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Drug Addiction

Crack Vs. Coke: The Difference & What You Need To Know About These Fatal Drugs

Crack Vs. Coke: The Difference & What You Need To Know About These Fatal Drugs

Crack and coke are often used interchangeably in our culture, but there are significant differences between the drugs and many similarities. While coke and crack are derived from the same source, coca leaves, there are differences in processing that lead to different end products.

Understanding the differences in these drugs, their potency, and side effects is important for everyone, especially if you have used coke or crack or are considering using them.

Crack vs. coke might not seem like an important difference, but it is. You shouldn’t use them interchangeably, partly because the two have different dosages and can affect you differently when you use them.

We’ll also discuss the legislative differences between these drugs and why those differences exist.

If you’re considering using crack or coke, are worried about a friend who uses these drugs, or want to learn more about the side effects and possible treatment options for yourself, you’re in the right place. This article is meant to help people who are using crack and coke, as well as anyone worried about someone in their lives who is using crack or coke themselves.

What Is The Difference Between Crack Vs. Coke?

To understand the differences between crack vs. coke, we need to start by understanding the similarities. Crack and coke are two different forms of cocaine, a highly refined version of the same stimulants found in coca leaves in South America.

Cocaine has a few medical purposes, unlike many recreational drugs, but its use is still very limited. Anything you buy on the street has likely been refined specifically for recreational use, and no recreational use of cocaine is safe or legal in the United States.

However, even though all forms of cocaine are illegal, different kinds of cocaine have different kinds of punishments associated with them.

That’s one of the biggest differences between crack vs. coke, so people need to know that the different forms of these drugs have different penalties if you get caught.

Coke, also called cocaine, is the powder form of the drug that can be smoked, snorted, or ingested. Crack is a crystalized form, which is often smoked.

There are a lot of myths about crack, specifically making crack seem like a much more dangerous drug. One of the reasons for those myths, according to the ACLU, is that Black people are more likely to use and own crack, whereas White people typically use coke instead.

The truth is that both drugs are dangerous, and you can get addicted to them very easily. Moreover, both versions can lead to erratic risk-taking and even dangerous behavior.

However, there are some key differences you should know.

The key difference between crack vs. coke is that coke can be prepared and used in several ways, whereas crack can only be smoked.

In terms of how the two interact with your body, crack vs. coke is a tie in addictiveness.

That said, how crack is used means it’s slightly more likely to become addictive, and addictions are likely to worsen.

There are three reasons why crack is a little more dangerous in terms of addiction:

  1. Crack is always smoked, which increases addiction risk.
  2. Smoking cocaine is the fastest way to get high but also generally the shortest.
  3. People who smoke crack are more likely to need two or more doses in the same amount of time as someone snorting or ingesting coke. The more cocaine you use, in any form, the more likely you are to develop an addiction.

So, it’s not so much that the physical effects of the drugs are different between crack vs. coke, but that the method the drug is used makes a big difference in your outcomes.

That said, while crack may be riskier in terms of addiction, that doesn’t mean coke is safe. Depending on how you use coke, there is a wide range of consequences that come with coke use, regardless of whether you develop an addiction.

If you ingest coke (eat it), it can cause bowel damage, eventually leading to bowel decay over time. If you choose to snort coke, it can cause a runny nose, damage to your sense of smell, and difficulty swallowing over time.

Coke users are also at greater risk of HIV and Hepatitis infections if they inject the drug, especially if they don’t follow clean needle procedures for injections.

Smoking crack or coke both risk damaging your lungs, sense of smell, and other parts of your respiratory system.

So, ultimately, crack and coke are equally damaging. It’s simply a matter of what kind of damage is being done and how the person using cocaine deals with the damage over time.

Side-Effects Of Crack Vs. Coke

Now that you know more about the differences between crack vs. coke, let’s discuss side effects. For the most part, the side effects of both versions of cocaine are similar, except for the side effects that come specifically from how you use the drug, which we’ve already discussed.

So, let’s dive into the cocaine-specific side effects common to crack and coke.

Remember, these side effects can start with as little as single use. Since cocaine can also be highly damaging, you should expect side effects to last at least a little while after taking cocaine in any form, and some side effects may become permanent or much more common for the rest of your life.

  • Dilated pupils
  • Increased body temperature
  • Increased heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Bizarre, erratic, or violent behavior
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Panic
  • Paranoia
  • Vertigo
  • Muscle twitches or tics

All of these side effects can happen during or after a cocaine high. The more often you use cocaine, and the more you use it, the worse your side effects are likely to become and the longer they may last.

