Crack cocaine, a form of cocaine base, is derived from powder cocaine. 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, 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 of a gram. One gram of pure powder cocaine will convert to approximately 0.89 grams of crack cocaine. The DEA estimates that crack rocks are between 75% and 90% pure cocaine.
Because crack is smoked, the user experiences a high in less than 10 seconds. This rather immediate and euphoric effect is one of the reasons that crack became enormously popular in the mid 1980s. Another reason is that crack is inexpensive both to produce and to buy.
The crack epidemic dramatically increased the numbers of Americans addicted to cocaine. In 1985, the number of people who admitted using cocaine on a routine basis increased from 4.2 million to 5.8 million, according to the Department of Health and Human Service's National Household Survey. Likewise, cocaine-related hospital emergencies continued to increase nationwide during 1985 and 1986. According to DAWN statistics, in 1985, cocaine-related hospital emergencies rose by 12 percent, from 23,500 to 26,300; and in 1986, they increased 110 percent, from 26,300 to 55,200. Between 1984 and 1987, cocaine incidents increased fourfold.
The effects of Crack are similar to those of Cocaine, although since Crack is smoked, additional risks exist. General effects include constricted blood vessels and increased temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure, restlessness, irritability, anxiety, and with long term use, violence and paranoia are noted. Additional risks of smoking crack include respiratory problems such as shortness of breath, chest pains, lung trauma and bleeding. As with cocaine, crack is highly addictive. Evidence shows that when cocaine and crack are smoked (as opposed to other methods), there is increased risk of compulsive cocaine-seeking behavior.