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Ultimate Cocaine Guide: Effects, Common Uses, Safety

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Table of Contents

Cocaine, also known as coke and blow, is a strong central nervous system stimulant commonly used as a recreational drug. It is an alkaloid extracted from the leaves of the coca plant (Erythroxylon coca) found mostly in western South America. Traditionally, cocaine has been ingested by chewing the leaves of the coca plant to reduce fatigue, boost energy, and curb appetite. Once isolated in the mid-19th century, western medicine began using it as a topical anesthetic and vasoconstricting agent. By the early 20th century, its abuse potential and addictive qualities became apparent, leading to early initiatives to regulate the drug. Today, cocaine is under international control but is still the second most-trafficked drug worldwide.

Table of Contents

  1. Overview
  2. History
  3. Pharmacology
  4. Effects
  5. Uses
  6. Cocaine Today
  7. FAQ

1. Overview

While the coca plant has a long history of folk use in Andean countries, the modern purified version of cocaine wasn’t extracted from the plant until 1860. By the late 1800s, it acquired medical use as an anesthetic and to reduce bleeding during surgery. Up until the turn of the century, cocaine was touted as a wonder drug capable of treating a wide variety of ailments. It appeared as the active ingredient in a variety of tonics, elixirs, and beverages, including the original Coca-Cola formulation.

Cocaine is consumed in a wide range of ways for its stimulating and euphoric effects. The effects last anywhere from five minutes to over an hour, depending on the route of administration. Due to its addictive potential and cardiovascular effects, cocaine is considered to be significantly more dangerous than other central nervous stimulants, including amphetamines.

What is Cocaine?

Cocaine is a naturally occurring tropane alkaloid found in the leaves of the Erythroxylum coca plant. The Erythroxylum genus contains some 200 species, but only 17 of these can be used to produce cocaine. The coca plant is native to high elevation regions of South America, Mexico, Indonesia, and the West Indies. 

Clandestine laboratories convert the dried coca leaves (which contain up to 1% cocaine) into a coca paste, which they then use to create cocaine base and, ultimately, cocaine hydrochloride. Cocaine hydrochloride is the commonly encountered powdered form on the street that is usually snorted, but also injected or used orally. Cocaine HCl can be further converted into freebase crack cocaine, which is then smoked.

Street Names 

  • Coke
  • Blow
  • Snow
  • Crack (freebase form)
  • Powder
  • Coca
  • Flake
  • White
  • Powder
  • Rich man’s drug
  • Pearl
  • Yayo
  • Nose candy
  • White Horse

Scientific Name

The scientific name for cocaine is benzoylmethylecgonine. It is an ester of methylecognine and benzoic acid. In its chemical structure, cocaine consists of a hydrophobic and hydrophilic region. The hydrophobic region contains a benzene ring, while the hydrophilic region consists of a tertiary amine. This chemical structure allows it to easily cross the blood-brain barrier and exert its stimulating effects on the central nervous system.

Similar to scopolamine and atropine, cocaine is a nitrogen-containing bicyclic compound. It has no chemical similarities to the amphetamines, yet shares similar properties as an addictive central nervous stimulant. Cocaine exists in two enantiomeric forms. Enantiomers are compounds with the same chemical formula whicht differ in the spatial arrangement of their atoms. Only l-cocaine occurs naturally and has significant pharmacological activity.

Forms & Ways of Consumption

Cocaine can be found on the street in a salt or base form. Each form differs in its production, appearance, and how it is consumed.

Salts

Salts are formed when the slightly alkaline cocaine alkaloid is extracted from the leaves and combined with acidic compounds, like hydrochloric acid. The hydrochloride salt is the most commonly encountered form on the street. It is a white, crystalline powder that is snorted or dissolved in water and injected. Cocaine salts are not smokeable because they easily degrade under heat. 

The hydrochloride salt is often adulterated with cutting agents to increase profit margins for the dealers. Such adulterants can include inert compounds such as talcum powder, cornstarch, and various sugars, as well as many active compounds like lidocaine, procaine, caffeine, amphetamine, strychnine, and levamisole (a deworming drug). 