Some people report having intermittent tics, sudden paranoia or anxiety attacks, increased irritability, and increased heart rate for days to months after their last dose of cocaine.

One of the other problems with cocaine use is that cocaine can sensitize your body to the drug, which means that you start having side effects at lower and lower doses. Simultaneously, many users report wanting more cocaine to get the same high, which can lead to a loop where you use more and more cocaine, but simultaneously have more and more side effects over time.

How To Spot An Addiction To Crack Or Coke

Spotting cocaine addiction can be a little easier than spotting other kinds of addiction, but that doesn’t mean you should assume it will be easy. Cocaine, especially crack, is highly stigmatized in our culture, so users are likely to hide their use and try to be secretive about their use when interacting with other people.

That means you may have to look carefully to spot changes in your loved ones that could indicate they are dealing with an addiction to crack or coke.

Many crack and coke users also don’t realize they are addicted or don’t know what kind of resources are available to them if they do realize they are addicted and want help.

We will provide a list of symptoms of cocaine addiction that can be used to identify signs of addiction in yourself or your loved ones. Not all of the symptoms need to be present to indicate an addiction.

If you use crack or coke, even just one or two symptoms could indicate that you’re dealing with an addiction.

  • Feeling like you need cocaine to be able to handle certain situations.
  • Feeling off anytime you aren’t taking cocaine
  • Having a runny nose all the time, especially if you or your loved one don’t have any known allergies.
  • Feeling increasingly irritable and amped, even between doses.
  • Your loved one behaves erratically, especially if the behavior seems worst after they’ve had a chance to be alone or run to the bathroom.
  • Feeling like you need to make excuses to hide signs of cocaine use.
  • Wearing long-sleeves all the time (maybe hiding track marks from cocaine or other injectable drugs)
  • Significant weight loss, especially accompanied by a sudden decrease in appetite
  • Unexplained diarrhea or gastric complaints that don’t seem to get better over time (may also be a sign of many chronic digestive disorders and illnesses.)
  • Dilated eyes, especially if they are frequent or appear at certain times in the week or month.

Remember, unlike many other recreational drugs, coke and crack are usually binge drugs. Therefore, users may not use these drugs all the time, even if they are addicted, and are likely to save large amounts of cocaine in one form or the other for binges.

Binges are more common in high-stress situations when someone feels under much pressure or as part of a party and clubbing culture. However, addicts may choose to use cocaine at any time or for almost any reason, even if they still binge instead of using it consistently.

People must watch for signs of addiction in their loved ones; addicts may spend a significant amount of time sober between uses, which isn’t common in other drug addictions.

Addicted To Crack Or Coke? Here’s How To Get The Help You Deserve

If you or a loved one are dealing with an addiction to crack or coke, you aren’t alone and don’t need to overcome your addiction alone.

Overcoming addiction can be challenging, and reaching out for additional support is important. Whether you’re reaching out to friends and family or seeking help from medical professionals, having people around you can make detoxing and overcoming your addiction easier.

Suppose you’re looking for a more comprehensive treatment plan or have tried to overcome your addiction and failed in the past. In that case, you might want to consider a treatment center specializing in addiction and mental illness because having more care and a dedicated treatment plan can make a big difference.

Ready to overcome your addiction?

Contact Ocean Recovery to learn more about our treatment programs, intake process, and any other questions you need to be answered before you commit to a program.

Remember, addiction is complicated. You don’t have to do this alone.



Ocean Recovery has sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations for our references. We avoid using tertiary references as our sources. You can learn more about how we source our references by reading our Editorial Policy.

  1. American Civil Liberties Union. Cracks in the System: 20 Years of the Unjust Federal Crack Cocaine Law. American Civil Liberties Union. Published October 2006. Accessed August 13, 2022.
  2. Gupta, S. Very Well Mind. What Is A Crack Addiction? Published January 28, 2022. Accessed August 13, 2022.


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The internet contains a vast amount of misinformation, but when it comes to your health only peer reviewed, research centered data matters. At Ocean Recovery, all content published throughout our website has been rigorously medically reviewed by a doctorate level clinician, and cross checked for medical accuracy. Our editorial process helps our readers trust that the information they are consuming is factual and based upon scientific data. Your health is our top priority, find out more about how we safeguard the integrity of information on our website. Read More About Our Process

Last medically reviewed August 13, 2022.