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 medical 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, called crack, 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.

Cocaine is a powerfully addictive stimulant drug. The powdered, hydrochloride salt form of the drug can be snorted or dissolved in water and injected. Crack is cocaine that has not been neutralized by an acid to make the hydrochlorida salt. This form of cocaine comes in a rock crystal that can be heated and its vapors smoked. The term "crack" comes from the crackling sound made when it is heated.




Both crack and cocaine interferes with the chemical messenger in the brain called dopamine, which is involved in the body's pleasure response. Dopamine is released in the nervous system during pleasurable activities such as eating or having sex. Crack and cocaine causes an increase or build up of dopamine in the nervous system, creating a lingering feeling of exhilaration or euphoria in the user.

As crack/cocaine moves through the bloodstream, it first leaves the user feeling energized, more alert and more sensitive to sight, sound and touch. Heart rate increases, pupils dilate and blood pressure and temperature rise. The user may then start to feel restless, anxious and/or irritable. In large amounts, crack/cocaine can make a person extremely aggressive, paranoid and/or delusional.

The duration of crack/cocaine's immediate euphoric effects depends upon the route of administration. The faster the absorption, the more intense the high will be; but the faster the absorption, the shorter the duration of the high. Cocaine/crack is a powerfully addictive drug. A tolerance to the cocaine/crack high may be developed and many addicts report that they fail to achieve as much pleasure as they did from their first exposure.




Cocaine/Crack is a strong central nervous system stimulant. Because of its effects on the heart rate and breathing, crack/cocaine can cause heart attacks, respiratory failure, strokes or seizures. It can also affect the digestive tract, causing nausea, abdominal pain and loss of appetite. Users may also experience feelings of restlessness, irritability, and anxiety.

In addition to the usual risks associated with cocaine/crack use, users may experience acute respiratory (breathing) problems, including coughing, shortness of breath, lung trauma, and bleeding. Smoking crack cocaine can also cause aggressive and paranoid behavior.

If crack/cocaine is taken with alcohol, the two substances can combine in the liver to produce a chemical called cocaethylene. This is a toxic and potentially fatal substance that produces a more intense high than crack alone but also raises heart rate and blood pressure more than the drug alone, leading to its potentially deadly results.




Many behavioral treatments have been found to be effective for cocaine and crack addiction, including both residential and outpatient approaches. Behavioral treatments are often the only available, effective treatment approaches to many drug problems, including cocaine/crack addiction, for which there is, as yet, no medication.Because of mood changes experienced during the early stages of cocaine/crack abstinence, antidepressant drugs have been shown to be beneficial.





  1. In the 1880ís what was cocaine originally used as?


  1. Crack first became popular during what time frame?


  1. Why did crack become so popular?


  1. What is dopamine?††


  1. How does crack and cocaine interfere with dopamine?What are the results?


  1. Which of the following is not one of the effects of cocaine/crack as it goes through the body?

a)    Dilated pupils

b)    Sensitivity to sight, sound, and touch

c)    Weight gain

d)    Restlessness


  1. True or false: crack/cocaine users have little to no difficulty achieving a high that is the same as, or superior to, their first use.†† (If false, please list the correct answers)


  1. List five negative side effects of using crack/cocaine:


  1. When crack/cocaine is mixed with alcohol it produces what chemical?


  1. True or False: Mixing crack/cocaine with alcohol can increase the likelihood of death.†† (If false, please list the correct answers)


  1. Is it possible to recover from crack/cocaine addiction?


  1. If yes, then what treatments are available to assists recovery?