Base

The base forms of cocaine include “freebase” and “crack,” which are the same chemical form but differ in their method of production. Freebase cocaine is produced by dissolving cocaine hydrochloride in water, then adding a strong base like ammonia under heat. An organic solvent like ether is then added to dissolve the cocaine base, which is extracted upon evaporation. “Crack” cocaine refers to a lower purity form of freebase cocaine. This form is made by dissolving cocaine hydrochloride in water, then adding baking soda or ammonia under heat to precipitate the cocaine base. 

Cocaine base dries from a soft mass into brittle, hard rocks that range in color from off-white to light brown. They are smoked out of a glass pipe and make a cracking sound when heated, hence the name “crack.”

Intranasally

Snorting the powdered form of cocaine (cocaine hydrochloride) is the most common method of consumption. When snorted, the cocaine is absorbed into the bloodstream through the mucus membranes in the nasal passages. After insufflation, the effects come on within five minutes and last approximately one hour.

Before being snorted, the cocaine is chopped finely and divided into “bumps” (35 mg) or “lines” (60–100 mg) on a flat surface. However, the actual dose of cocaine that is consumed depends on the amount of adulterant that has been added to the drug. In any case, it is absorbed intranasally with high bioavailability (approximately 30–60%). 

Smoked

Smoking the freebase or crack form of cocaine leads to a rapid onset of effects and an intense, short-lasting high. When smoked, the effects begin within seconds and last 5–15 minutes. Cocaine hydrochloride is not smoked because high temperatures make it burn, rather than vaporize. Due to its superior potency and bioavailability, the freebase form is considered the most addictive form of cocaine.

Intravenous

Intravenous administration leads to the quickest blood levels of the drug and the most intense effects. With this method, the user dissolves cocaine hydrochloride in water and injects it into the bloodstream. Injected cocaine produces effects within seconds that peak within three minutes. Intravenous administration of cocaine carries the most extreme psychological and physiological risk. 

Oral

The oral consumption of coca leaves produces a mild stimulant effect that has been used traditionally in South America to combat fatigue and altitude sickness. Users typically chew the coca leaves, similarly to chewing tobacco, with an alkaline substance like lime. The lack of a strongly alkaline substance renders cocaine inactive in the stomach. Traditionally, cocaine is also consumed orally via coca tea, after steeping the fresh or dried coca leaves in hot water. In either case, this delays the effects of orally administering cocaine because of the time it takes for the drug to reach the stomach or duodenum. Peak effects are usually felt an hour after ingestion and last for approximately two hours. Cocaine can also be consumed orally by dabbing cocaine powder onto the gums, though this is less common.

2. History

While the use of purified cocaine dates back relatively recently to the 19th century, the coca leaf has a long history of use as an ancient medicinal plant.

Indigenous Uses

Coca leaf chewing has been a cultural tradition for the indigenous peoples of the Andes for millennia. An analysis of 3,000-year-old mummified human remains in northern Chile found traces of cocaine in several of those tested. During the Incan empire, the coca leaf was seen as a divine plant and it was used widely for ritual, religious, social, and medicinal reasons. Medically, the coca leaf’s traditional uses included the treatment of stomach distress, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, ulcers, malaria, and asthma. Additionally, its stimulating effects helped combat altitude sickness and relieve fatigue, hunger, and thirst. 

Once the Spanish conquered the Inca in the 16th century, they initially attempted to eliminate the cultural practice of chewing coca leaves. After its eradication failed, the Spanish began to tax coca leaf and encouraged its traditional use by the native workers. Being a stamina booster and appetite suppressant, coca leaf chewing helped increase the workers’ productivity in the silver mines of the Andes. 

Today, coca leaf is still chewed or brewed in tea within various South American countries to combat altitude sickness and boost health, mood, and energy. 

