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Cocaine Hydrochloride is a white, crystalline powder produced from cocaine base, which is in turn a product of coca paste. Cocaine Hydrochloride is available on the street generally at 30% to 40% purity and retails at prices ranging from $10.00 to $50.00 per quarter gram, depending upon the area from which it is purchased.

Because cocaine hydrochloride will decompose if smoked directly, the hydrochloride must be converted back to a relatively pure base state (freebasing) before it is suitable for smoking. Freebasing was introduced as a way to smoke cocaine during the late seventies. The base is produced from the hydrochloride using volatile chemicals (generally ether) and elaborate paraphernalia such as acetylene or butane torches. The process is dangerous and cumbersome and has resulted in numerous explosions and burns to individuals.

Unlike cocaine base manufactured in the traditional freebase process, crack (which is an off-white color resembling coagulated soap powder) is manufactured by converting hydrochloride back to base, primarily by using baking soda and water. Ammonia can also be substituted for the baking soda. This method of preparation does not involve the use of heated volatile substances and consequently, virtually eliminates the dangers of explosion and fire encountered in the conventional freebasing. After conversion, the product is sold in ready-to-smoke powder which can be sprinkled on cigarettes. The name “crack” may have developed because this form of drug resembles crackled paint chips or because it makes a crackling noise when smoked. Crack often is distributed in a “rock” form allowing the user to smoke the cocaine in a traditional glass pipe.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the euphoric effect produced by smoking crack cocaine is far more intense than if ingested through snorting, and is at least equal to, if not greater than, the effect obtained through injection. The drug’s effects occur rapidly, generally in a few seconds, and usually last five to ten minutes. Following this, the user experiences a restless irritability, often accompanied by severe depression and an almost insatiable craving for more of the drug. It is generally believed that the desire for a more intense “high” by users without the complications and dangers involved in freebasing has been the impetus for this alternative form of cocaine.

Crack street terms include, but are not limited to: rock, cooked cocaine, base, fat bags, freebase, cookies, and kryptonite.