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National Drug Intelligence Center
Product No. 2003-L0559-005

April 2003

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Cover image linked to printable Crack Cocaine Fast Facts brochure.
Background Photo © John Foxx Images
Cover photo NDIC. Courtesy of City of Johnstown (PA) Police Department

Printable brochure (527 KB pdf)

Crack Cocaine
Fast Facts

Questions and Answers 

     - What is crack cocaine?
     - How is it produced?
     - What does it look like?
     - How is crack abused?
     - Who uses crack?
     - What are the risks?
     - What is it called?
     - Is crack cocaine illegal?

Other products of interest
Contact us  

National Drug Intelligence Center
a component of the 
U.S. Department of Justice.

is crack cocaine?

Crack cocaine is a highly addictive and powerful stimulant that is derived from powdered cocaine using a simple conversion process. Crack emerged as a drug of abuse in the mid-1980s. It is abused because it produces an immediate high and because it is easy and inexpensive to produce--rendering it readily available and affordable.


How is it produced?

Crack is produced by dissolving powdered cocaine in a mixture of water and ammonia or sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). The mixture is boiled until a solid substance forms. The solid is removed from the liquid, dried, and then broken into the chunks (rocks) that are sold as crack cocaine.

    Photograph of a small vial beside a piece of crack cocaine.

What does it look like?

Crack typically is available as rocks. Crack rocks are white (or off-white) and vary in size and shape.


How is crack abused?

Crack is nearly always smoked. Smoking crack cocaine delivers large quantities of the drug to the lungs, producing an immediate and intense euphoric effect.

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Who uses crack?

Individuals of all ages use crack cocaine--data reported in the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse indicate that an estimated 6,222,000 U.S. residents aged 12 and older used crack at least once in their lifetime. The survey also revealed that hundreds of thousands of teenagers and young adults use crack cocaine--150,000 individuals aged 12 to 17 and 1,003,000 individuals aged 18 to 25 used the drug at least once.

Crack cocaine use among high school students is a particular problem. Nearly 4 percent of high school seniors in the United States used the drug at least once in their lifetime, and more than 1 percent used the drug in the past month, according to the University of Michigan's Monitoring the Future Survey.


What are the risks?

Cocaine, in any form, is a powerfully addictive drug, and addiction seems to develop more quickly when the drug is smoked--as crack is--than snorted--as powdered cocaine typically is.

In addition to the usual risks associated with cocaine use (constricted blood vessels; increased temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure; and risk of cardiac arrest and seizure), crack users may experience acute respiratory problems, including coughing, shortness of breath, and lung trauma and bleeding. Crack cocaine smoking also can cause aggressive and paranoid behavior.

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What is it called?

Street Terms for Crack Cocaine

Crunch & munch
Devil drug
Electric kool-aid
Fat bags
French fries
Hard ball
Hard rock
Ice cube
Jelly beans
Prime time
Snow coke


Is crack cocaine illegal?

Yes, crack cocaine is illegal. Crack cocaine is a Schedule II substance under the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule II drugs, which include PCP and methamphetamine, have a high potential for abuse. Abuse of these drugs may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.

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Other products of interest:

Check out Fast Facts on:

  • Crystal methamphetamine
  • GHB and analogs
  • Heroin
  • Inhalants
  • Jimsonweed
  • Ketamine
  • Khat
  • LSD
  • MDMA
  • Marijuana
  • Methamphetamine
  • PCP
  • Powdered cocaine
  • Prescription drugs
  • Yaba

 Also available from NDIC:

  • Huffing--The Abuse of Inhalants
  • Prescription Drug Abuse and Youth
  • Drugs, Youth, and the Internet

For more information on illicit drugs check out our web site at:  Call 814-532-4541 to request NDIC products.


Contact Us

Our addresses:

National Drug Intelligence Center
319 Washington Street, 5th Floor
Johnstown , PA 15901-1622
  Telephone: 814-532-4601
  FAX: 814-532-4690

NDIC Washington Liaison Office
8201 Greensboro Drive, Suite 1001
McLean , VA 22102-3840
  Telephone: 703-556-8970
  FAX: 703-556-7807

NDIC publications are available on the following web sites:

ADNET  http://ndicosa

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