Modern-Day Discovery

The coca leaf didn’t attract much interest in Europe and America until the mid-nineteenth century. The German chemist Friedrich Gaedcke first isolated the cocaine alkaloid in 1855, naming it “erythroxyline.” A few years later, a German PhD student named Albert Niemann developed an improved purification process for cocaine. In his research, he noted its bitter, numbing taste and named it cocaine, a name that comes from the coca plant and the alkaloid suffix -ine.

Soon, cocaine attracted entrepreneurial attention and was added to many tonics and beverages. A coca-infused wine called Vin Mariani was marketed in 1863 for health, vitality, and energy. This wine contained 6 mg of cocaine per ounce of wine and was endorsed by prime ministers, the Pope, and countless celebrities. The success of Vin Mariani inspired numerous competitors such as John S. Pemberton’s French Wine Cola. After the passage of alcohol prohibition legislation, this coca wine eventually became nonalcoholic Coca-Cola. Prior to 1916, cocaine could even be bought over the counter, and it was marketed for use as a tonic, toothache cure, and fatigue reliever.

Important Events, Findings, and Studies

In the 1880s, public awareness of cocaine’s therapeutic properties grew as the popular press enthusiastically praised its uses for a variety of conditions. In 1884, the Austrian ophthalmologist Karl Koller published a report on successfully using cocaine as a local anesthetic for ophthalmic procedures. The next year, after reading Koller’s report, the American surgeon William Halsted demonstrated the use of cocaine for nerve-block anesthesia. 

In an 1884 paper called Über Coca, Sigmund Freud extolled its use for opiate and alcohol dependence as well as numerous psychological conditions. Even the US Surgeon General recommended cocaine for depression, asserting that there was no such thing as cocaine addiction. 

Overuse and Criminal Use

Over the next decade, however, widespread publicity and use eventually led to reports of cocaine intoxication and addiction. This eventually led to sensationalized newspapers describing the dangers of cocaine use, and to growing backlash within the medical community. In the 1920s, cocaine use declined in parallel with federal regulations, and amphetamines became the more popular stimulant by the 1930s. 

It wasn’t until the 1970s that cocaine use and abuse returned with a vengeance after organized drug trafficking networks began smuggling cocaine into the United States from South America. The large influx of cocaine from South America fueled the 1980 “crack epidemic” that swept through major cities in the United States. By the mid-1980s, cocaine’s image in the media went from glamour drug for the rich and famous to America’s most dangerous and addictive illicit substance. 

In response to high rates of abuse and crime, the US government passed the federal Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986. As part of the War on Drugs, this law punished the possession of 5 grams of crack cocaine in the same manner as 500 grams of powdered cocaine. In addition, it created a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for first-time possession of crack. Studies later demonstrated that the law disproportionately affected African Americans, leading to high youth incarceration rates. The Fair Sentencing Act, signed into law by Barack Obama in 2010, repealed portions of the earlier 1986 law. This act eliminated the mandatory 5-year sentence for crack possession and reduced the sentencing disparity between offenses for crack and powder cocaine from 100:1 to 18:1.

Laws and Legal Status

In the United States, cocaine is a schedule II substance under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act. This means it has a high potential for abuse, but that a doctor can administer it for legitimate medical reasons. Its schedule II classification makes it illegal to sell without a DEA license, and illegal to buy or possess without a license or prescription. It is medically legal in liquid form for use in hospitals or medical centers for ear, nose, and throat surgeries. 

Where is Cocaine Legal Internationally?

Around the world, cocaine is controlled in a similar manner as the States, with the exception of several countries in South America. In Peru, Argentina, and Bolivia, chewing coca leaves and drinking coca tea are cultural practices that are legal. Additionally, these countries allow the cultivation and sale of coca leaves. 

As for purified cocaine, it is legal in Colombia to possess one gram of cocaine for personal use, but sales are illegal. In Mexico, it’s legal to carry up to 1/2 gram of cocaine, but any more is illegal. In Peru, it is legal to possess up to two grams of cocaine or five grams of coca paste.

