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How Crack Cocaine Works


Manufacturing Crack Cocaine
Photo courtesy U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration                              Step 1 (left): Dissolving powder cocaine in hot water                                            Step 2 (right): Adding sodium bicarbonate to the mixture
Photo courtesy U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Step 1 (left): Dissolving powder cocaine in hot water Step 2 (right): Adding sodium bicarbonate to the mixture

Crack cocaine is also made from powder cocaine, but because its production doesn't require the use of flammable solvents, it is safer to make than freebase cocaine. To make crack, powder cocaine is dissolved in a mixture of water and either ammonia or sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). The mixture is boiled to separate out the solid, and then it's cooled. The solid is then dried and cut up into small nuggets, or "rocks."

Photo courtesy U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration                                      Step 3 (left): Boiling the solution to separate out the solids                              Step 4 (right): Cooling the separated mixture
Photo courtesy U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Step 3 (left): Boiling the solution to separate out the solids Step 4 (right): Cooling the separated mixture
Photo courtesy U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration                              Step 5: Filtering the cooled mixture to isolate the solids
Photo courtesy U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Step 5: Filtering the cooled mixture to isolate the solids
Photo courtesy U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration                                      Crack cocaine (in the filter on the right)
Photo courtesy U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Crack cocaine (in the filter on the right)

Crack rocks are white or tan in color and typically range in size from .1 to .5 grams. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), crack rocks contain between 75 percent and 90 percent pure cocaine.

Most of the cocaine that comes into the United States today originates in Colombia, Bolivia and Peru. Cocaine is usually smuggled into the United States across the Mexican border. It arrives in the country in powder form and is converted to crack by the wholesaler or retailer (gangs make up most of the retail market in the United States).

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