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Crack cocaine is a powerful stimulant that is derived from powdered cocaine using a simple conversion process. The emergence of crack cocaine can be traced back to the 1980s in the United States. During that time, it became a more accessible and cheaper alternative to cocaine, leading to a significant increase in its use.

Also called:

Crack Rock Base Freebase
How the drug works varies from person to person

How you might feel

Crack cocaine can induce intense euphoria, increased energy, and heightened confidence. Users might experience an intense “rush” followed by a sense of alertness and excitement.

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Effects on your body

Crack cocaine use can lead to increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, dilated pupils, and reduced appetite. It can also cause hyperactivity, restlessness, and in some cases, aggression.

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How long it takes to work

The effects of crack cocaine are felt almost immediately after smoking, typically within seconds.

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How long the effects last

The effects of crack cocaine are intense but short-lived, lasting around 5-10 minutes.

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Common risks

Regular use can lead to addiction, cardiovascular issues, respiratory problems, and neurological effects.

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Crack cocaine is a powerful stimulant that is derived from powdered cocaine using a simple conversion process. The emergence of crack cocaine can be traced back to the 1980s in the United States. During that time, it became a more accessible and cheaper alternative to cocaine, leading to a significant increase in its use.

The history of cocaine, from which crack is derived, goes much further back. Indigenous South American tribes were known to chew coca leaves for their stimulant effects. Cocaine was first isolated from coca leaves in the mid-19th century by German chemist Albert Niemann. It was initially used for medicinal purposes and was even an ingredient in the original formulation of Coca-Cola in the late 19th century.

Crack cocaine’s effects are particularly intense due to the way it is ingested, typically smoked, leading to an almost immediate high. These effects include:

  • Physical Effects: Intense euphoria, increased energy, decreased appetite, and hyper-alertness are common immediate effects. Long-term use can lead to severe health problems, including heart issues, respiratory problems, and neurological damage. 1
  • Psychological Effects: Crack cocaine can cause anxiety, paranoia, and hallucinations. Prolonged use often leads to addiction and severe mental health issues, including depression and psychosis.2
  • Social and Economic Impact: The crack epidemic of the 1980s led to widespread social issues, including violence, family disruption, and economic decline in affected communities.

Crack cocaine is a drug with a relatively recent history but has had a substantial impact on society. Its intense physical and psychological effects have made it a focus of public health efforts, law enforcement, and addiction treatment programs.

How it looks, tastes and smells


Crack cocaine typically appears as an off-white or yellowish substance. It is often found in a solid, rock-like form and may have a crystalline structure. The “rocks” can vary in size and shape but are generally small and uneven.3


The taste of crack cocaine is often described as bitter or chemically. Users may experience a numbing sensation on the tongue if it comes into direct contact with the substance. This bitterness is a characteristic feature of both crack and powdered cocaine.2


When smoked, crack cocaine emits a distinct and sharp odour often described as similar to burning rubber or plastic. This smell is a result of the chemical process used to convert powdered cocaine into crack cocaine, involving baking soda and other chemicals. The smell can cling to clothing and is usually detectable in areas where the drug has been smoked.4


It’s essential to note that the dosage of crack cocaine can vary widely depending on the purity of the drug and individual sensitivities. As an illegal substance, it is not regulated, and its purity and composition can vary greatly.

  • Minimum to Feel Something (mg): Even small amounts (as little as 5-10 mg) can produce noticeable effects due to the drug’s potency.
  • Low Dose: A low dose might range from 10 to 25 mg, producing euphoria and increased energy.
  • Common Dose: A common dose might range from 20 to 50 mg. This is often enough to produce the intense and immediate high that crack is known for.
  • High Dose: Doses above 75 mg are considered high and can lead to severe health risks, including overdose, heart attack, stroke, or death.

Exceeding High Dose: Exceeding high doses of crack cocaine can lead to severe physical and mental symptoms, including seizures, heart attack, and paranoia.1

Crack cocaine is a powerful and highly addictive drug, with users typically smoking it to achieve an intense and immediate high. The dosages vary widely, and even small amounts can produce noticeable effects. The lack of regulation and control over the substance means that significant risk is associated with its use at any dosage level.

How you might feel

Users often report feelings of euphoria, increased energy, and mental alertness.

