What Does Crack Look, Taste, and Smell Like

What Does Crack Look, Taste, and Smell Like?

Crack is a highly potent stimulant drug that is derived from cocaine. To create crack cocaine, you have to cook powdered cocaine with baking soda, making a hard rock-like substance.  According to the Department of Justice (DOJ),  6,222,000 people have abused crack at some point in their lives.[1]

If you believe that your loved one is abusing crack, it’s important to be aware of the signs. Someone misusing crack might display a strange amount of energy, lose weight suddenly, and have periods of extreme fatigue when they are not high. While this can help you determine if your loved one needs addiction treatment, you should also know how to identify crack itself. 

Knowing what crack looks like, tastes like, and smells like can help you determine if your loved one is abusing it. Crack looks like small rocks or a crystalline substance that are off-white or pale yellow. When smoked, crack cocaine smells like burning plastic or rubber.

In this article, you will learn:

  • What crack is
  • What crack looks like, smells like, and tastes like
  • How to identify crack paraphernalia

What is Crack?

Cocaine is a stimulant drug that comes from the coca plant.[2] It is typically snorted, as it comes in powder form. When someone wants to smoke cocaine, they typically alter it to create crack cocaine. Crack is created by taking pure cocaine and cooking it with baking soda to make a rock-like substance.[3]

Because crack is made by cooking cocaine, all of the cutting agents are burnt out. In other words, it makes a very potent version of cocaine. This form of cocaine is strong and highly addictive. 

If your loved one abuses crack, they are most likely smoking it. People smoke crack using a straight glass pipe, where the crack rocks are placed at the end of the pipe and heated.

The effects of smoking crack include:[4]

  • A rush of euphoria
  • Increased alertness
  • Heightened energy
  • Feelings of excitement
  • Lessened appetite and need for sleep
  • Dilated pupils
  • Fast heart rate and increased blood pressure 
  • Intense cravings for more crack

Since the crack high is short-lived, people who abuse it tend to binge on it. This means they are using large amounts of crack in one sitting. Unfortunately, this type of substance abuse puts crack users at risk of experiencing a life-threatening overdose or cardiac event.[4] 

What Does Crack Look Like?

Crack usually looks like small rocks or chunks of crystal that vary in size and shape. Typically, crack is white to off-white or a pale yellow color. Crack rocks are usually unevenly textured, with rough edges and sharp pieces. 

Crack can appear shiny or dull depending on how it is created. Most of the slang terms used to describe crack are based on its appearance. For example, you might hear your loved one call crack boulders, pebbles, rock candy, garbage rock, or nuggets. 

If your loved one is making their crack, that means they are cooking cocaine with baking soda to create hard rocks of crack cocaine. This type of cocaine is highly potent, dangerous to misuse, and often leads to drug addiction

What Does Crack Smell Like?

Crack has a distinct smell that can be similar to gas, paint, motor oil, or nail polish remover. Typically, crack emits a chemical smell when it is smoked. Many people describe the smell of crack as similar to burning rubber or plastic. 

It is important to note that you can only smell crack when it is being smoked. You will not be able to notice a smell when you find unsmoked crack rocks lying around. 

Crack cocaine does not smell good. Despite this, if your loved one is addicted to crack, they will continue to smoke it. Over time, they might even begin to enjoy the smell of crack, as their brain associates it with pleasure and reward.

What Does Crack Taste Like?

Cocaine and crack taste a bit different. Cocaine often tastes like gasoline or ether because of how it is made. Once cocaine is cooked into the crack, it has a different taste. 

First, you must understand you should never attempt to taste crack to identify it. The only way you would taste crack is if you were smoking it yourself. That said, crack has a chemical or burnt rubber taste, similar to the way it smells. 

Identifying Crack Paraphernalia 

There are various tools that your loved one might be using to get high on crack. These “tools” are referred to as paraphernalia. Knowing how to identify crack paraphernalia can help you determine whether it’s time to offer your loved one addiction treatment options

Common crack paraphernalia are:

  • Glass pipes
  • Water bongs 
  • Makeshift smoking devices like soda cans, aluminum foil, or lightbulbs
  • Screens for smoking like wire mesh or steel wool
  • Torch lighters and butane burners 
  • Scales and measuring tools 
  • Small plastic baggies 

If your loved one is abusing crack cocaine, it’s time to seek professional help. Addiction treatment centers like The Living Room at Princeton will offer medical detox, evidence-based therapies, and relapse prevention planning. These skills and tools will help your loved one achieve long-lasting recovery from crack addiction. 

Finding Help for Crack Abuse and Addiction 

If you or a loved one suffers from crack addiction, it’s time to seek help. At The Living Room at Princeton, we combine evidence-based services with compassionate care and support. 

Contact us today to learn more about our crack cocaine addiction treatment program


  1. The Department of Justice (DOJ): Crack Cocaine Fast Facts
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): Cocaine
  3. National Institutes of Health (NIH): Crack cocaine and cocaine hydrochloride. Are the differences myth or reality?
  4. National Institutes of Health (NIH): Crack cocaine use: a review of prevalence and adverse effects

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