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How are Crack and Cocaine Different?

When it comes to powder type drugs, there are two that most often come to mind. Cocaine and it’s derivative, Crack. When people think of cocaine they often visualize the hyped up drug kingpin, Tony Montana. This character, played by Academy Award winner Al Pacino, in the final scenes of the blockbuster Scarface is sitting behind a huge desk with a mountain of white powder as he drops his entire face to ingest as much as he can as his enemies swarm in from all sides. Crack, on the other hand, doesn’t paint nearly as pretty as a picture. Often called the “poor-man’s” cocaine, crack is often shown in use by the destitute in urban areas. These superficial differences only reflect one aspect of their differences.

History of the Cocaine Obsession

Contrary to popular belief, cocaine is derived from the cocoa plant and has been used for centuries as a numbing agent, stimulant, and for appetite suppression. The Coca-Cola beverage, when introduced in 1886 actually condensed some of the cocoa leaves in a way that added a little pep to the beverage in addition to the caffeine. Hence the namesake that holds today. This rush of energy is the trademark of the substance and is the draw even today. Cocaine in its powder form saw a second renaissance in the latter part of the 1970s with the disco era through the mid 1980s. This was mainly due to the fact that the purchase of pure cocaine had been sought as a luxury drug in comparison to other narcotics and substances.

Crack was introduced in the early to mid 1980s as a substitute for cocaine and made it readily available for those without the means to be able to afford pure cocaine. This is done by a process called “cutting”. Dealers will acquire pure cocaine and then put additives such as baking soda, crushed vitamins, and other substances to the cut. This creates a denser amount of substance that is less pure but making it possible to purchase more for a lesser price than pure cocaine.

Methods of Consuming Cocaine and Crack

Both cocaine and crack are usually sold in small crystalline formations. Although the preference for pure powder cocaine is a matter of convenience, it’s also a sign that it has been tampered with or cut slightly as a means to sell. It is also in the powder form that cocaine is the preferred method of intake. This is usually done by inhaling through the nose or ingestion through the mouth. It is this way that the effects elevates until the cocaine reaches the blood stream.

Since crack is often densely cut with other elements, inhaling through the nose often burns the inner nose enough to cause immediate bleeding and damage. Likewise, ingestion through the mouth often produces a horrific taste that is unbearable. The composition of crack also lowers the effects of the drug through stomach ingestion. It is because of this that crack rocks are normally vaporized and smoked using a small glass pipe called a pizzo, where the cocaine is vaporized and then inhaled to be taken directly into the lungs. This process goes directly to the blood stream and provides for a greater feeling of being high.

Both cocaine and crack are often taken intravenously. The substance is directly introduced to the blood stream via injection through a vein or artery. This is often considered the most addicting way to intake the drug as it has been said to be the purest way to experience the effects of the drug. This method can easily lead to overdose and has proven to be lethal by many people, including several famous celebrities.

Health Risks Associated With Repeated Use

Both cocaine and crack contain similar health risks pertaining to the cardiovascular system. As as stimulant the cocaine element increases the heart rate dramatically and stimulates the nervous system. This is the effect that is considered the “high” of the substance. The method and amount of intake directly correlates to the level of effectiveness of the substance itself. With monitored dosages, those effects can last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours.

Crack contains health risks that are slightly elevated than that of pure cocaine. This is primarily due to the fact that the cut of crack produces affects that are not only separate but enhance that of the cocaine. Inhaling the vapors cause stronger and more lethal effects than ingestion. This along with the normal affects of the cocaine make crack highly addictive.

Addiction and Treatment

Cocaine as a substance alone is not addictive but the psychological addiction is very real. This is enhanced greatly and determined by the method of use. The additives in crack only enhance this sensation through method of use. Professional treatment for users with this addiction is greatly recommended and should be done by a professional.  Lasting recovery is only achieved when both the physical and mental dependence have been treated simultaneously.