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two lines of crack, with a pile of powder and a small bag depicting what does crack look like

Key Points

  • Crack is an illegal stimulant that is sold on the street, usually in the form of rocks
  • This drug is often smoked, but it can be taken in other ways.
  • Crack cocaine is very addictive due to how it stimulates the brain’s pleasure pathways.
  • There is help available for those addicted to crack cocaine.

Crack cocaine has been around for many decades, and many people have died from abusing it. It is a very powerful stimulant that is commonly bought on the street and used with other illicit substances. Crack often takes the appearance of small, white rocks, but it can have small variations, depending on what’s in it.

But what does crack look like and how do you identify it?

Crack: General Overview

Crack is a type of cocaine that became popular in the 1980s.[1] It is derived from the more traditional, powdered form of cocaine that most people are familiar with. Crack’s most “attractive” feature to those who use this substance is that it is far more affordable than traditional cocaine. This is because its manufacturing process is different and it is less expensive to produce, making it a cheaper product to purchase on the street.

Its price is lowered further by the various ingredients it may contain. As a stimulant, crack speeds up the central nervous system. causing a person to think faster, speak faster, and perceive things more quickly. Those who use this substance may be excessively talkative and energetic. It may be difficult for them to keep still.

The most notable effect is the sense of euphoria this substance will cause when consumed. This makes people giddy and extremely happy for a brief period before being followed by a crash. This crash often makes people sick and can cause depression, suicidal thoughts, nausea, and body pain.

Because the crash is so unpleasant, it spurs people to keep using the drug so they can continue feeling the euphoria instead.

What Does Crack Look Like? [Quick Reference]

White rocks crack appearance variation white rocks
Off-white or yellow rocks crack appearance variation yellow
Crushed powder crack appearance variation powder form


How Do You Identify Crack?

Most of the time, crack takes the appearance of small and rough white rocks. It is derived from traditional powdered cocaine and made into crack through an extensive process. Powdered cocaine must first be dissolved in ammonia and water before being boiled. Boiling it removes the excess liquid until only solid matter remains.

The resulting product is then dried and shattered into small pebbles. This is the final product that is sold on the street. The more pure the product is, the whiter it will be. Most crack is not perfectly white but instead has an off-white, yellow, or beige color. This variation in color occurs when other ingredients are mixed with the cocaine.

This is done to make the product cheaper. However, it can also make it infinitely more dangerous. Common fillers for crack include pesticides, talcum powder, laundry detergent, and cat litter. There are rare cases in which crack may have a slightly pink or brown hue.

Texture and Smell

Crack rocks are very flaky and crumbly. They are very rough, much like real rocks. However, some may be much smoother, much like pieces of ceramic or porcelain. Crack has a very strong chemical smell due to the presence of the chemical fillers mentioned before. It may have the odor of gasoline or burned rubber. If the product is especially pure, it may not have much of a smell.

What Does Crack Look Like vs. Cocaine?

Many people think that cocaine and crack cocaine are the same, but they aren’t. While they are both stimulants and perform very similarly when consumed, they have very different appearances. Cocaine is a more expensive and pure product. It usually occurs as a bright white powder.

This powder is very fine, as it is meant to be snorted through the nose. It is derived from the coca plant, which grows in various regions of South America. To cheapen the product, it may be cut with other white, powdery substances, such as cornstarch, talcum powder, or laundry detergent. Some cocaine is off-white or slightly yellow or brown. The less white it is, the lower the quality will be.

Cocaine has a natural, and even floral, scent due to its vegetal origins. This is very different from crack cocaine, which has a much more artificial smell, texture, and appearance. But if the product contains a significant amount of filler ingredients, it may instead smell like ammonia or other chemicals.

Crack Cocaine Substance Abuse

In 2021, there were 32,537 overdose deaths associated with stimulant abuse, specifically cocaine and its derivatives.[2] Crack is an extremely dangerous substance. Many people use it at parties and nightclubs without realizing the dangers it poses. In many places, it is more popular than regular cocaine because it is more affordable.

Some might think it would be fun to try it at a party, and they may not think that they will get addicted later on. They may also not think about the risk of overdosing. Some can overdose and die the first time they use crack. Those who have used crack for many years can also die if they take more than their bodies can handle.

Those who survive this immediate danger often become addicted soon after using this substance even once. Once an addiction forms, it can destroy the brain and body in various ways.

How Do People Use Crack?

Crack has a half-life of 50 minutes and causes an intense sense of euphoria based on its ability to bind to dopamine and serotonin system transporters in the brain.[3] The majority of people smoke this substance. Smoking the substance will cause immediate effects. This is because it bypasses the liver and stomach and instead goes straight to the brain through the blood.

Because neither the stomach nor the liver breaks the substance down, almost the entire dose reaches the brain rather than a fraction of it. This makes the effects even stronger. But the high that results is very short-lived. Most people only experience a sense of euphoria for a few seconds. It is rare for the feeling to last longer than a minute.

The euphoria is immediately followed by dysphoria. This is an intense feeling of unhappiness accompanied by fatigue, nausea, headaches, and dizziness. While smoking is the most popular method of administration, some people prefer to take crack orally. This involves chewing the crack rocks or grinding them into a powder before consuming them.

Some may put the powder under their tongues for sublingual administration, but this is far less common. It is also possible to snort the crushed powder for a more immediate effect.

What Are the Dangers of Crack Addiction?

Many people start using crack for recreational purposes. However, after using this drug once or more, an addiction can easily form. It may feel impossible to live a normal life without taking this drug every day. Once this substance becomes a habit, your body will start to fall apart.

Cravings are a clear sign that you have a drug problem. The cravings may be so strong that you can’t think about anything else until you take more crack. Painful withdrawal symptoms may also occur if you go without using crack for too long. This can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, migraines, and mood changes.

Long-term crack use will eventually damage your internal organs, especially your lungs, kidneys, and liver. It is also possible for crack to cause heart attacks, strokes, and seizures. These side effects become more likely when you take very large quantities of crack or mix the drug with other illicit substances.

Mixing it with alcohol is especially dangerous and may lead to an accidental overdose.

Be Able to Identify Crack

Crack is a very dangerous and addictive substance. Using it even once could lead to addiction, overdose, and even death. This is true of other illicit drugs as well. This is why it is so important to avoid these substances and seek out addiction treatment when necessary.


Frequently Asked Questions About Crack

Below are some of the most frequently asked questions about crack cocaine.

Crack is derived from cocaine. It is a cheaper alternative and is often mixed with dangerous fillers, such as cat litter, battery acid, or detergents. Crack is often made in makeshift “labs.”



Crack creates a powerful high when consumed. This high spurs people to continue using the product, even if they are aware of the drug’s negative effects. 


People of lower socioeconomic backgrounds may be more likely to use crack. This is because it is a more affordable alternative to other street drugs. 

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[1] Crack Cocaine Fast Facts. (n.d.-a). Retrieved from on 2023, May 26. 

[2] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2023, March 31). Drug overdose death rates. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved from on 2023, May 26. 

[3] Cembrowicz S. (1999). Some quotes from patients and their doctors. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 318(7177), 163. Retrieved from on 2023, May 26.


Last medically reviewed June 7, 2023.