Crack cocaine is the crystal form of cocaine that can be smoked.


Crack causes a short-lived, intense high that is immediately followed by the opposite— an intense depression, edginess and a craving for more of the drug. People who use it often don’t eat or sleep properly. They can experience greatly increased heart rate, muscle spasms and convulsions. The drug can make people feel paranoid, angry, hostile and anxious—even when they aren’t high.

Taking crack cocaine increases the risk that the user will experience a heart attack, stroke, seizure or respiratory (breathing) failure, any of which can result in sudden death, regardless of how much of the drug is used.

Smoking crack further presents a series of health risks. Crack is often mixed with other substances that create toxic fumes when burned. As crack smoke does not remain potent for long, crack pipes are generally very short. This often causes cracked and blistered lips, known as “crack lip,” from users having a very hot pipe pressed against their lips.

Crack use interferes with the way that the brain processes chemicals. Therefore users need more and more of the drug to feel normal. Users who become addicted to crack cocaine lose interest in other areas of life.

How crack makes you feel

  • Very confident, alert and awake. Some people become over confident, arrogant and aggressive and therefore become careless, putting themselves and others at risk
  • Cocaine raises the body’s core temperature, increases your pulse rate and reduces your appetite
  • You become hypersensitive to touch
  • As the effects wear off, you can experience a ‘comedown’, feeling depressed and unwell, which can occur for days after taking the drug

The law

  • ‘Coke’, ‘freebase’ and ‘crack’ are all Class A drugs – that means they’re illegal to have, give away or sell
  • Possession can get you up to seven years in prison
  • Supplying someone else, including your friends, can get you life imprisonment and an unlimited fine

Short-term effects

Because it is smoked, the effects of crack cocaine are more immediate and more intense than that of powdered cocaine. These include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature
  • Contracted blood vessels
  • Increased rate of breathing
  • Dilated pupils
  • Disturbed sleep patterns
  • Nausea
  • Hyperstimulation
  • Bizarre, erratic, sometimes violent behaviour
  • Hallucinations, hyperexcitability, irritability
  • Tactile hallucination, e.g. the illusion of bugs burrowing under the skin
  • Intense euphoria
  • Anxiety and paranoia
  • Depression
  • Intense drug craving
  • Panic and psychosis
  • Convulsions, seizures and sudden death from high doses (even one time)

Long-term effects

  • Permanent damage to blood vessels of ear and brain, high blood pressure, leading to heart attacks, strokes and death
  • Liver, kidney and lung damage
  • Severe chest pains
  • Respiratory failure
  • Infectious diseases and abscesses if injected
  • Malnutrition, weight loss
  • Severe tooth decay
  • Auditory and tactile hallucinations
  • Sexual problems, reproductive damage and infertility (for both men and women)
  • Disorientation, apathy, confused exhaustion
  • Irritability and mood disturbances
  • Increased frequency of risky behaviour
  • Delirium or psychosis
  • Severe depression
  • Tolerance and addiction (even after just one use)

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