Crack Cocaine Versus Powder Cocaine: What Is the Difference?
Monday, May 30 2016 Kira Lesley
Crack cocaine and powder cocaine are treated very differently in public and political conversation. So what is the difference between crack cocaine and powder cocaine? They affect your body the same way, but the main difference lies in the method of use (Cocaine Effects, Cocaine Side Effects).
Chemical Difference in Crack Cocaine Versus Powder Cocaine
Powder cocaine exists in a salt form, meaning it has a hydrochloride attached. In salt form, it is most often snorted. This form cannot withstand the higher temperatures necessary for smoking. Crack cocaine is cocaine that has been neutralized, usually through the addition of baking soda or ammonia. This freebase form of cocaine is usually smoked, as it can withstand higher temperatures than the salt form can.
Because of the method of administration--snorting versus smoking--the effects of powder cocaine and crack cocaine on the user vary somewhat. Smoking produces a quicker high that is also shorter in duration. Both forms work on the brain's pleasure and reward centers and both are addictive.
Sentencing Differences Between Powder and Crack Cocaine
Arguably, the most important differences between crack cocaine and powder cocaine are not pharmacological at all but rather legal, political and social. Since the 1980s, the criminal punishments for crack cocaine offenses have been enormously higher than those for powder cocaine offenses. Crack is cheaper than powder cocaine and during the 1980s it became associated with impoverished, predominantly African American, communities in cities. Many critics of the War on Drugs believe the disparity in sentencing unfairly targets Americans by race and socioeconomic status.