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Cocaine FAQs

Posted in Cocaine Addiction Treatment on January 30, 2017
Last modified on May 1st, 2019

Most people know that cocaine is an addictive and illegal drug. But there are also lots of myths and inaccurate beliefs surrounding the drug. Find the truth in the answers to these frequently asked questions.

1. Where Does Cocaine Come From?

Cocaine and crack cocaine come from countries in South America, including:

  • Bolivia
  • Colombia
  • Peru

Around 90% of the cocaine available in the U.S. is from Colombia.

2. How Is Cocaine Made?

Cocaine comes from the leaves of the coca plant. It’s extracted from the leaves but is not a natural substance. The drug is processed in chemicals. A series of chemical processes turn the leaf from a paste into cocaine powder.

3. What Are the Street Names for Cocaine?

  • Blow
  • Coca
  • Coke
  • Crack
  • Crank
  • Flake
  • Freebase
  • Rock
  • Snow
  • Soda Cot

4. What Does Cocaine Look Like?

Cocaine is a white crystalline powder. The texture is similar to powdered sugar. Because most cocaine is mixed with other substances, the texture may be more gritty or grainy.

5. What Does Cocaine Taste Like?

The taste of cocaine can differ depending on what it’s cut (mixed) with. One of the most common substances is talc. Cocaine that’s cut with talc has a taste like baby powder. Other substances it can be cut with include:

  • Cornstarch
  • Flour
  • Powdered sugar

Most cocaine has a chemical aftertaste.

6. What Does Cocaine Smell Like?

Cocaine has a distinctive chemical smell, like a mixture of gasoline and burnt plastic. The scent is usually only noticeable when using cocaine or holding it close to the nose.

7. Can You Smoke or Inject Cocaine?

The powder can be snorted or dissolved in water and injected.

Crack cocaine is smoked, either by itself or with tobacco or marijuana.

8. What Does Crack Look Like?

In crack form, cocaine looks like small crystalline rocks. The rocks have irregular shapes and are not smooth.

9. What Does Cocaine Feel Like?

The initial effect of taking cocaine is a strong rush of euphoria, along with increased alertness, energy and excitation. It takes a few seconds for the effects to begin, but they last no more than 15 to 30 minutes.

Cocaine users typically continue using the drug until they run out. This is called a binge. After binging on cocaine, the user is physically and mentally exhausted for several days. Long-term cocaine use can trigger depression and anxiety.

10. Is Cocaine a Stimulant or Depressant?

Cocaine is a strong stimulant. It increases heart rate and blood pressure, dilates the pupils, and causes insomnia and appetite loss, along with many other symptoms.

11. Is Cocaine an Opiate?

Cocaine is not an opiate. It comes from a different plant than natural opiates. The effects of cocaine are very different from the effects of opiates, as opiates are depressants.

12. How Does Cocaine Affect the Nervous System?

After using cocaine, the immediate effect is a change in how the brain uses dopamine. This is a neurotransmitter that is involved in the brain’s reward pathway. Cocaine makes dopamine accumulate in the brain, which causes the rush of euphoria that users feel.

Cocaine abuse also causes long-term changes in the brain. It alters the production of multiple neurotransmitters, including glutamate as well as dopamine. These changes affect the brain’s stress response. This makes it more likely that cocaine addicts will seek the drug in response to stress. It also makes cocaine withdrawal very difficult because there’s a high risk of relapse.

13. How Long Does Cocaine Stay in the System?

The faster the drug is absorbed, the more intense the euphoria and the shorter it lasts.

The main active metabolite in cocaine is called benzoylecgonine. This substance stays in the body longer than cocaine does. This is why cocaine drug tests look for benzoylecgonine, rather than cocaine itself. Benzoylecgonine can be detected in urine for two to three days after cocaine use. In heavy cocaine users, it can be detected for up to two weeks after the last use. Saliva and blood tests can detect benzoylecgonine for up to two days. Cocaine itself usually clears from the bloodstream within 12 hours.

The length of time cocaine stays in the system depends on:

  • Dosage
  • Method of administration
  • Time span and frequency of use
  • The purity of the cocaine
  • The individual’s metabolism and genetic factors

14. Can Cocaine Use Cause Heart Problems?

Cocaine abuse can damage the heart in multiple ways. It causes blood vessel stiffness and can lead to coronary artery thrombosis or aneurysm. Cocaine increases the heart’s need for oxygen by increasing both heart rate and blood pressure. At the same time, it decreases the ability of the cardiovascular system to supply blood to the heart. Over time, this puts immense stress on the heart, increasing the risk of heart failure and heart attacks.

A recent study showed that the small blood vessels in cocaine users were over-dilated, resulting in faster blood flow. The findings suggest that even when there is no sign of damage to the arteries, cocaine use may damage small vessels. This leads to symptoms such as chest pain and shortness of breath.

15. What Is the Connection Between Cocaine and Stroke?

The connection between cocaine use, aneurysm and stroke has been known for decades. Exactly how cocaine affects the brain’s blood vessels isn’t well understood. It’s hard to measure the true effects because of variations in subject age, dose, method of use and other factors.

Recent studies are beginning to shed light on the matter. In a study on mice, researchers used a laser-based method to examine how cocaine affects blood vessels in the brain. They found that cocaine caused microischemia, or bleeding in small blood vessels. Microischemia reduces the amount of oxygen available in the brain. It’s a warning sign of stroke.

16. Is One Method of Cocaine Use Safer Than Another?

Cocaine is used in several ways: the leaves can be chewed, and the powder can be snorted or injected. Crack cocaine is smoked. Each of these methods has some specific dangers, but they’re all harmful in that they can lead to addiction, overdose and long-term heart or brain damage.

Cocaine-related deaths have more than doubled since 2014. In 2014, 5,586 people died from cocaine overdose. In 2017 the figure was at 13,942. Much of this increase is due to the use of synthetic opioids combined with cocaine. But cocaine still contributes heavily to death by drug overdose. Each year it’s in the top three drugs that cause the most overdose deaths.

Cocaine isn’t safe, no matter how it’s used.

Get Evidence-Based Treatment for Cocaine Abuse

A cocaine addiction can be highly destructive, but it doesn’t have to destroy your whole life. Call The Right Step today, and we can answer your questions about cocaine addiction treatment.

We can help you or a loved one quit a cocaine addiction: 844-877-1781.

Krisi Herron

Medically Reviewed by

Krisi Herron, LCDC

The Right Step