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Substance Showdown: Powder Cocaine vs. Crack

I am probably a little too excited for today’s substance showdown! Today’s substance showdown is between to drugs that I know a whole lot about from personal experience. I am really interested to see which of the two will come out as our winner today! So what are the substances? Well, if you know me you know one of them is powder cocaine and the other is its cousin substance, crack. Both of these substances are central nervous system stimulants and it should be a really close fight.

Powder cocaine and crack will go head to head for three rounds based on: health effects, insidiousness and legality and withdrawal. The WORST of each round will be the winner. This substance showdown between powder cocaine and crack should be an interesting one because crack is a derivate of pretty much its mother substance, cocaine.

With that let’s introduce our contenders! Cocaine is a purified extract from the leaves of the Erythroxylum coca bush. This plant grows in the Andes region of South America. Different chemical processes produce the two main forms of cocaine:

  • Powdered cocaine — commonly known on the street as “coke” or “blow” — dissolves in water. Users can snort or inject powdered cocaine.
  • Crack cocaine — commonly known on the street as “crack” or “rock” — is made by a chemical process that leaves it in its “freebase” form, which can be smoked or injected when mixed with other substances such as vinegar or vitamin C.


Powder Cocaine: Injecting cocaine results in nearly instantaneous effects. Rapid absorption through nasal tissues makes snorting cocaine nearly as fast-acting. Whatever the method of taking it in, cocaine quickly enters the bloodstream and travels to the brain.

  • Heart. Cocaine is bad for the heart. Cocaine increases heart rate and blood pressure while constricting the arteries supplying blood to the heart. The result can be a heart attack, even in young people without heart disease. Cocaine can also trigger a deadly abnormal heart rhythm called arrhythmia.
  • Brain. Cocaine can constrict blood vessels in the brain, causing strokes. This can happen even in young people without other risk factors for strokes. Cocaine causes seizures and can lead to bizarre or violent behavior.
  • Lungs and respiratory system. Snorting cocaine damages the nose and sinuses. Regular use can cause nasal perforation. Gastrointestinal tract. Cocaine constricts blood vessels supplying the gut. The resulting oxygen starvation can cause ulcers, or even perforation of the stomach or intestines.
  • Kidneys. Cocaine can cause sudden, overwhelming kidney failure through a process called rhabdomyolysis. In people with high blood pressure, regular cocaine use can accelerate the long-term kidney damage caused by high blood pressure.
  • Sexual function. Although cocaine has a reputation as an aphrodisiac, it actually may make you less able to finish what you start. Chronic cocaine use can impair sexual function in men and women. In men, cocaine can cause delayed or impaired ejaculation.

Crack: Smoking crack further presents a series of health risks along with all the risks associated with doing cocaine (See above). 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.

  • In addition to the usual risks associated with cocaine use, crack users may experience severe respiratory problems, including coughing, shortness of breath, lung damage and bleeding.
  • Long-term effects from use of crack cocaine include severe damage to the heart, liver and kidneys. Users are more likely to have infectious diseases.
  • Continued daily use causes sleep deprivation and loss of appetite, resulting in malnutrition. Smoking crack cocaine also can cause aggressive and paranoid behavior.

THE WINNER OF ROUND 1 IS NEITHER, WE ARE CALLING IT A DRAW: We called this round a draw because powder cocaine and crack are both equally dangerous to your health.  Powder cocaine can be smoked or free based if a user wants to smoke it and crack can also be injected. No one of these substances has a monopoly on a certain health effect due to routes of administration etc. They both have similar dangerous effects.


