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Smoking Crack | Effects & Dangers Of Crack Cocaine Abuse

Published on January 27, 2021
Man smoking crack out of a crack pipe

Crack cocaine, also known as crack, is a version of cocaine that’s smoked. Crack comes in solid crystals that are placed into specialized pipes for smoking.

Crack is a highly addictive and potentially dangerous substance. It can cause many health effects in the short- and long-term.

How Crack Is Made & Smoked

Crack can be made by combining baking soda or ammonia with wet cocaine. Powder cocaine turns into a solid, rock-like crystal during the process. Mixing these ingredients together also makes hydrochloride, a harmful chemical, which can be taken out by heating.

Crack is usually cheaper than cocaine, and is a popular drug on the illegal market.

Smoking crack is usually done with crack pipes, which are specifically designed for this drug. The name “crack” comes from the crackling sound of the crystal or rock while smoking it. Snorting crack is another, a less popular method of abuse.

Effects Of Smoking Crack

Crack is a stimulant that affects dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that controls movement, attention, and motivation. Crack increases the amount of dopamine and causes it to stay in the brain for longer.

People who smoke crack may be searching for the happiness, alertness, and increased activity crack use causes. However, the high caused by crack usually lasts for a short time (about 5-10 minutes). It can cause other, unwanted effects in both the short- and long-term.

Short-Term Effects

While the high caused by crack can feel good, it wears off quickly. Other side effects may be much less pleasant. Short-term effects of crack cocaine range from mild to severe, and may include:

  • high blood pressure and constricted blood vessels
  • increased heart rate
  • loss of appetite
  • sudden heart attacks
  • convulsions

Long-Term Effects

Crack is a Schedule II controlled substance according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). It is habit-forming and has a high potential for substance abuse. Crack is also a common target of drug addiction, due to its brief effects and chances of physical dependence.

People who struggle with crack addiction may find it difficult to quit, and it can also put your physical health at risk. Long-term dangers of smoking crack include:

  • asthma
  • respiratory problems
  • arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat)
  • mental health issues (paranoia, anxiety)


Dependence on crack can happen very quickly, but the cycle of dependence is slightly different than other drugs. 

After smoking crack, a person may experience a crash that features exhaustion, depressive symptoms, and tiredness for up to several days. After the crash, the urge to smoke crack again will likely come back, which is then followed by another crash.

Crack causes other withdrawal symptoms in the long-term. These can last for weeks or even months, and may include:

  • intense drug cravings
  • general lethargy or sluggishness
  • decreased concentration

A rehab or treatment program may help you overcome crack dependence or withdrawal.

Crack Addiction Treatment Options

Smoking crack is a dangerous form of substance use. Crack cocaine addiction continues to be a serious problem in the United States because of its addictive qualities and widespread illicit use. 

Because crack is so addictive, a supervised drug detox can support you as you deal with cravings, depression, and other withdrawal symptoms. Several forms of behavioral therapy can also help treat crack addiction.

If you or a loved one struggles with cocaine or crack use, talk to a healthcare professional or contact us today.

Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
This page does not provide medical advice.

Australian Government Department of Health - Department of Health | The cocaine withdrawal syndrome
Drug Enforcement Administration - Drug Fact Sheet: Cocaine
National Institute on Drug Abuse - Cocaine DrugFacts | National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
National Institute on Drug Abuse - What is Cocaine? National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)

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