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