Cocaine and Crack


What is Cocaine?

Cocaine is a central nervous system stimulant made from the leaves of the coca plant. It is the most addictive stimulant found in nature. Cocaine is most often produced in the form of a white, crystalline powder.

What is Crack?

Crack is a form of cocaine that has been processed to make highly potent crystals. The off-white chips, rock crystal, or chunks are heated and smoked. The term crack refers to the crackling sound heard when it is heated.

What are the Street Names for Cocaine/Crack?

Street or slang names include blow, Charlie, coke, dust, flake, freebase, lady, nose candy, rock, powder, snow, snowbirds, toot, and white.

How is Cocaine Used?

Cocaine is usually inhaled or "snorted." The powder is chopped, separated into "lines," and then snorted off a small spoon, or through a straw or rolled-up dollar bill. Though less common, cocaine can be injected into veins or under the skin.

Crack is smoked. Chips or chunks are usually placed in a pipe and heated with a match or cigarette lighter. The user inhales the vapors.

How Does Cocaine / Crack Affect the User?

Cocaine, in all its forms, is a stimulant. It causes the heart to beat more rapidly and blood vessels to constrict. The user's pupils dilate; body temperature rises; heart rate and blood pressure increase. Cocaine's immediate effects include euphoria, hyper-stimulation and reduced fatigue. Users of cocaine also report feelings of restlessness, irritability, and anxiety. The "high" from snorting cocaine lasts approximately 15 to 30 minutes, while that from smoking crack lasts for five to 10 minutes.

Binge usage of cocaine — when the drug is taken repeatedly and at increasingly high doses — can lead to a state of increasing irritability, restlessness, and paranoia. Chronic use can result in a period of paranoid psychosis, in which the user loses touch with reality.

The effects of crack usage are similar to that of powder cocaine. Because it is smoked, however, the user gets high more quickly, and the effects are more intense. The depression following use is also felt more keenly. Users may become violent during or after use.

Signs and Symptoms of Cocaine Abuse

Behavioral signs: Changes in overall attitude/personality, motivation level, academic performance, sleeping habits, activities, social groups or hobbies. Depression, fatigue, carelessness with grooming, hostility, and deteriorating relationships with family members and friends. Inability to meet responsibilities at work, school, or at home.

Physical signs and symptoms: Red, bloodshot eyes; a runny nose or frequent sniffing; increased energy level or rapid speech; suppressed appetite; extreme mood swings; paranoid delusions.

Environmental signs: Paraphernalia, including powder residue on mirrors, CD cases or glass; small baggies or balloons, straight razors, rolled dollar bills, tiny spoons. Frequent trips to the bathroom or other private locations; unexplained need for money; frequent absences from work or school.

What are the Dangers of Cocaine/Crack Abuse?

In addition to the risk of injury or death as a result of accidents, violence, or overdose, cocaine or crack abuse can cause or worsen many physical and mental disorders. Negative effects include:

  • Dependence / addiction.
  • Irregular heartbeat, heart attack, and heart failure.
  • Strokes, seizures, fungal brain infections, and bleeding in tissue surrounding the brain.
  • Fluid in the lungs, aggravation of asthma and other lung disorders, and respiratory failure.
  • Psychosis, paranoia, depression, anxiety disorders, and delusions.
  • Sleeplessness, sexual problems, reduced sense of smell, perforated nasal passages, nausea and headaches.
  • For intravenous (IV) cocaine users, there is increased risk of hepatitis, HIV infection, and infection of the heart lining or valves.
  • The risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases is increased because drug use lowers inhibitions, which may place the user in high-risk situations.
  • Pregnant women may experience spontaneous abortion, premature labor, or give birth to low birth-weight babies.
  • Crack users often singe eyebrows or eyelashes with the flame of matches or lighters. They may also burn fingertips and other body parts from contact with heated vessels (e.g., glass pipes).
  • Death

Treatment Options

Individuals who become addicted to cocaine or crack can be treated using a wide variety of methods, although no medications currently exist to treat cocaine addiction. Behavioral treatments have been shown to be effective in addressing cocaine addiction by helping patients recognize, avoid, and cope with situations in which they are most likely to use cocaine.

Is cocaine addictive?

Yes, cocaine is both physically and psychologically addictive because of its interaction with the brain's dopamine levels. People develop tolerance to cocaine and greater quantities of the drug are needed to produce euphoric effects. In lab experiments, animals will continue to take cocaine until they kill themselves.

Did Freud use cocaine?

Yes, and he was an early advocate of what he thought were its medically beneficial properties. However, when his friend and patient, Ernst von Fleischl-Marxow died from cocaine addiction, Freud was disgraced and backed off of his original claims for cocaine's medicinal uses. He was forced to base his career on a different invention: psychoanalysis.

Is cocaine illegal?

Yes, cocaine is illegal and its possession, use, and sale carry heavy prison sentences and fines and disciplinary consequences at UCSC.

How do I help a friend who's having trouble with drugs?

If you are concerned about a friend's drug or alcohol use, this page contains information about different ways to help them.

Resources at UCSC

Emergency response available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Student Health Outreach & Promotion (SHOP)
SHOP provides confidential appointments for drug or alcohol concerns. SHOP is located in the Student Health Center, across the street from Colleges 9 & 10. As you walk up the ramp to the Health Center, SHOP is located in the building on your left, next to the Pharmacy.

Student Health Services
Confidential walk-in or appointment health care

Counseling & Psychological Services
CAPS staff provides the UCSC community with a wide range of mental health services, including short-term individual and couples counseling, group counseling, crisis assessment and intervention, and referral services.

Resources in Santa Cruz

Recovery Wave
Santa Cruz County's Alcohol and Drug Abuse help pages. If you think that you, a family member, or a friend has an alcohol or drug problem, you've come to the right place.

Alcoholics Anonymous
Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism.

The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for A.A. membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions. A.A. is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy, neither endorses nor opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.

Narcotics Anonymous
831-429-7436 HOTLINE (24 hour) 
Call for current open meeting schedules. Disabled Accessibility. 

Marijuana Anonymous
P.O. Box 1481
Santa Cruz, CA 95061 
SC Hotline/Meetings: 
Self-help (non-religious) fellowship group for those who cannot control their marijuana use and are experiencing adverse effects in other areas of their life. No fee is charged.

Links You Can Use

Dance Safe
Dance Safe is a harm-reduction web site centered on drugs found in nightclubs and raves. The site offers drug information, a risk assessment, ecstasy testing kits and e-news.

National Institute on Drug Abuse
NIDA drug pages have research reports, statistics and information on addiction.

The Good Drugs Guide
This British harm-reduction web site provides extensive information on cocaine, including the basics, dangers, mixing with other drugs and links.