Crack vs cocaine treatment in Riverside County; girl talking with a therapist

Crack vs Cocaine

Cocaine and crack are undeniably some of the most abused drugs impacting America’s public health system. Recent statistics show about 5.2 million people aged 12 or older reported using cocaine and crack in 2020. These two drugs are chemically identical and carry the same risk of dependency, overdose, and death. 

However, though they produce similar impacts, there is a difference in their pricing points, user demographics, and the way they are taken. This blog discusses the similarities and differences between crack and cocaine. 

What is Cocaine?

Cocaine is a potent, highly addictive stimulant derived from the coca leaves, a native plant native to South America. It is available as a white crystalline powder usually snorted through the nose to produce an intense “high” characterized by extreme confidence and energy levels. Cocaine can also be smoked or injected. Generally, chemical dependency from drug abuse develops more quickly with cocaine than with other drugs.

What is Crack? 

Crack is the “rock” version of cocaine. It is a derivative of cocaine produced by processing pure cocaine into a solid using water, sodium bicarbonate, or baking powder. The mixture is heated to a boiling point to ensure a rock formation. 

The rock is then broken into pieces of chunk and smoked using a device such as a crack pipe. The name “crack” relates to the cracking sound that occurs when the substance is smoked.

Similarities between Cocaine and Crack

The following are the similarities between cocaine and crack:

  • Chemically identical: There are no pharmacological differences between cocaine and crack. They share a nearly identical structure, thus producing similar effects.
  • They are highly addictive: Cocaine and crack have the same dangerous effect on the body. They are both stimulants that induce dopamine in the brain to create a powerful high. This high can overload the brain’s reward centers, and when it wears off, it triggers an intense letdown characterized by depression and sadness. To avoid these uncomfortable feelings, users are tempted to keep using cocaine and crack over and over again, leading to addiction.

The Addictive Nature of Crack and Cocaine

Crack and cocaine are highly addictive drugs that work by altering the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain, specifically dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical that is responsible for feelings of pleasure and reward, and when crack and cocaine are used, they cause an excessive release of dopamine in the brain. 

This results in intense euphoria and pleasure, which are the primary reasons these drugs are so addictive. Regular use of crack and cocaine can lead to the brain becoming accustomed to the high dopamine levels and needing more of the drug to achieve the same effects.

This leads to the development of tolerance and the need for increased amounts of drug use to achieve the desired effects. With continued use, the brain becomes dependent on the drug, and withdrawal symptoms occur if the drug is not used. These symptoms can include depression, anxiety, fatigue, and craving for the drug. In addition, crack, and cocaine addiction can cause long-term changes in the brain, resulting in addiction, which is a chronic and relapsing brain disease.

What Makes Crack Different from Cocaine?

The following are the differences between cocaine and crack:

  • Administration method: The main difference between crack and cocaine is how they are taken. Cocaine can be taken in several ways, including snorting, injecting, and swallowing. However, crack can only be smoked.
  • Pricing: Since there are several options for taking cocaine, the drug is usually more expensive than crack. Crack also sells for less money because it is cheaper to produce compared to cocaine. Since crack is cut with other substances, there is little pure cocaine in crack, so the price is less.
  • Effect time: Crack is faster acting than cocaine due to how they are usually administered. When cocaine is snorted, its effect occurs in about 1 to 5 minutes and peaks within 20 to 30 minutes. Cocaine also dissipates within 1 to 2 hours. However, when crack is smoked, its effects take hold in less than 10 seconds and peak in 3 to 5 minutes. Crack effects last 30 to 60 minutes in the body.
  • Addiction risk: Since crack is smoked, it increases the risk of addiction due to the quicker onset of effects. Generally, smoking leads to faster onset of effects than sniffing or using orally. The intoxication from crack tends to come on quicker than cocaine and lasts for shorter periods. Crack users are more likely to abuse the drug than powder cocaine users due to the rapid high that crack produces.
  • Popularity: Powder cocaine is used more frequently than crack despite its higher price tag. Recent studies from the National Center for Health Statistics show of the 5.5 million people who used cocaine in 2018, only 757 000 used crack as a cheaper alternative.  
  • Social and economic impact: Crack possession in the USA is considered a more severe crime than cocaine possession and attracts stricter prison sentences. Society also tends to stigmatize crack more than powder Cocaine. The sentencing disparity has disproportionately impacted poor people and people of color. Data reveals while white people are more likely to be convicted of powder cocaine offenses, Black people are more likely to be convicted of crack offenses. This implies Black people usually receive harsher drug sentences than white people even though crack and cocaine are almost identical.

Treatment for Crack and Cocaine 

Since crack and cocaine are chemically identical, they share the same treatment options. The following are some of the treatment options for crack and cocaine:


The FDA has not approved any medication-assisted treatment for cocaine or crack use disorder and addiction. However, certain antidepressants and stimulants can be prescribed to help treat cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Generally, for medications to be effective, they should be accompanied by psychological treatments like cognitive behavior therapy.

Behavioral Therapy Treatment 

Behavioral therapy is undeniably the most utilized treatment for cocaine and crack addiction. This form of treatment is often preferred during substance rehabilitation owing to its high efficacy. 

Some of the commonly used therapies include:

  • Individual, group, and family therapy:  Patients participate in therapies in a safe, mental health-supported atmosphere, usually alone or with the participation of the family. A trained and certified therapist guides these therapies.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT encourages patients to examine and question recurring thoughts to eliminate negative and unhealthy ones. The mental health treatment equips clients with techniques to recognize and change their maladaptive behaviors. CBT can also equip patients with coping skills.

Treatment for Crack and Cocaine

Depending on the severity of the addiction, a person may require substance abuse treatment programs. A medically managed detox program can help stabilize the patient and help them tackle the adverse symptoms of withdrawal from drugs and alcohol. Detox programs usually last a few days to weeks, and once a patient is stabilized, they may need an inpatient crack and cocaine program. 

Inpatient rehab is a live-in treatment where clients receive structured care plans and treatments that are supervised around the clock. The programs are typically done under the supervision of a licensed professional.

Detox and Inpatient for Crack and Cocaine in Riverside County

Crack and cocaine are both very addictive substances that are likely to lead to drug abuse. With treatment, recovery from crack and cocaine addiction is possible. Treatment often includes detox, inpatient, therapy, and medication management if needed.

Inland Detox in Riverside County, California, offers inpatient and detox for crack and cocaine addiction. If you or a loved one are struggling with cocaine or crack cocaine abuse, reach out to Inland Detox today. Our admissions team can answer any questions you may have and give you a better understanding of our program.