3. Pharmacology 

The main mechanism by which cocaine acts on the brain is through the inhibition of the reuptake of monoamine neurotransmitters. These include dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. Reuptake is the process through which neurotransmitters are removed from the synaptic cleft between neurons. Cocaine inhibits reuptake by blocking proteins known as transporters. This blocking leads to an accumulation of the neurotransmitters in the synaptic cleft, resulting in the euphoric and stimulating cocaine high. 

The reinforcing effect of cocaine, which leads to compulsive self-administration of the drug in animal models, is mediated by dopamine transporter inhibition in the reward pathway. On the other hand, cocaine’s vasoconstrictive and cardiovascular effects are due to its ability to enhance norepinephrine signaling.

As a local anesthetic, cocaine blocks voltage-gated sodium channels in neuronal membranes. This blocks the initiation and conduction of nerve impulses, also known as action potentials. 

Toxicity

Toxicity is based on the levels of exposure or dose required for a substance to cause harm to a human or animal. The median lethal dose, or LD50, is a common measurement of toxicity, which measures the lethal dose for half of the tested organisms. 

The LD50 in rats given cocaine orally is approximately 17.5 mg/kg, which translates to an estimated minimal lethal dose of 1.2 g for a 70 kg human. Lethal dose can vary depending on numerous factors, including the presence of underlying health conditions, the level of tolerance, and the purity of the drug. Addicts have been known to tolerate up to 5 grams of cocaine per day, while some individuals have died from as little as 30 mg. 


A major factor determining the toxicity is the purity of the drug. A 1988 study examining the purity of street cocaine found an average purity of 40%, but today’s levels are presumably much lower. The majority of US cocaine is cut with an active adulterant known as levamisole, a deworming agent. This can cause severe immune disorders, skin conditions, and respiratory infections in some users. If the cutting agent in cocaine is an opioid like fentanyl, this significantly increases the chance of a fatal overdose.

Interactions

Cocaine and Other Substances

Combining cocaine with serotonergic psychedelics such as magic mushrooms, LSD, and mescaline can significantly increase the probability of negative psychological effects. These include anxiety, confusion, paranoia, and thought loops.

Avoid using other stimulants with cocaine. Common stimulants include Adderall and Dexedrine (or their generics), methylphenidate, Concerta (or its generic), anabolic steroids, and methamphetamine. Combining their use with cocaine can lead to dangerous cardiovascular effects, including irregular heart rhythm, hypertension, and an increased chance of heart attack.

Taking opioids with cocaine increases the toxicity of both, potentially resulting in an increased chance of seizures, respiratory distress, and death. 

While combining cocaine with alcohol is common, taking these two substances together can be dangerous. The combination results in the production of cocaethylene, an active metabolite that poses further toxicity to the heart, liver, and brain. In addition, cocaine allows for more alcohol consumption than usual, increasing the probability of dehydration, liver toxicity, and overdose.

For a more thorough list of interactions with other substances, consult this image by Tripsit.

Cocaine and Medications

Do not combine medications that increase serotonin levels, including many prescription antidepressants, with cocaine. This combination can increase the chance of serotonin syndrome, a potentially fatal condition characterized by agitation, confusion, delirium, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rate, and tremor. In addition, mixing cocaine with MAOIs (Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors) can result in severe health effects such as serotonin syndrome, hypertension, and psychosis.

Some medications can reduce the effects of cocaine, including lithium, risperidone, quetiapine, and carbamazepine. For this reason, these medications have been used in the treatment of cocaine dependence. 

Cocaine and Psychological Conditions

Cocaine can exacerbate mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It can precipitate psychotic reactions in those predisposed to or with a family history of schizophrenia and psychosis.

Cocaine and Physical Conditions

Due to cocaine’s vasoconstrictive effects, it should not be used by those with preexisting heart conditions, high blood pressure, or a family history of heart ailments. Do not use cocaine if you have a history of liver/kidney disorders, stroke, and sleep disorders. Cocaine can also lower the seizure threshold, so do not use it if you have a history of seizures. 

Cocaine is a known teratogen, meaning it can cause defects in fetuses during prenatal development. Using cocaine during pregnancy can result in miscarriages, premature labor, and stillbirth.

