Give Online: Help shape patient care for generations to come.
Cleveland Clinic Logo

Drugs & Supplements

Cocaine (Crack)

(Also Called 'Crack')

What is cocaine?

Cocaine is a stimulant drug that comes in the form of a white powder or "a rock." Street names for the drug include snow, nose candy, coke, "C," toot and blow. People snort cocaine through their nose or inject it into their muscles or veins. Cocaine can be mixed into a marijuana "joint" or a tobacco cigarette.

Drug dealers mix it with other substances so they can have more of the drug to sell. These "fillers" make the drug even more dangerous because the user does not know how much cocaine he or she is taking. The fillers also can add harmful side effects to an already unsafe drug.

What is crack?

Crack is cocaine that has been processed so that it can be smoked. It also goes by the street name "rock." Crack looks like small pieces or shavings of soap but has a hard, sharp texture.

When a person smokes crack, cocaine reaches the brain more rapidly and in higher doses than when taken as a powder. The user feels an intense "rush" followed by a "crash" that can produce a strong craving for more of the drug.

What's so bad about cocaine and crack?

Cocaine and crack are dangerous for many reasons. Consider these facts:

Cocaine and crack use can lead to—

  • Sudden heart attack
  • Death
  • Loss of sexual function
  • Addiction, even after occasional use
  • Addiction, even after one try
  • Brain seizures
  • Irregular heart beat
  • Depression
  • Stroke
  • Violent actions

A person who is addicted often—

  • Loses control of his or her life
  • Will do anything to get more cocaine
  • Spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on his or her habit
  • Loses interest in friends, family and social activities
  • Has a need to take the drug just to feel "normal"

Why do people become addicted to cocaine?

Cocaine causes chemical changes in the brain that control happiness and trigger an intense craving for the drug. These chemical changes stay in the brain even after the person stops using cocaine. They account for the extreme pleasure the user feels when using, as well as the depression that occurs when the user stops taking the drug.

Though an addict may further use cocaine to relieve these bouts of depression, an even stronger withdrawal state called anhedonia influences addiction. Anhedonia is a state in which a person cannot experience normal pleasure. The user can overcome depression, but still feel as if he or she cannot enjoy life without cocaine. Anhedonia can last for years and may drive the user back to the drug. This is one reason why cocaine addiction can be so difficult to treat.

What are the signs that someone is addicted to cocaine?

  • Periods of severe depression
  • Weight loss
  • Decline in personal hygiene or appearance
  • Constant runny nose
  • Frequent upper respiratory infections
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Loss of interest in friends, family and social activities
  • Loss of interest in food, sex or other pleasures
  • Hearing voices when nobody has spoken or feeling paranoid
  • Expressing more anger, becoming more impatient or nervous
  • Hallucinations
  • Offering sex for money to get drugs

How can I help someone who is addicted?

Most drug users deny that they have a problem and push family and friends away. You may feel helpless, frustrated and unable to cope. You can get help by contacting a local drug abuse treatment center. You should also:

  • Maintain established limits and rules.
  • Don't change your actions to suit the needs of the addict.
  • Don't cover up for the addict when he or she fails to meet responsibilities at work, school or home.
  • Don't make excuses for the addict’s drug use.
  • Don't lend money for drugs.
  • Encourage the user to seek help.
  • Get help from Al-Anon or Nar-Anon.

How is cocaine and crack addiction treated?

Recovery often begins with "detox," the body's physical withdrawal from cocaine. Physical symptoms of withdrawal can begin within a few hours and last up to seven days. The inability to enjoy normal pleasure may be a prolonged problem. Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Muscle tremors
  • Severe headache
  • Extreme hunger

After the body is clean of cocaine, and other drugs or alcohol, the addict enters a counseling program. The goal of counseling is to help the addict understand the effects of cocaine use, confront issues that lead to drug use and learn ways to abstain from cocaine.

Where can I get help?

For referral to drug and alcohol treatment programs in your area, try using the Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): .


© Copyright 1995-2012 The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. All rights reserved.

Can't find the health information you’re looking for?

This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 3/6/2012...#4038