to guarantee you will not develop an addiction to crack cocaine is to not use crack cocaine. Using a drug (continually) puts you at risk of becoming addicted.

However, there are other ways to try and prevent crack addiction, including:

  • Seek mental health care
  • Live a healthy lifestyle
  • Seek help if you notice a problem
  • Stage an intervention
  • Keep an eye on your children

Although, it’s important to note that certain factors can increase the risk of addiction. Those factors include:

  • A family history of substance abuse (genetics)
  • Mental health issues
  • Childhood trauma

Risk Factors of Addiction

Understanding these risk factors can help prevent an addiction to crack cocaine (or any other substance).

  1. A family history of substance abuse (genetics): It is understood that there is a genetic component to addiction. Those who have a family history of substance abuse are at a higher risk of developing substance abuse issues themselves. According to a 2008 article from the American Psychological Association (APA), genetics are connected to about 50% of someone’s predisposition to develop a drug addiction.
  2. Mental health issues: Those who struggle with mental illness are also more at risk of developing issues with substance dependency. Twice as likely according to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)
  3. Childhood trauma: Childhood trauma is another risk factor related to drug addiction. Dual Diagnosis reports that a young person that’s experienced at least 4 traumatic events is more likely to become an alcoholic, for instance.

Seek Mental Health Care

As childhood trauma and mental health struggles are two of the risk factors for drug addiction, to help prevent crack addiction, you can mitigate this risk by receiving care for your mental health. This can involve seeing a counsellor, therapist, psychologist, etc. Seeking this type of care can help those struggling with mental health issues to work through those issues and learn coping strategies for handling themselves in the future. They may also receive a potential diagnosis and be prescribed medication if necessary.

If you struggle with having an addictive personality, or there’s a history of substance abuse in your family, speak to your doctor about your prescription and whether the drug is addictive and may become its own problem separate from what is crack cocaine addiction.

Live a Healthy Lifestyle

This is advice that can be easier said than done. However, just like it’s often an important aspect of recovery, it can be an aid to prevent addiction.

Living a healthy lifestyle can aid in maintaining mental health. Things like getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, eating healthy foods, and exercising regularly can be incredibly beneficial not just for your physical health, but your mental health as well.

Seek Help If You Notice a Problem

If you begin to notice you are starting to develop an issue surrounding crack cocaine, seek help. This can involve seeking professional or medical help by reaching out to addiction services, a doctor, or mental health professional.

However, this can also involve telling trusted loved ones about the issues you’ve been having. Together you may be able to create a plan to help you abstain from using crack cocaine before it becomes an addiction.

If you’ve already developed an addiction, the recommendation is to seek professional help through addiction services to help you stay safe and clean.

Stage an Intervention

Rather than preventing yourself from having an addiction to crack cocaine, if you notice the signs of a crack cocaine addiction in a loved one, you can stage an intervention.

Interventions can be staged by yourself or with the help of professional services. The point is to show your loved one that you love and support him/her/them but you’ve noticed his/her/their problematic crack cocaine use.

Oftentimes interventions are used on someone who already has an addiction. But, if you can help your loved one recognize the problem and stop using crack cocaine before an addiction develops, that’s even better.

Keep an Eye on Your Children

If you have children, especially teenagers, you’ll want to prevent them from becoming addicted to any drugs, including crack cocaine.

You can keep an eye out on your children, making sure you’re watching for any signs of addiction.

However, you can also arm them with knowledge on this addictive, harmful drug and watch to ensure both their physical and mental health is doing well. Do your best to mitigate risk factors (within reason), including informing your children about what those are.

Treatment Options

If you or someone you love does become addicted to crack cocaine, there are treatment options you can use to engage in recovery.

For instance, there are:

  • Rehabilitation centers: These centers provide treatment for those looking to overcome addiction. They can provide inpatient or outpatient services and often involve some form of therapy or counselling for patients
  • Intervention services: A professional, like Andy Bhatti, can help stage an intervention for someone struggling with addiction in which the professional will be there to aid and mediate the conversation, as well as help, decided the next steps in order to create a successful treatment plan. You can learn more about interventions in our article 10 Things You Need to Plan A Successful Addiction Intervention: 7 Steps to Services that Work!
  • Detox centers: Detox centers are areas where someone who’s addicted to drugs can get sober safely while withdrawal symptoms will be mitigated and monitored by professionals so that it’s as safe a process as possible
  • Support groups: Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) offer support among their peers for those struggling with an addiction

There are drug-specific addiction treatment services available out there, too. So, if you’d rather get treatment specifically for your drug use, and be surrounded by those who understand your crack addiction, you can seek out these programs.

In Conclusion

So, in summary, what is crack cocaine?

It’s an addictive stimulant drug derived from cocaine that can be smoked so the intended euphoric effects can be felt immediately. It’s an illegal drug in Canada that can come with a prison sentence.

There are ways to prevent addiction to crack cocaine, including:

  • Abstaining from using crack cocaine
  • Seeking mental health care
  • Living a healthy lifestyle
  • Seeking help if your notice a problem
  • Staging an intervention
  • Keeping an eye on your children

However, if you do become addicted, there are services you can use to overcome the addiction, including:

  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Intervention services
  • Detox centers
  • Support groups

If you or someone you know suffers from addiction, don’t be afraid to reach out to Andy Bhatti to discuss treatment options, including intervention and potential treatment plans.

Other treatment services available:



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