Safety

Cocaine results in hundreds of thousands of emergency room visits and thousands of deaths each year. According to a 2011 report by the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), over 505,000 emergency department visits were attributed to cocaine use that year. In 2016, there were 11,316 cocaine overdose deaths in the United States, though 40% of them also involved fentanyl.

The two most significant safety concerns when it comes to cocaine use are the development of addiction and the possibility of overdose. Due to cocaine’s effects on the reward pathway in the brain, it has a high potential for abuse and inclines users towards compulsive use. This can result in psychological dependence or addiction, which can create cravings and negative withdrawal symptoms upon cessation of the drug.  

Most cocaine overdoses occur in chronic, heavy users. Overdoses can lead to severe psychological symptoms such as agitation, delirium, hallucinations, psychosis, and frightening tactile hallucinations. Physiologically, overdoses can result in seizures, hyperthermia, abnormal heart rhythm, cardiomyopathy, heart attack, and cardiovascular collapse. The cardiovascular effects occur because cocaine blocks cardiac sodium channels. The possibility of overdose is elevated considerably when users dangerously combine cocaine with opioids.

4. Effects

Cocaine is known for its rapid onset and short duration of action. After the initial euphoric high, it produces a comedown or crash characterized by low mood, agitation, and anxiety.

How Long Do Cocaine’s Effects Last?

When cocaine is snorted, the effects come on within 5 minutes and last approximately one hour. However, when coca leaves are orally ingested, the stimulation is mild and the duration is slightly longer, up to 4 hours. When smoked or injected, the effects come on within seconds and last from 5–15 minutes.

OnsetDurationAfter effects
Insufflation (snorted)5 minutes1–2 hours1–2 hours
Oral5–15 minutes1–4 hours 1–2 hours
Smoked10–15 seconds5–15 minutes30–60 minutes
Intravenous10–15 seconds5–15 minutes30–60 minutes
Source: Erowid.org

Physiological 

Cocaine potently activates the “fight or flight” (or sympathetic) nervous system, which puts strain on the cardiovascular system. The effects on the body can range from mild to life-threatening, and can generally include:

  • Physical stimulation
  • Mouth and throat numbing
  • Tachycardia (fast heart rate)
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Overheating
  • Sweating
  • Pupil dilation
  • Shaking
  • Jaw clenching
  • Constricted blood vessels
  • Decreased seizure threshold
  • Appetite suppression
  • Insomnia

Psychological 

Depending on the dose and tolerance of the user, the psychological effects of cocaine use can include:

  • Euphoria
  • Mental stimulation
  • Increased alertness and energy
  • Reduced fatigue
  • Enhanced sociability
  • Ego inflation
  • Increased libido
  • Mania
  • Restlessness
  • Rapid changes in mood
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Dizziness
  • Anxiety
  • Panic
  • Paranoia
  • Compulsive redosing

Common Side Effects

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the side effects of cocaine use can include:

  • Intense drug cravings
  • Loss of appetite
  • Disturbed sleep patterns
  • Constricted blood vessels
  • Tremors
  • Vertigo
  • Mood swings
  • Headaches
  • Paranoia
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Convulsions (high doses)

Adverse Effects

Regardless of the way it is consumed, cocaine can lead to a variety of adverse effects. These effects are likely if cocaine is used often and in high amounts. 

Adverse Physiological Effects

With excessive or extended use, cocaine can cause serious adverse physiological effects, including:

  • Hypertension
  • Hyperthermia
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Abnormal heart rhythm
  • Tremors
  • Convulsions
  • Itching
  • Insomnia
  • Weight loss
  • Malnourishment
  • Kidney damage

In addition, cocaine’s effects on the cardiovascular system can lead to coronary or cerebral artery vasoconstriction. In turn, this can increase the chance of heart failure, heart attack, and stroke. 

The adverse physiological effects also depend on how cocaine is used. Snorting cocaine can lead to damage to the sinuses, including loss of smell, persistent runny nose, nosebleeds, and destruction of the septum (the cartilage separating the nostrils). 

