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  • Crack cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant drug made from powdered cocaine. Most people who use crack smoke it from a pipe. 

    A crack house, or crack den, is a home or other building where drug dealers and people who use crack cocaine buy, sell and use the drug.

    What Is It Like Inside A Crack House?

    When most people think of crack houses, they picture filthy, run-down trailers or public housing units in unsafe areas. 

    Many crack houses fit this stereotype. They’re characterized by uncleanliness, risky sexual behavior, and violence.


    When you’re addicted to crack cocaine, it’s extremely difficult to focus on anything besides getting and using crack. That’s why most crack houses aren’t well-maintained. 

    For example, when entering a crack house, you might see overflowing toilets, spoiled food, stained walls or peeling wallpaper, and dirty or damaged floors.

    You may also find the floors scattered with trash as well as items used to make and smoke crack. These items may include:

    • baking soda
    • glass pipes
    • straws
    • tin foil
    • filters
    • hollowed-out light bulbs
    • aluminum cans

    Risky Sexual Behavior 

    Some people in crack houses have sex with numerous people without protection. This often occurs because crack boosts your sex drive and impairs your judgment.

    In addition, some people who are addicted to crack exchange sex for crack money. In fact, some crack houses double as brothels (houses of prostitution). These establishments often face high rates of sexually transmitted diseases and sexual violence, including rape. 


    Because crack cocaine is an illegal drug, many crack houses have guards who use violence, including gun violence, to keep people out. The guards and other occupants may also use violence to resolve conflicts among buyers, sellers, and first time users. 

    Similarly, some people who run crack houses violently discipline those who work for them. 

    Are All Crack Houses The Same?

    No. While most crack houses feature some or all of the above issues, others maintain a much milder, cleaner atmosphere. The people who run and frequent these crack houses tend to have less severe addictions. They usually don’t engage in risky sexual behavior or violence. 

    Instead, they behave normally while seeking crack cocaine to avoid the withdrawal symptoms that accompany addiction. In some cities, they could also be run by nonprofit organizations that maintain it as a safe injection site for heroin, opioids, or other drugs (though this is illegal in most areas).

    Signs Of A Crack House

    In 1986, lawmakers enacted a federal drug policy often called the “crack house statute.” 

    Legally known as 21 U.S.C. S856, this statute makes it illegal to “knowingly open, lease, rent, use, or maintain any place, whether permanently or temporarily, for the purpose of manufacturing, distributing, or using any controlled substance.”

    That means that crack houses (and other drug houses) are illegal. If you discover one, you should report it to law enforcement. 

    Some crack houses specialize in crack production, some specialize in crack distribution, and some specialize in both. 

    Signs of a crack house that specializes in production include:

    • secretive, unfriendly occupants
    • people entering and leaving the building with odd items or at odd times
    • odd, chemical-like smells
    • blacked-out windows

    Signs of a crack house that specializes in distribution (also called a “trap house”) include:

    • people frequently visiting the building and only staying for a few minutes
    • people loitering around the building (they may be guarding it to prevent police raids)
    • people exchanging packages or cash
    • regular flickering of cigarette lighters

    A crack house that both produces and distributes crack may display all of the above signs. 

    If you or someone you love struggles with crack cocaine addiction, please reach out to an Ark Behavioral Health specialist to learn about our comprehensive treatment programs.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2022 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.

    The Fix - Inside a Crack House
    National Library of Medicine - The operational styles of crack houses in Detroit
    Psyche - The Crack House May Not Be What You Think
    Tennessee Dangerous Drugs Task Force - How to Spot Drug Activity
    United States Drug Enforcement Administration - Section 856

    Medically Reviewed by
    Lauren Weinand, M.D.
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