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Medical Definition of Crack (drug)
Crack (drug): The street name given to cocaine that has been processed from cocaine hydrochloride to a ready-to-use free base for smoking. Rather than requiring the more volatile method of processing cocaine using ether, crack cocaine is processed with ammonia or sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and water and heated to remove the hydrochloride, thus producing a form of cocaine that can be smoked.
The term "crack" refers to the crackling sound heard when the mixture is heated, presumably from the sodium bicarbonate.
On the illicit market, crack, or "rock," is sold in small, inexpensive dosage units. Smoking this form of the drug delivers large quantities of cocaine to the lungs, producing effects comparable to intravenous injection. These effects are felt almost immediately after smoking, are very intense, and do not last long.
Cocaine is the most potent stimulant of natural origin, a bitter addictive anesthetic (pain blocker) which is extracted from the leaves of the coca scrub (Erythroxylon coca) indigenous to the Andean highlands of South America. (From the name of the plant came the name cocaine and its street name coke and Coke as in Coca Cola, which once contained it).
There is great risk associated with cocaine use whether the drug is ingested by snorting, injecting, or smoking. Excessive doses of cocaine may lead to seizures and death from respiratory failure, stroke, cerebral hemorrhage (bleeding into the brain), or heart failure.
There is no specific antidote for cocaine overdose. Evidence suggests that users who smoke or inject cocaine may be at even greater risk than those who snort it. Cocaine smokers suffer from acute respiratory problems including coughing, shortness of breath, and severe chest pains with lung trauma and bleeding. In addition, it appears that compulsive cocaine use may develop even more rapidly if the substance is smoked rather than snorted.
Last Editorial Review: 5/13/2016
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