What Crack Looks Like

What Does Crack Look Like?

Written by:

Amanda Stevens, B.S.

Medical Review by:

Dr. Po-Chang Hsu, M.D., M.S.

Medically Reviewed On: May 21, 2024

Both powder cocaine and crack cocaine come from the coca plant in South America. They’re both highly addictive and potent forms of cocaine that produce intense high and side effects, but these two substances are used differently and have distinctive appearances.[1]

If you suspect a loved one is using crack cocaine, it’s important to recognize not only the drug itself but any other signs of crack cocaine.

What Is Crack Cocaine?

Crack cocaine is derived from the powder form of cocaine using a simple conversion process.[2] The powdered cocaine is dissolved in a mixture of water and ammonia or sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and boiled until it’s solid. This solid is then removed, dried, and broken into pieces sold as cracks.

Named for the crackling sound it makes when heated, crack cocaine is smoked to produce an immediate high. It’s an impure form that’s easy and inexpensive to make, which led to its widespread use in the 1980s.

What Does Crack Look Like?

Crack cocaine crystals, known as “rocks,” can be anything from clear white to opaque white to off-white or yellowish in color.[3] Crack cocaine crystals vary in size and shape, as the solid form is broken into smaller pieces after conversion.

The color variations can be caused by the purity of the cocaine itself or adulterants like lidocaine, procaine, caffeine, or other drugs that have been added to mimic the effects or produce more potent effects.[4] Some additives are intended to add to the bulk of the product to create a larger profit margin for dealers.

What Does Smoking Crack Look Like?

Crack is nearly always smoked. People don’t often buy crack in large quantities. It’s often purchased in individual doses or “rocks.”

Once you know what it looks like, crack is relatively easy to identify. But the small doses make it more difficult to spot in loved one’s belongings, so it may be easier to look for some telltale signs of crack use instead of the drug itself.

Because crack is smoked rather than snorted like powder cocaine, it requires paraphernalia.[5] Glass pipes and lighters are commonly used, but you may also see aluminum foil, spoons with burn marks, an excess of straws, hollow glass containers, and wire scrubbers.

People may rig household items into makeshift pipes, including light bulbs, plastic bottles, and soda cans. A clear sign that these items have been repurposed is burn marks.

Image

What Are the Risks of Using Crack?

Cocaine is a highly addictive drug, no matter its form. Using crack may lead to addiction more quickly, however, as smoking the substance delivers it into the bloodstream faster for a more intense, immediate high.[8] The high with crack is also short-lived, leading people to binge to chase that intensity, increasing their tolerance and addiction potential.

Crack carries the same general risks of cocaine use, which include constricted blood vessels, increased heart rate, temperature, and blood pressure, seizure, and cardiac arrest, as well as use-specific effects. Crack users may experience acute respiratory problems like coughing and shortness of breath, burns, and lung trauma (also known as crack lung).[9]

Crack Cocaine Addiction Treatment

It can be difficult to determine when crack use becomes crack addiction. But if you suspect a loved one is abusing crack or struggling with an addiction, early intervention is key to a positive outcome. The effects of crack use only worsen over time.

Treatment for crack addiction is tailored to the needs of the individual, so it may include detox and treatment in an inpatient or outpatient facility. Many programs use behavioral therapies for cocaine addiction, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and contingency management, two leading therapies based on the idea that behaviors are learned and can be changed.[10] These therapies help people identify the influences and patterns that contribute to drug use and develop healthier behaviors.

Frequently Asked Questions

01

What Does a Crack Rock Look Like?

icon

Crack rocks can vary in color and size, but they are generally small, irregular in shape, and range from white to tan in color. They’re usually around the size of cat food pellets.

02

What Color Is Crack?

icon

Cracks vary in color depending on the impurities, but they are usually a shade of white, tan, or yellow with varying degrees of transparency.

03

What Does Crack Smell Like?

icon

Crack is reported to have a distinctive chemical scent, like burning rubber or plastic, when it’s smoked. Though distinctive, the difference between a burning crack and a potentially volatile meth may not be obvious to the average person, so it’s important to report any odors to the proper authorities.

Sources
icon
[01]

What is crack cocaine? What does it look like? What are the risks? (n.d.-f). Retrieved from https://www.justice.gov/archive/ndic/pubs3/3978/3978p.pdf on 2023, July 9.

[02]

What is crack cocaine? What does it look like? What are the risks? (n.d.-f). Retrieved from https://www.justice.gov/archive/ndic/pubs3/3978/3978p.pdf on 2023, July 9.

[03]

What is crack cocaine? What does it look like? What are the risks? (n.d.-f). Retrieved from https://www.justice.gov/archive/ndic/pubs3/3978/3978p.pdf on 2023, July 9.

[04]

Ribeiro, M., Trevizol, A.P., Frajzinger, R., Ribeiro, A., Speier, H., Pires, L., Andraus, M., Tsanaclis, L., Alonso, A.L.S., Cordeiro, Q., Laranjeira, R. (n.d.). Adulterants in crack cocaine in Brazil. Trends in psychiatry and psychotherapy. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31314858/ on 2023, July 9.

[05]

Drug paraphernalia fast facts – United States Department of justice. (n.d.-e). Retrieved from https://www.justice.gov/archive/ndic/pubs6/6445/6445p.pdf on 2023, July 9.

[06]

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2022, December 19). Cocaine drug facts. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved from https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/cocaine on 2023, July 9.

[07]

Morton, W. A. (1999, August). Cocaine and psychiatric symptoms. Primary care companion to the Journal of clinical psychiatry. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC181074/ on 2023, July 9.

[08]

What is crack cocaine? What does it look like? What are the risks? (n.d.-f). Retrieved from https://www.justice.gov/archive/ndic/pubs3/3978/3978p.pdf on 2023, July 9.

[09]

What is crack cocaine? What does it look like? What are the risks? (n.d.-f). Retrieved from https://www.justice.gov/archive/ndic/pubs3/3978/3978p.pdf on 2023, July 9.

[10]

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2022a, December 19). Cocaine drug facts. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved from https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/cocaine on 2023, July 9.

Begin Your Recovery Journey Today