Powder cocaine: Cocaine is a Schedule II substance under the DEA’s Controlled Substances Act. Schedule II substances are those that have the following findings:

A. The drug or other substances have a high potential for abuse

B. The drug or other substances have currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, or currently accepted medical use with severe restrictions

C. Abuse of the drug or other substances may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.

Cocaine doesn’t necessarily get its insidiousness from its legality because it is illegal for the most part. Cocaine gets it insidiousness just merely from the fact that it is partially accepted as one of those drugs that most people try once in their life. Some people never run into but the people who do and then try it, it kind of isn’t a big deal. Plus we see coke use on T.V. and in movies etc. Not saying it’s really socially accepted but when it comes to drug use, someone using coke once or having a phase with coke is really not that big of a deal. Someone who is cocaine addict? Now that’s a different story. But having a party phase and doing it here and there really isn’t frowned upon too much among those who have had experiences with drugs. Also cocaine is a “rich man’s” drug. Coke is expensive and you don’t get a lot of it which makes it seem like a bit more of a high class substance. This makes cocaine slightly insidiousness. I know for me cocaine made me feel like I was living in a movie, until my movie got moved into the horror section.

Crack: Crack is the same schedule as cocaine under the Controlled Substances Act. But socially, crack is looked at much differently than cocaine. Because of the way crack is looked at, it is less insidious. This is because crack is looked at as dirty, used by those in the ghetto, on the streets, homeless, without teeth, and it also is looked at like a destroyer of lives; which it is but so is coke. Yet, most people don’t have this thought about cocaine or at least to the same extent as they do about crack. Crack is pretty much looked at like the kind of drug it is; super dangerous, highly addictive, dirty and a destroyer of lives. This makes crack not insidious. There is nothing sneaky about crack. Most people who smoke crack know what they are getting themselves into. Most people recognize there is no such thing as recreational crack use.


Cocaine is slightly more insidious because the image some people have about its use being glamorous or fancy. The pictures people have of using powder cocaine and of using crack vary a lot if we are honest about it. And the image of cocaine allows cocaine to sneak into more people’s lives and hit them with the train that is a cocaine addiction and man, cocaine addiction “blows” (pun intended).


Primary symptoms may include:

Agitation and restless behavior

•Depressed mood


•Generalized malaise

•Increased appetite

•Vivid and unpleasant dreams

•Slowing of activity

The craving and depression can last for months following cessation of long-term heavy use (particularly daily powdered cocaine use). Withdrawal symptoms may also be associated with suicidal thoughts in some people. During withdrawal, there can be powerful, intense cravings for cocaine. However, the “high” associated with ongoing use becomes less and less pleasant, and can produce fear and extreme suspicion rather than joy (euphoria). Just the same, the cravings may remain powerful.

Crack: Someone going through physical withdrawals from crack may experience any of the following:


  • Powerful drug cravings
  • Broken sleep
  • Shaking
  • Severe muscle aches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Psychological Problems

In addition to the physical withdrawal symptoms above, there are also psychological withdrawal symptoms as well. Many people might think that physical discomfort is the most difficult part of withdrawal from crack. However, the mental anguish is often what drives someone to relapse.

The psychological symptoms from crack withdrawal that may occur are:

  • Overwhelming exhaustion
  • Suicidal Ideations
  • An agitated state
  • Nightmares
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Lack of ambition
  • Psychosis


Neither powdered cocaine nor crack withdrawals are fatal. But they both can cause suicidal ideation. THE WINNER OF ROUND 3 IS NEITHER IT IS A DRAW. Crack and powdered cocaine have very similar withdrawal symptoms with really no difference at all. So we are calling this round a draw. We cannot really determine winner on this category cause the only variations in withdrawal are determined by how much and for how long the substance had been used not which substance.


Cocaine is more insidious than crack and that’s what makes it our winner of today’s substance showdown.  If you think you are better off doing cocaine rather than crack you are wrong. Cocaine was just better at tricking you into thinking that.

If you or someone you know needs treatment for Cocaine Addiction please call us at 800-951-6135 or visit us online at

Check out our other Substance Showdown blogs:

Alcohol v. Marijuana

Ecstasy v. Molly

Heroin v. Prescription Painkillers



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