Crack cocaine is a solid form of freebase cocaine. Crack cocaine is the street name given to one form of freebase cocaine that comes in small lumps or shavings. Freebase is the treatment of cocaine with chemicals which frees the cocaine base from the hydrochloride and lowers the temperature at which the cocaine melts. Unlike the processing of freebase cocaine, converting powder cocaine into crack cocaine does not involve any flammable solvents. The powder cocaine is simply dissolved in a solution of sodium bicarbonate and water. The solution is boiled and a solid substance separates from the boiling mixture. This solid substance, crack cocaine, is removed and allowed to dry. The crack cocaine is then broken or cut into "rocks," each typically weighing from one-tenth to one-half a gram. The term "crack" refers to the crackling sound heard when the mixture is smoked (heated), presumably from the sodium bicarbonate. One gram of pure powder cocaine will convert to approximately 0.89 grams of crack cocaine. The Drug Enforcement Administration estimates that crack cocaine rocks are between 75 and 90 percent pure cocaine.
Crack cocaine is a powerfully addictive drug of abuse. Once having tried crack cocaine, an individual cannot predict or control the extent to which he or she will continue to use the drug. Crack cocaine has become a major problem in many American cities because it is inexpensive--selling for between $5 and $10 for one or two doses (usually 300-500mg)--and easily transportable--sold in small vials, folding paper, or tinfoil.
Crack cocaine is typically is smoked in pipes constructed of glass bowls fitted with one or more fine mesh screens that support the drug. The user heats the side of the bowl (usually with a lighter), and the heat causes the crack cocaine to vaporize. The user inhales the cocaine-laden fumes through the pipe. Facilitated by the large surface area of the lungs' air sacs, as crack cocaine is smoked it is absorbed almost immediately into the bloodstream, taking only 19 seconds to reach the brain. However, only 30 to 60 percent of the available dose is absorbed due to incomplete inhalation of the cocaine-laden fumes and variations in the heating temperature.
Smoking remains the predominant route of crack cocaine administration in Pulse Check cities around the country. However, some sources indicate that crack cocaine is also sometimes injected or snorted. Snorting is the process of inhaling crack cocaine powder through the nose where it is absorbed into the bloodstream through the nasal tissues. Injecting is the act of using a needle to release the crack cocaine directly into the bloodstream. Smoking involves inhaling the crack cocaine vapor or smoke into the lungs where absorption into the bloodstream is as rapid as by injection.
In some cities, crack cocaine is combined with other substances and injected. For example, in Washington, D.C., it is reported that crack cocaine is combined with heroin and marijuana and then injected. Also, in New Orleans, crack cocaine is injected with heroin in a "speedball." Additionally, crack cocaine can be sprinkled in cigarettes and smoked. Usually the crack cocaine is ground up and sprinkled into a marijuana joint and smoked. These cocaine and crack cocaine laced joints are referred to as primos.
When people mix cocaine and alcohol consumption, they are compounding the danger each drug poses and unknowingly forming a complex chemical experiment within their bodies. NIDA-funded researchers have found that the human liver combines cocaine and alcohol and manufactures a third substance, cocaethylene that intensifies cocaine's euphoric effects, while possibly increasing the risk of sudden death. Sudden death takes place when the users' body chemistry is imbalanced to the slightest degree. This releases toxic chemicals into their body creating a reaction within the individual resulting in cardiac arrest. This negative reaction to crack cocaine's toxic chemicals is the cause of "sudden death".
Pure cocaine was first used in the 1880s as a local anesthetic in eye, nose, and throat surgeries because of its ability to provide anesthesia as well as to constrict blood vessels and limit bleeding. Many of its therapeutic applications are now obsolete due to the development of safer drugs. Approximately 100 years after cocaine entered into use, a new variation of the substance emerged. This substance, crack cocaine, became enormously popular in the mid-1980s due in part to its almost immediate high and the fact that it is inexpensive to produce and buy.
Traditionally, cocaine was a rich man's drug, due to the large expense of a cocaine habit. Now, crack cocaine is being sold at prices low enough that even adolescents can afford to buy it. But, this is misleading, since once a person is addicted to crack cocaine, his "habit" often increases, and so does his expense.
The association of crack and criminal activity is commonly believed but not well documented. One study of 200 crack addicts, daily use of crack correlated more with illicit, criminal activities to obtain a supply of crack than to demographic features. Correspondingly, felony and crack cocaine dealing was associated with total dollars spent on crack cocaine but not to other demographic features such as level of property or affluence. Moreover, the majority of crack cocaine addicts in this sample used cocaine by snorting it before progressing to the use of smoking crack cocaine. The average age from onset of crack cocaine use to seeking help for crack cocaine addiction is less than 3 years. Severity of crack cocaine use and addiction as measured by daily use was associated with psychosocial consequences more than other demographic features.
Crack cocaine remains a serious problem in United States. According to the 2001 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, approximately 6.2 million (2.8 percent) Americans age 12 or older had tried crack cocaine at least once in their lifetime, 1.0 million (0.5 percent) used crack cocaine in the past year, and 406,000 (0.2 percent) reported past month crack cocaine use. Among high school students surveyed in the 2001 Monitoring the Future Study, 3.0% of 8th graders, 3.1% of 10th graders, and 3.7% of 12th graders reported using crack cocaine at least once during their lifetime. These percentages are down from 3.1%, 3.7%, and 3.9%, respectively, during 2000. 1.7% of 8th graders, 1.8% of sophomores, and 2.1% of high school seniors reported past year crack cocaine use during 2001. Percentages reporting past month crack cocaine use were 0.8% for 8th graders, 0.7% for 10th graders, and 1.1% for 12th graders.
Regarding the ease by which one can obtain crack cocaine, 24.4% of 8th graders, 30.6% of 10th graders, and 40.2% of high school seniors surveyed in 2001 reported that crack cocaine was "fairly easy" or "very easy" to obtain. During 2000, 2.5% of college students and 4.6% of young adults (ages 19-28) reported using crack cocaine at least once during their lifetime. 0.9% of college students and 1.2% of young adults reported crack cocaine use in the past year, while 0.3% of college students and 0.4% of young adults reported past month crack cocaine use.
According to preliminary data for January to September 2001 from the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring (ADAM) Program, 4.5% of arrestees reported using crack cocaine in the seven days prior to arrest, 16.2% reported past month crack cocaine use, and 21.1% reported past year crack use.