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  • Cocaine is a strong stimulant drug that can quickly lead to dependence and addiction. It can also cause dangerous and potentially fatal overdoses. Learning how to identify cocaine can be helpful if you suspect a loved one of drug abuse. 

    Cocaine is most commonly abused in two forms, cocaine hydrochloride and cocaine base. Cocaine hydrochloride is the powder form of cocaine, which is snorted or injected. Cocaine base can be processed into crack cocaine, which is a small rock that can be smoked

    The look, smell, and taste of cocaine can vary depending on the chemicals and solvents used to process it. It is most recognizable as a powder or a solid rock crystal with a bitter taste and pungent odor. 

    What Does Cocaine Look Like?

    Although cocaine comes from a plant, chemical processing affects the look and texture of the drug. The color can vary slightly, depending on the different substances used to process the drug.

    What does cocaine look like? white, powder cocaine
    White, Powder Cocaine

    Cocaine is often a fine, white, or off-white powder. Crack cocaine is usually an off-white, yellow, or slightly pink solid that flakes into irregularly shaped rocks.

    What does cocaine look like? yellow crack cocaine rocks
    Yellow, Crack Cocaine Solids

    What Does Cocaine Smell Like?

    Pure coca leaves have a pleasant, floral odor before they are processed. Cocaine has a mostly pungent odor because of the ether and kerosene used in processing. 

    Drug canines are trained to detect the odor of methyl benzoate when searching for cocaine. Methyl benzoate has a fruity, flowery odor similar to that of coca leaves. 

    Even though cocaine contains many strong chemicals, studies show this odor profile provides the most accurate drug detections. 

    What Does Crack Smell Like?

    Although crack cocaine has a similar odor to powdered cocaine, when it is smoked it gives off a strong scent of burnt plastic. It can also smell like a nail salon, paint, or gasoline.

    What Does Cocaine Taste Like?

    Cocaine is usually tasted by people to determine its purity. When tasted, cocaine and crack should be bitter and give a numbing sensation. The more bitter it tastes, the less likely it is to contain excessive amounts of additives. 

    Street dealers often add flour, talcum powder, or cornstarch to stretch their product. These fillers can give it a more “powdery” taste. Sometimes cocaine is mixed with other drugs, like fentanyl, which can also affect the taste.

    How Is Cocaine Made?

    Cocaine is derived from the coca plants of South America. The drug is processed by extracting a paste from coca leaves and processed into cocaine sulfate. This paste is further processed to produce cocaine hydrochloride, which is more commonly known as powder cocaine. 

    Crack and freebase cocaine are manufactured by removing the hydrochloride element. Cocaine hydrochloride cannot be smoked because of its high tolerance to heat. Crack cocaine became popular in the 1980s because it is more profitable and has a stronger high than snorting powder cocaine. 

    Chemicals that may be involved in the processing of cocaine include:

    • kerosene
    • sulfuric acid
    • potassium permanganate
    • ether
    • acetone 
    • ammonia
    • baking soda

    Effects Of Cocaine

    All forms of cocaine have similar effects and can quickly lead to dependence and addiction. Physical and psychological dependence can cause severe withdrawal symptoms, especially after long-term use. 

    Side effects of cocaine use include:

    • euphoria
    • alertness 
    • paranoia 
    • increased energy
    • irregular heartbeat

    Cocaine Addiction

    Chronic cocaine abuse causes changes in the brain’s reward circuit, causing more frequent use in increasingly higher amounts. This can lead to addiction and dependence, which is difficult to overcome alone. 

    Taking time away from the people and environments you associate with drug use can help you begin the healing process. Treatment also provides an opportunity to learn about triggers that may lead to relapse and how to change behaviors related to addiction. 

    Addiction treatment options may include:

    • Detox: The first step in treatment involves getting the drugs out of your system. Detox programs may offer medications to ease withdrawal symptoms along with supportive supervision from medical professionals. 
    • Behavioral therapy: This type of therapy can be found in both inpatient and outpatient treatment centers. Behavioral therapy helps you learn to identify negative behavior patterns and learn healthy coping skills. 
    • Inpatient drug rehab: Inpatient rehab centers offer a structured and supervised environment. While in treatment you may be involved in individual counseling, group therapy, healthy activities, and more.

    Please contact Ark Behavioral Health if you would like more information about our addiction treatment programs. 

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2024 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.
    Medically Reviewed by
    Lauren Weinand, M.D.
    on January 18, 2023
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