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Crack's History and Chemistry

Some Key Facts!

Schedule II drug in USA. Schedule I in Canada

Street Names:

Rock, Crack, Freebase, Ice Cubes

Active Ingredients:

Cocaine Base (60-80%), Baking Soda and Other Impurities

Short Term Effects:

Immediate and powerful high, a strong desire to repeat the high

Long-Term Effects:

Mood disorders, risk of heart disease/strokes/seizures, lung problems from inhaling crack smoke, cocaine related psychosis and future dependance

For an addictive substance, crack cocaine is relatively new. It's introduction into the drug scene occurred in the mid 1980s, a period where cocaine that was normally snorted was on the decline. The fact that crack cocaine is more powerful ended up creating a new bread of cocaine addict. A type with an extreme addiction to this new form of cocaine that would begin to seek out the drug regardless of it's dangerous consequences.

There are chemical differences between regular cocaine and crack which has lead to different means of usage. Regular powder cocaine is a hydrochloride – A salt formed by reacting cocaine alkaloid with hydrochloric acid. Crack on the other hand contains the freebase cocaine rather than the salt.

Cocaine traffickers and drug dealers first developed the freebase version of cocaine by testing the chemical integrity of their supplies. In order to do so they dissolved cocaine hydrochloride in water to leave behind certain impurities. When they began adding an alkali like sodium hydroxide they attained a water-insoluble base cocaine that would later dissolve in ether to leave behind more impurities. When the ether was evaporated the solid cocaine base was revealed without any impurities and smoking the base in the pipe was the ultimate test to determine the quality of the product.

Why is Crack So Addictive?

As unusual as it may seem, the high you get when smoking crack cocaine vs the high from snorting cocaine are in fact the same thing. The similarities even boil down to how our bodies dispose of the drugs. The differences begin when it comes to addiction. It has been proven that smoking crack cocaine vs snorting lines of it's powder brother is more addictive. The inhalation of crack is a very effective means of getting high. The only thing faster in the drug world is administering a drug via an IV. When inhaled crack quickly goes to the lungs, then the blood stream and onwards to the blood brain barrier. Of course the repeated use of the drug leads to heave dependance due to crack's effect on the dopamine system. After continuous use, the body begins to flush the drug out of the user's system more effectively and as a result it becomes more and more difficult to maintain the original high or highs when the user first began smoking the drug.

Crack and Crime

Since the beginnings of crack's street availability it has caused major problems for the families of users as well as the police, because of some of the nasty side-effects of using crack such as paranoia and aggressive behavior. Those symptoms are caused by norepinephrine and serotonin systems firing up the fight or flight response which causes the paranoia, lack of judgment and a tendency towards violence.

The financial burden of crack (Approx. $200 - $300 a week) can lead to serious criminal behavior such as theft and prostitution, as well as more violent crimes. In order to conceal their behavior from the police crack dens can range from abandoned buildings to relatively nice apartments in respectable areas of the city. The other major problem that arises is the rivalry between drug dealers who contest certain parts of the cities as their territory. Violence is often used to settle scores between gangs, and can cause innocent casualties as well as mindless murder of rivals and police alike.

In Conclusion

Yes, crack cocaine is dangerous to use, buy and sell. But some of the hysterical reactions to it's rise as a powerful problem of addiction in the 80s and 90s was not formed by the ridiculous theory that if someone smokes crack once they are automatically addicted. Even the so called crack epidemic is blown way out of proportion. In 2002 a study of drug use in American high schools showed that 6.7 percent of students had experimented with methamphetamine, while only 3.8 percent experimented with crack cocaine. Another common misconception or downright myth is that babies can be born addicted to crack due to their birth mother's addiction. Yes babies exposed to crack before birth can suffer a variety of intense medical issues and will go through extreme withdrawal when cut off from the cocaine infested blood supply from the mother, and will almost certainly experience sleep disturbances and other issues.