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Cocaine vs. Crack: What's the Difference?

By Nichole Tucker, MA
Cocaine and crack look different to the naked eye but these drugs have no pharmacological differences.

Cocaine and crack look different to the naked eye but these drugs have no pharmacological differences, according to Drug Policy Alliance. You may wonder how these drugs differ and if one is more dangerous to use than the other. In short, the answer is no. 

The Main Difference Between Cocaine and Crack

Cocaine is a powder and crack is a rock. But the key difference between the two drugs is how they are taken. Cocaine has many options that include snorting, injecting, and swallowing. Whereas crack can only be smoked. The Drug Policy Alliance states that because of the many options for taking cocaine, the drug tends to be more expensive than crack. 

“Crack can be riskier than powder cocaine in three ways,"Joseph J. Palamar, PhD, MPH, associate professor at the Department of Population Health at the New York University Langone Medical Center tells WebMD Connect To Care. 

"First, crack is smoked which increases the risk for addiction, in part, because of the quicker onset of effects. Second, being caught with crack places you at a higher risk for being sentenced because the law treats crack possession more severely than powder cocaine possession. Third, society tends to stigmatize crack more than powder cocaine.”

Is One More Addictive Than The Other?

Since cocaine and crack are identical in terms of their pharmacology, neither is more addictive than the other. However, the intoxication from crack comes on more quickly than cocaine and lasts for a shorter period of time, according to Cleveland Clinic. This means that because of the rapid high from crack, crack users are more likely to abuse the drug than powder cocaine users.

But, how addictive is crack? The quick and short high of the drug makes the likeliness of crack addiction higher than that of cocaine.

“Crack reaches the brain quicker and in a more intense matter because it is smoked. Smoking and injecting lead to quicker onset of effects as compared to sniffing or using orally. People who smoke cocaine are also more likely to crave more,” Palamar says.

Don’t Wait. Get Help Now.

There are multiple signs that you may need help curving cocaine or crack addiction. The main sign is that you are unable to stop using your drug of choice. According to Cleveland Clinic, other signs include depression, loss of interests, weight loss, runny nose, paranoia, anxiety, and financial issues. 

If you or a loved one are living with addiction, WebMD Connect to Care Advisors are standing by to help.

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