Smoking cocaine can lead to respiratory problems such as coughing up blood, chest pain, lung trauma, asthma, and shortness of breath. Injection of cocaine can lead to life-threatening infections, collapsed veins, track marks, abscesses, and contraction of blood-borne diseases like hepatitis and HIV.

Adverse Psychological Effects

Cocaine can lead to a wide array of adverse psychological effects, including:

  • Intense cravings
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Depression
  • Paranoia
  • Agitation
  • Hostility
  • Irritability
  • Hallucinations
  • Delirium
  • Psychosis
  • Paranoid delusions 

Following the cocaine high, users frequently report an unpleasant comedown that can include depression, lethargy, and difficulty with muscle movement. The dysphoric comedown arises from the depletion of dopamine stores within the brain, which takes several days to recover. Over the long term, cocaine use can lead to disruptions in dopaminergic signaling and long-term damage to dopamine neurons. Eventually, this can make the reward pathway less sensitive to natural reinforcers.

All of these effects contribute to the development of tolerance, where users require more and more of the drug to achieve the same effects. Tolerance can lead to the desire to use extremely high doses of cocaine, which significantly increases the chance of serious health consequences and the possibility of full-blown addiction.

5. Uses

Recreationally

Cocaine has been a popular recreational drug since the early twentieth century due to its euphoric and stimulating effects. Its ability to produce strong feelings of euphoria, confidence, and sociability has made it a popular club drug in party environments. Its ability to boost alertness, productivity, and wakefulness have led to its use in workplace environments. 

Cocaine use occurs across all socioeconomic classes, races, ages, and professions. Owing to its high cost, powdered cocaine has been known colloquially as a “rich man’s drug.” The more inexpensive crack cocaine became prevalent in the 1980s, particularly in poorer inner-city markets because of its affordability, profitability, and near-immediate euphoric effects.

Medically 

Today, cocaine has a few legitimate medical uses due to its dual action as an anesthetic and vasoconstricting agent. While its use in ophthalmology has declined because of its corneal toxicity, it is still used for operations of the ear, nose, and throat. Specifically, ENT specialists use cocaine in nasal and lacrimal duct surgery to numb the area and reduce bleeding.

However, several local anesthetics such as benzocaine and lidocaine are used more frequently than cocaine because they exhibit fewer side effects. Within the past few years, the FDA has approved two cocaine hydrochloride nasal solutions (brand names Goprelto and Nombrino) for nasal surgeries in adults.

6. Cocaine Today

Cocaine remains a popular recreational drug today, with approximately 14–21 million people using it around the world each year. In this section, we will discuss trends in cocaine use within the United States, current clinical trials concerning cocaine, and end with international trends in cocaine production and consumption.

Trends

According to data from the United Nations, the United States is the top consumer of cocaine in the world, followed by England and Wales. The United States accounts for approximately 36% of the global consumption of cocaine, corresponding to a total market value of approximately 34 billion dollars. 


Cocaine prices in the United States have been relatively stable since declining significantly in the 1980s, when organized cocaine trafficking took to new heights. According to the 2020 National Drug Control Strategy report, the price per gram in 2018 averaged 156 dollars, while the bulk price per gram was 101 dollars.

Trends in Use Within the United States

According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), approximately 5.5 million people aged 12 and older used cocaine in the past year, while 757,000 people used crack. This corresponds to 2.0% of the population using cocaine, and 0.3% of the population using crack. Young, college-age adults between the ages of 18–25 have the highest rate of use among all age groups. Approximately 2 million (or 5.8% of) 18- to 25-year-olds used cocaine in the past year, and 87,000 (0.3%) used crack. 

According to the National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine), 17% of people who try cocaine become dependent on it. The rates of cocaine use disorder in the United States have stayed relatively stable since 2009. In 2018, an estimated 977,000 people aged 12 or older met the DSM IV criteria for cocaine use disorder, which works out to approximately 0.4% of the population. Nearly 77% of those people were 26 years of age or older.

