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Crack Cocaine

Crack cocaine  is a solid, smokable form of cocaine,  often nicknamed "crack" after the sound made during its manufacture.  It appeared in poor inner-city neighbourhoods in New York, Los Angeles, and Miami in late 1984 and 1985.  A spoon with a mixture of baking soda, cocaine and a small amount of water. When heated from below, small crack cocaine rocks will begin to form in the mixture.

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Baking soda is now most often used as a base. When commonly "cooked" the ratio is 3:4 parts cocaine per bicarbonate. This acts as a filler which extends the overall profitability of illicit sales. Crack cocaine may be reprocessed in small quantities with water. This removes the residual bicarbonate, and any adulterants or cuts that have been used in the previous handling of the cocaine and leaves a relatively pure, anhydrous cocaine base.

In the USA, the cutting reduces the original powdered cocaine, with the remainder added as talc, powdered milk, glucose, sink cleaner.

Crack cocaine is usually purchased in rock form already, although it is not uncommon for some users to "wash up" or "cook" the cocaine into crack themselves. This process is done with baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), water, and a spoon. Once mixed and heated, the bicarbonate breaks down into carbon dioxide and sodium carbonate, which then reacts with the hydrochloride from the cocaine molecule, leaving cocaine as an oily free base. Once separated from the hydrochloride, the cocaine alkaloid floats to the top of the now leftover liquid. It is at this point, that the oil is picked rapidly, usually with a pin or long thin object. This pulls the oil up and spins it, allowing air to set and dry the oil, and allows the user and/or maker to roll the oil into the rock-like shape.

Crack vaporizes near temperature 90 C (194 F),much lower than the cocaine hydrochloride melting point of 190 C (374 F). Whereas cocaine hydrochloride cannot be smoked (burns with no effect), crack cocaine when smoked allows for quick absorption into the blood stream, and reaches the brain in 8 seconds. Coupled with the fact that crack is considered more potent than cocaine hydrochloride, users obtain an intense high much more quickly than with the normal method of insufflating ("sniffing" or "snorting") the powdered cocaine.

Crack cocaine is a substance that affects the brain chemistry of the user: causing euphoria, supreme confidence, loss of appetite, insomnia, alertness, increased energy, a craving for more cocaine, and potential paranoia (ending after use). Its initial effect is to release a large amount of dopamine, a brain chemical inducing feelings of euphoria. The high usually lasts from 5-10 minutes, after which time dopamine levels in the brain plummet, leaving the user feeling depressed and low.

A typical response among users is to have another hit of the drug; however, the levels of dopamine in the brain take a long time to replenish themselves leading to less intense highs.

The short-term physiological effects of cocaine include: constricted blood vessels; dilated pupils; and increased temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure. Large amounts (several hundred milligrams or more) intensify the user's high, but may also lead to bizarre, erratic, and violent behaviour. Large amounts can induce tremors, vertigo, muscle twitches, paranoia. Some users of cocaine report feelings of restlessness, irritability, and anxiety.  Cocaine-related deaths are often a result of cardiac arrest or seizures followed by respiratory arrest.

Crack cocaine is popularly thought to be the most addictive form of cocaine, and one of the most addictive forms of any drug. However, this claim has been contested: Morgan and Zimmer wrote that available data indicated that "...smoking cocaine by itself does not increase markedly the likelihood of dependence.... The claim that cocaine is much more addictive when smoked must be reexamined." They argued that cocaine users who are already prone to abuse are most likely to "move toward a more efficient mode of ingestion" (that is, smoking).

The intense desire to recapture the initial high is what is so addictive for many users. Purer forms of crack cocaine will produce the feeling of euphoria: even after smoking diluted or fake crack for hours, one hit of real crack will produce euphoria. Hours of misery or tweaking can be reversed with one single hit of real crack. The memory of that type of high can cause addicts to buy large amounts of street crack, hoping for the real thing.  Many heavy crack users though can go for days or weeks without using the drug.

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