How long it takes to work

The effects of smoking crack are almost immediate, taking only seconds to a minute to be felt. 4

How long the effects last

The effects of crack cocaine last for about 15 to 30 minutes, leading to repeated, binge-like patterns of use. 2

Common risks

Crack cocaine poses significant risks, including heart problems, respiratory issues, and long-term cognitive deficits. The risk of overdose is especially concerning. 1


Crack cocaine is highly addictive and can lead to problematic and compulsive use. 7

The Law in the UK

The Law in the UK Crack cocaine is classified as a Class A drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 in the United Kingdom. This classification puts it in the same category as other highly dangerous and addictive substances.

Possession of crack cocaine in the UK is illegal and can lead to severe penalties. A conviction for possession can result in up to seven years in prison, an unlimited fine, or both. 8

Supplying or producing crack cocaine, including giving it away to friends, carries even harsher penalties. This offence can lead to life imprisonment, an unlimited fine, or both. 8

Mixing Drugs

Mixing with Alcohol

Combining crack cocaine with alcohol can lead to the formation of cocaethylene, a substance that increases the toxic effects on the heart and liver. 2

Mixing with Opioids

Some users mix crack cocaine with heroin, a practice known as “speedballing.” This combination can lead to a severe or fatal overdose due to the opposing effects of stimulants and depressants. This mix increases the risk of heart failure, respiratory failure, and seizures. 5

Mixing with Other Stimulants

Combining crack with other stimulants like methamphetamine or prescription stimulants can amplify the effects on the heart and central nervous system, leading to increased risks of heart attack, stroke, and anxiety disorders. 3

General Risks

Mixing crack cocaine with any other substances, including prescription medications, can lead to unpredictable and dangerous effects. This combination can amplify the risks of both substances, lead to addiction, and increase the chance of overdose. 6


  1. Booth, R.E., Kwiatkowski, C.F., and Chitwood, D.D., 2000. Sex-related HIV risk behaviours: Differential risks among injection drug users, crack smokers, and injection drug users who smoke crack. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 58(3), pp.219-226.
  2. Foundation for a Drug-Free World. (2006). What is Crack Cocaine? Retrieved on 21 December 2013, from )
  3. Substance Rehabilitation. (2021). “What Does Crack Cocaine Look Like? Your Questions About Crack Answered.” Retrieved from]
  4. Northpoint Washington. (No Date). “What Does Crack Cocaine Look Like? Your Questions About Crack Answered.” Retrieved from
  5. (No Date). “Crack Overdose.” Retrieved from )
  6. Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. (2019). Cocaine/Crack. Retrieved from link Accessed 10/9/2019. )
  7. Addiction Center, no date. ‘Crack Cocaine’, Addiction Center.
  8. UK Government. (2021). Penalties for drug possession, dealing and production. Retrieved from

What people ask

Crack cocaine is a form of cocaine that has been processed into a rock-like substance, which can be smoked. It is a potent stimulant affecting the central nervous system.

Crack cocaine usually appears white or off-white and has a solid, mineral-like texture. It may emit a distinctive sharp aroma and possess a bitter flavour.

Crack cocaine is commonly smoked utilising a small glass pipe. Alternatively, it can be injected.

The consumption of crack cocaine can induce sensations of euphoria, heightened energy, and enhanced mental awareness. However, it also entails significant risks, such as cardiovascular problems, respiratory complications, and the potential for addiction.

Precise dosage information is not readily available in the cited references, and usage patterns vary widely. To obtain accurate information, consultation with medical professionals is recommended.

Exceeding high doses of crack cocaine can result in severe physical and psychological symptoms, including seizures, cardiac arrest, and heightened paranoia.

Crack cocaine is widely recognised for its high addictive potential, often leading to compulsive use and dependence.

Crack cocaine is considered illegal in the UK, and being found in possession, distribution, or production of it carries severe legal consequences. The specific legal classification of crack cocaine in the UK is not provided in the referenced material.

Combining crack cocaine with other substances can result in severe and unpredictable reactions, including an elevated risk of overdose.

Overdosing on crack cocaine may manifest as seizures, heart failure, stroke, and respiratory collapse.

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What to do in an emergency

If you or a someone else requires urgent help after consuming alcohol or drugs, do not hesitate – call 999 immediately and speak to a person trained to assist you. It could be the difference between life and death.