Cocaine and Crack Addiction


Part of the Complete Guide to Understanding Addiction

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What are Cocaine and Crack?

Cocaine, a derivative of the coca plant native to western South America, is a naturally occurring stimulant. Traditionally the coca plant was used to overcome hunger, fatigue, and pain, as well as playing a primary role in Andean and Peruvian religious cosmologies.

German chemist Albert Neiman first isolated cocaine from the plant in 1859. It gained widespread use in the medical community as an anesthetic some twenty years later, with Sigmund Freud as one of its chief proponents. Freud himself used the drug extensively and went as far as to call it a “magical” substance in his paper “Uber Coca” (“about coke”), published in 1884.

As use of cocaine grew and its harmful effects became increasingly evident, efforts began at the federal level to criminalize its marketplace and its possession. By the 1950’s the cocaine battle was considered over, and its use faded to a niche background.

And then Hollywood made it relevant again.

It became associated with the entertainment community in the 70’s and gained renown as a “glamour drug” used and abused by the rich and famous. Although initially restricted to the party lifestyle of wealthy celebrities due to prohibitive costs, eventually it trickled down to the general population. With the advent of crack, a base form of cocaine much cheaper to produce, it became accessible to even the most impoverished and the American cocaine epidemic was underway. It has ebbed and flowed ever since. Recent statistics have shown rising coke abuse, leading some observers to sound the alarm of a modern-day cocaine resurgence.

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What are Cocaine and Crack called on the street?


  • Coke
  • Blow
  • Big C
  • Dust
  • Line
  • Rail
  • Snow
  • Powder
  • Stash
  • Pearl
  • Bump


  • Candy or rock candy
  • Base
  • Ball
  • Rocks
  • Nuggets
  • Grit
  • Hail
  • Dice
  • Sleet
  • Chemical
  • Tornado

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What Cocaine and Crack looks, smells, and tastes like?

Cocaine is most commonly produced as a whiteish powdery substance. Many dealers will dilute cocaine with sugar or local anesthetics, both to increase profits and to vary potency. Crack on the other hand comes in rocklike forms.

Coke has a natural floral odor, but because of the chemicals used to extract it from the coca plant smells metallic and bitter. Crack when smoked, can smell like burnt plastic or rubber.

It has a bitter taste. A cocaine abuser will put it into their mouth not to check for taste, but to ascertain its level of purity. As mentioned, much of the cocaine on the market is “cut” to raise profit margins or add potency.

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How are Cocaine and Crack abused?

Cocaine is most commonly snorted or rubbed on the gums. It can also be dissolved in water and injected or in the case of crack, smoked. When done by way of the latter, it reaches the brain in mere seconds and creates intense and instant euphoria, known as a “rush” in drug abuse parlance. Its “high” has a relatively short lifespan and can be over in less than 10 minutes.

By contrast, when snorted or rubbed, its buildup in the brain is slower. It has a less intense feel and is spread out over a longer period. Initially, it can provide increased energy and alertness and a reduced need for sleep. Invariably it will lead to heightened irritability, the onset of paranoia, and many other debilitating repercussions.

Known on the street as “speedballing”, the practice of combining cocaine and heroin is particularly dangerous for cocaine users and consistently causes tragic outcomes.

In a chase to maintain the rapidly cycling euphoria, the cocaine addict will binge while continuously increasing the dosage levels. The crash comes hard on its heels and is characterized by complete mental and physical exhaustion and strong depression. Eventually, the crash runs its course, acute cravings follow, and the vicious cycle begins anew.

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How does Cocaine and Crack work?

Dopamine is a chemical that is organically produced in the human body and is transmitted via the nervous system to the brain. Among other things, it provides motivation and a pull to activities that provide the reward of pleasure.

Cocaine releases dopamine to the brain at an unnatural accelerated level and in abnormal quantities. This creates feelings of euphoria and stimulation and in turn effects an intense physical craving to recreate that enormous overload of pleasure.

It also raises the body’s tolerance and the threshold for dopamine, causing it to require higher levels of the chemical to reach the euphoria, and eventually even to feel normal.  In a cruel irony, cocaine heightens dopamine levels needed for basic living, while simultaneously inhibiting natural dopamine production. This brings severe depression, particularly at times of abstinence.

The brain has rewired its dopamine process and the user has moved from recreation to full-blown addiction.

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Symptoms and Physical Consequences of Cocaine and Crack

There are many signs of cocaine abuse. It is wise to be on the lookout for these symptoms if a loved one is struggling with Substance Use Disorder (SUD).

  • Dilated pupils
  • Long periods of wakefulness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Overconfidence
  • Over-excitement
  • Paranoia
  • Runny nose or frequent sniffling
  • Depression
  • White powder around nostrils
  • Legal issues
  • Missing or being late to work
  • Financial problems
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability

Side effects of cocaine abuse include increased risk of heart failure, stroke, severe migraines, and lung damage. It can harm the nerve receptors in the nose and result in a loss of the sense of smell if snorted regularly. Convulsions, seizures, and bowel decay have all been reported in cocaine abusers.

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Overdose and Fatality rates of Cocaine and Crack

Overdose deaths involving cocaine continue to spiral upwards. In the most recent statistics released by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in May of 2019, in 2017 there were 13,942 cocaine-abuse linked deaths, a staggering increase from just the year before of over 34 percent. Fatality rates rose in every age, every ethnic group and every region in the United States. The most notable spike occurred with females aged 15 to 24.

A common and tragic dealer practice is the lacing of cocaine with potent opioids such as Fentanyl. It has led to users ingesting substances without knowing what they contain, heavily contributing to skyrocketing overdose numbers. Nearly three-quarters of cocaine-related deaths in 2017 involved an opioid combination.

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Detox and Treatment of Cocaine and Crack

Entering a detox facility is the first step for the cocaine user to getting clean. Withdrawal can cause physical symptoms such as nausea, fever and an altered heartbeat. There can be depression and heightened stress levels. In some cases, hallucinations and extreme paranoia has been exhibited by recovering users. It is imperative that detox be overseen by competent medical professionals.

Once the residual toxins from drug use have left the system the person with addiction must enter treatment. It is vital to investigate your options and find a good faith rehab provider. Most health plans today cover treatment for drug rehabilitation. Identify the facility that works with you and for you.

The industry is rife with opportunistic greed merchants who see your loved one as a chance to make a quick buck. Keep your eyes wide open and ask questions. Be wary of those offering a quick fix and a two-week vacation. The cocaine user’s life is at stake.

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Brooke Abner,

Motivational Coach