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What Is Crack Cocaine?


Updated April 09, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Question: What Is Crack Cocaine?
Answer: When powdered cocaine hydrochloride is processed into a smokable substance it is called freebase, or in street terms, crack cocaine. The term "crack" actually refers to the crackling sound the freebase form of the drug makes when it is burning.

Using ammonia or sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and water, powdered cocaine is heated to remove the hydrochloride. This produces the freebase, or crack form of the drug.

When users smoke crack cocaine the experience a high almost immediately (usually less than 10 seconds). Because the high is immediate and euphoric and because crack is relatively inexpensive to produce and buy on the street, the drug became extremely popular in the mid 1980s.

The immediate high and the relatively quick "crash" after the first rush, is also the reason that crack cocaine is very addictive.

Back to: Cocaine FAQ


National Institute on Drug Abuse. "Cocaine: Abuse and Addiction." Research Report Series Updated September 2010

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