How to Identify Crack Cocaine: What It Looks and Feels Like

Crack cocaine is an impure, but very potent, form of cocaine.

The drug is created through a complicated process involving baking soda, which results in crystalline “rocks.” These are smoked, unlike powdered cocaine, which is typically snorted. The high resulting from crack cocaine sets in faster than with powdered cocaine, but it also goes away within 15 minutes. Because of this rapid onset and dispersal, people who abuse crack cocaine are more likely to struggle with addiction to the drug.

Although many people know the terms crack cocaine and crack, they may not know how to identify the drug.

What Does Crack Cocaine Look Like?

The process of turning cocaine into crack cocaine produces crystals, called “rocks.” These range in color from clear-white or opaque white to off-white or yellow. They vary in size and shape.

Changes in color may be related to adulterants, including caffeine, sugar, lactose, or other drugs like levamisole, which have been added to the rocks. Sometimes, additives are used to increase the potency of the drug or mimic its effects. In other cases, they are mixed with the drug just to bulk up the weight or appearance, so the dealer can sell them at a higher price to people who think they are getting more crack.

What Does Crack Cocaine Smell Like?

When the drug is burning, people anecdotally report that it smells like burning rubber or plastic.

Typically, crack cocaine has a very “chemical” smell when it is burned or freebased.

Although it is distinctive, people who are unfamiliar with most intoxicating drugs do not know the difference between the smell of crack cocaine and the smell of a meth lab. Either can be dangerous, so it is important to report suspected labs and chemical-like smells to 911 immediately.

How Is It Abused?

The drug is solid, so it is typically smoked or freebased, a process in which the drug is liquefied, and the vapor is inhaled as it melts.

By changing cocaine into crack cocaine, the drug can be melted at a lower temperature. Inhaling vapor or smoke from crack cocaine allows the person to absorb cocaine more rapidly into the bloodstream through the lungs. This process causes a faster high than snorting cocaine. Powdered cocaine will typically not burn or melt at lower temperatures.

What Are the Symptoms of Crack Cocaine Intoxication?

heroin abuseWhen a person is struggling with crack cocaine addiction, they may appear intoxicated, to varying degrees, on a regular basis. Signs of crack cocaine intoxication include:

  • Frequent bursts of energy
  • Increased mental alertness for a short time
  • Intense euphoria
  • Aggression
  • Loss of sleep
  • Rapid speech
  • Lethargy, sleepiness, and depression once the drug wears off
  • “Jitters,” caused by an excess of dopamine acting on the brain and causing physical tremors
  • Hoarseness, sore throat, or trouble speaking due to damage of the mucous membranes in the throat
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Dilated pupils
  • Changes in mood and social behavior, including missing work or school

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