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Although there are many similarities between crack and cocaine, some important differences are worth mentioning.

These differences can range from means of consumption and specific additives, to methods of production and market value.

This article will discuss what crack is, why it is so popular and how it differs from cocaine.

The statistics

The statistics

According to the UK’s government’s National Drug Statistics, the popularity of both crack and cocaine has increased in the past decade.

This has come alongside a marked increase in the strength of cocaine.

There is estimated to be an 8.5% increase in crack used in England (166,640 to 180,748).

However, crack users account for a relatively small number of substance users5.1 per 1,000 people.

The report suggests that the UK has the highest levels of crack use in Europe.

In 2017, for example, statistics show that 11,000 people entered treatment for crack dependency in Europe – the UK accounted for 66% of these entrants.

Coinciding with this, there has been a significant increase in cocaine production, with the United Nations Office for Drugs Control (UNODC) reporting an increase of approximately 56%.

Cocaine is the most used illegal stimulant in the UK.

Cocaine dependency accounts for 13% of all treatment entrants in the UK.

What is cocaine and what is crack?

Cocaine and crack

Cocaine is an illegal stimulant that is highly addictive.

It is commonly consumed via inhalation through the nasal passage, but it can also be smoked, rubbed on the gums and injected.

Cocaine is also known as hydrochloride and is 1 of 14 alkaloids – a compound that has a psychological effect on humans – found in the coca plant.

On average, it takes between 400-600 kilograms of coca leaf to produce 1 kilogram of cocaine.

Once this process has been completed, the drug is then exported to countries across the world.

However, it is not uncommon for cocaine to be cut with various substances and chemicals before being sold on the streets.

Some of the chemicals that cocaine is cut with are paracetamol or other painkillers, anaesthetics such as procaine, and even laundry detergent.

According to National Drug Statistics, the purity of cocaine on the UK street ranges usually ranges from 30-50%.

However, the UK Focal Point annual report suggests that the purity of crack and cocaine has increased from 36% to 71% in the UK, in the past several years.

Crack is produced using cocaine. This is achieved by mixing ammonia/baking soda and water with the cocaine solution.

This mixed solution is then heated and forms rocks that can be smoked.

Crack can be thought of as a concentrated form of cocaine.

Cost differences between crack and cocaine

Cost difference

One noticeable difference between crack and cocaine is their street value.

In the UK, a single gram of cocaine can cost between £50 to £100. Cocaine is valued for its purity.

The purer the cocaine, the more it costs.

Crack, although not cheap, is considered to be the more financially viable option.

In the UK, a rock of crack (usually about 0.25 grams) ranges between £10 to £20.

The noticeable difference in price means that the consumer market tends to vary between the two drugs.

Studies have found that crack is most prevalent in lower socio-economic communities, whereas cocaine is mostly used by higher income groups.

What are the different effects of crack and cocaine?

Different effects

Cocaine and crack share similar properties, and, as a result, produce similar effects.

Some of the effects of both crack and cocaine include:

There are some differences, however, between the effect of crack and cocaine on the user.

Firstly, the effect is influenced by how the substance is consumed. When cocaine is inhaled through the nasal passage, the effect occurs between 1-5 minutes, peaks within 20 minutes, and begins to wear off after 30 minutes.

Usually, a single dose of cocaine only lasts between 1-2 hours.

Studies have shown, however, that crack produces a more intense high.

Crack is most commonly smoked through a pipe, which means it hits the bloodstream and brain faster than cocaine.

The effect of crack can occur in under a minute. It peaks also at 20 minutes, but only last 30-60 minutes.

What are the different risks factors of crack and cocaine?

Risk factors

Smoking crack increases the speed at which the substance enters the bloodstream and brain, and the risk of overdose is also greatly increased.

Crack overdose can lead to convulsions, coma, and then death.

Signs of a crack overdose include restricted breathing or hyperventilation, and increased heart rate.

Both crack and cocaine have similar short-term and long-term negative side effects. Both can negatively impact mental health, moods, and behaviour.

Negative short-term effects include:

Negative long-term effects include:

Is crack more addictive than cocaine?

More addictive

In general, because both crack and cocaine are pharmacologically the same, they are both just as addictive as the other.

Both lead to chemical changes in the brain.

Prolonged use of either drug will build a tolerance and more will be needed to achieve the same effect.

Through this, both the body and the brain will need the substance to feel normal. Intense cravings will occur as a result.

Although the chemical and addiction process is similar, studies show the rate at which the addiction occurs can differ.

As studies show, addiction can be impacted by the means of consumption. Because crack is smoked, it enters the brain faster.

The speed at which a drug reaches the brain can directly increase the speed of addiction.

In addition, crack has a shorter period of euphoria. It is likely that crack users will consume more of the substance within a shorter period than cocaine users.

This increased consumption also increases the risk of addiction.

Is crack withdrawal different from cocaine withdrawal?


Crack and cocaine both share similar withdrawal processes.

Symptoms might include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sweats
  • Fatigue
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Breathing problems 

The severity of these symptoms can depend upon how long the individual has been substance dependent.

In addition, withdrawal symptoms can vary based on how the substance is consumed.

Detox for cocaine usually begins 8-12 hours after the final dose, but withdrawal symptoms can occur 1-2 hours after consumption.

Detox usually lasts between 5-7 days.

Because crack can be more addictive than cocaine, symptoms might also be more severe. This might include more intense cravings and changes in mental, physical, and emotional health.

Because crack has a shorter high duration, the individual might experience withdrawal symptoms more regularly.

Withdrawal symptoms for crack can occur within 30 minutes to 1 hour after the final dose. Symptoms will usually begin to reduce after several days.

However, the detox period can also last much longer than cocaine – sometimes between 3 to 4 weeks.

Is the treatment for crack the same as the treatment for cocaine?


The process for entering rehab for people that have a crack or cocaine dependency is the same.

It is recommended that those with a substance dependency first contact their General Practitioner.

The GP will be able to perform a medical examination, assess individual needs, and recommend a treatment plan.

Treatment for both crack and cocaine dependency is available for free through the NHS.

Alternatively, there are many private rehabilitation facilities both in the UK and internationally.

However, private facilities can be expensive – often ranging from several hundred to several thousand pounds.

Both inpatient and outpatient options will be available for individuals suffering from crack or cocaine dependency.

However, due to withdrawal potentially being more severe for crack dependency, it is recommended that individuals enter a rehab facility.

For both crack and cocaine, individuals will receive help with their withdrawal. This includes both medical assistance and supervision.

Upon completing detox, individuals will be offered counselling. This might include group therapy, psychoanalysis, or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

Individuals will also be provided with a bespoke aftercare program.

If you or a loved one is suffering from a crack or cocaine addiction, the time to act is now. Contact Rehab 4 Addiction today for professional, judgment-free support.


Collins, Eric D. “Cocaine.” In Substance and Non-Substance Related Addictions, pp. 161-178. Springer, Cham, 2022.

Weiss, Roger D., Steven M. Mirin, and Roxanne L. Bartel. Cocaine. American Psychiatric Pub, 2002.


Boris is our editor-in-chief at Rehab 4 Addiction. Boris is an addiction expert with more than 20 years in the field.  His expertise covers a broad of topics relating to addiction, rehab and recovery. Boris is an addiction therapist and assists in the alcohol detox and rehab process. Boris has been featured on a variety of websites, including the BBC, Verywell Mind and Healthline.