Current Studies & Research

Researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian Hospital are currently recruiting participants for a phase I clinical study to test the safety and efficacy of an anti-cocaine vaccine. 

The vaccine, called dAd5GNE, has been designed to absorb cocaine in the bloodstream before it crosses the blood-brain barrier and exerts central nervous system effects. The vaccine is made of a cocaine analog called GNE that is bound to an adenovirus. The adenovirus is used to evoke an immune response to both the virus and the cocaine-like molecules attached to it. During the immune response, the body will produce anti-cocaine antibodies that will attack the cocaine molecules and blunt the effects of cocaine. The researchers previously demonstrated its effectiveness in animal studies, but the ongoing phase I trial will evaluate the effectiveness and safety in humans.

Around the World

According to the United Nations, 1,976 tons of cocaine were manufactured globally in 2017, a 25% increase from the previous year. To a large degree, this trend is due to significant increases in coca bush cultivation in Colombia. The country saw a 17% increase in the area under coca bush cultivation in 2017, which corresponded to a 31% rise in the amount of cocaine produced. 

Colombia is responsible for 70% of the worldwide cocaine production. The main consumer markets are located in North America, where 2.1% of the population uses cocaine, and western and central Europe, where 1.3% of the population uses cocaine. The majority of cocaine reaches Europe by sea, through ports in Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, and France. From these transit countries, cocaine is then shipped to other European countries by land. 

Oceanian countries like Australia and New Zealand also show high usage of cocaine, with a prevalence rate of roughly 2.2% of the population. Drug traffickers capitalize on the high price of cocaine in these countries, which ranged from $136,000–$226,000 per kilogram in 2017. Most of the cocaine travels by air to Australia and New Zealand from the United States and Chile.

7. FAQ

Does Cocaine Show Up in a Drug Test?

Yes. However, because cocaine metabolizes rapidly, standard drug tests detect its metabolites, namely benzoylecgonine. This metabolite can be detected in urine tests for 2 to 3 days, in the hair for 90 days, and in blood and saliva for up to 2 days.

Who Invented Cocaine?

The coca leaf, which coca comes from, has been used for millennia in South America. The cocaine alkaloid was first isolated by the German chemist Friedrich Gaedcke in 1855. 

Does Cocaine Go Bad?

If stored properly away from air, heat, light, and moisture, cocaine will last indefinitely. However, it’s possible some drop in potency will occur, especially when it has been adulterated with cutting agents. 

How to Store Cocaine?

Cocaine should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. A few grains of rice or dry silica gel packets can be added to the container to help reduce moisture for long-term storage.

Are Cocaine and Coke the Same Thing?

Coke is the most common street name for cocaine, specifically the powdered hydrochloride salt form.

Can Dogs Smell Cocaine?

Yes, they can. “Sniffer dog” breeds (such as German shepherds, Belgian Malinois, and Labrador retrievers) have an extraordinary sense of smell that is many orders of magnitude more sensitive than ours. Law enforcement trains these dogs to pinpoint a target odor (such as cocaine) in order to receive a reward.

What Does Cocaine Taste Like?

Similar to other alkaloids, cocaine is a bitter, metallic substance. In addition, it usually numbs the part of the mouth or nose that it touches.

Disclaimer: Cocaine is potentially categorized as an illegal drug. Reality Sandwich is not encouraging the use or growth of this drug where it is prohibited. However, we believe that providing information is imperative for the safety of those who choose to explore this substance.  This guide is intended to give educational content and should in no way be viewed as medical recommendations.

RS Contributing Author: Dylan Beard 

Dylan Beard is a freelance science writer and editor based in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. After finishing his physics degree and dabbling in neuroscience research at UC Santa Barbara in 2017, he returned to his first love: writing. As a long-term fan of the human brain, he loves exploring the latest research on psychedelics, nootropics, psychology, consciousness, meditation, and more. When not writing, you can probably find him on hiking trails around Oregon and Washington or listening to podcasts. Feel free to follow him on Insta @dylancb88.

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