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What is Cocaine?

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Cocaine is a highly addictive drug derived from the South American coca plant. In the 1850s, European scientists isolated the white powder from the plant, which was quickly used in medical procedures. It was first considered a “wonder drug,” but now one of the most addictive substances on Earth.

Pharmaceutical companies began marketing cocaine for medical purposes in 1860. However, the number of accidental overdoses from surgery began to soar. The famous psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud started using cocaine in his practice regularly and struggled to break his addiction for 12 years.

In 1886, American pharmacist, John Stith Pemberton, founded Coca-Cola, a beverage widely popular for its sugary syrup and cocaine concoction. It wasn’t until 1903 that this drink removed cocaine from the drink. By 1902 there were an estimated 200,000 cocaine addicts in the United States.

5.2 million people aged 12 and older reported using cocaine in the past 12 months. While the knowledge and understanding of the risks of cocaine are well understood almost 200 years after it was developed, the damage and destruction of cocaine remain the same. Guardian Recovery will examine cocaine facts, what the effects of cocaine are, and how to seek treatment.

If you or someone you love has been suffering at the hands of a cocaine use disorder, Guardian Recovery is available to help. We are dedicated to providing the most comprehensive and individualized medically monitored detox program. To learn more about our programs, contact us today.

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Other Known Street Names for Cocaine

According to the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), popular street names include coca, coke, crack, crank, flake, rock, snow, and soda cot.

Where Does Cocaine Come From?

Cocaine is made from the leaves of the coca plant native to South America. Specifically, it is grown in Bolivia, Peru, and Columbia. Columbia produces approximately 90% of the cocaine powder that reaches the United States. Most of the cocaine that comes into the United States is delivered through Mexico.

What is Cocaine Made of & How is it Made?

Cocaine is made of the coca plant leaves found in South America.

The production of cocaine is made in remote jungle labs where several transformations occur. The first step is growing and harvesting the coca plant. Different strains of the plant contain different amounts of chemicals. The next step in this process is gathering and drying the coca leaves. Before the leaves are dried, they are soaked in gasoline.

After drying, the leaves are then soaked in a substance containing lime. A couple of different processes are used to help extract the cocaine from the dried leaves. Acid and potassium are then added to the mixture to further the process. Next, the mixture is dissolved in acetone and soaked in acid again. Finally, the mixture is strained, and the resulting paste is left to dry. That becomes the brick of cocaine.

Additives & Cutting Agents

Cocaine is dangerous on its own; however, buying cocaine from drug dealers can increase the risk as it is often cut with other agents to increase profits. Why is this dangerous? Because there is no ability to know what the drug is cut with, the consequences of using unknown substances can lead to overdose or sudden death.

Most cocaine purchased on the streets is cut with other drugs or substances. In 2017, the DEA reported the average purity level of seized cocaine was only 61.5%.

There are several different substances people use to cut cocaine. Examples include laxatives, caffeine, creatine, and laundry detergent. It is also possible drug dealers may decide to cut cocaine with other drugs such as marijuana, heroin, LSD, and PCP. This is dangerous as it can heighten cocaine’s effects or increase the likelihood of an overdose.

Fake & Synthetic Cocaine Variants

Fake cocaine or bath salts (synthetic cathinones) are human-made stimulants and extremely dangerous. They are chemically related to cathinone, a substance found in the khat plant located in East Africa. Bath salts are synthetic, easily made, and accessible, which causes them to be less expensive than cocaine. However, although cheaper, the psychoactive effects are often deadly.

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What Does Cocaine Look Like?

Cocaine looks like a fine white crystal powder. Crack cocaine is a form of cocaine and looks like small, crystalized rocks.

What Does Cocaine Smell Like?

Cocaine has a distinct smell of either ether or kerosene because if it is produced correctly, it is soaked in gasoline. The scent is a distinguishing factor for people to identify the drug as cocaine.

How is Cocaine Used & Administered?

Cocaine can be snorted, gummed, injected, or smoked. If using crack cocaine, it can only be smoked.

Medical Use

When cocaine was first developed in the mid-1800s, it was frequently used for medical procedures, anesthesia for surgeries, and given by Freud in his talk therapy sessions until 1890, when he almost killed a patient.

Cocaine was widely stopped in the United States when overdose deaths and addiction began to rise in the 1900s. Surprisingly, cocaine is still administered by medical professionals today. However, it is used cautiously and only for specific procedures such as upper respiratory surgeries.

Recreational

In the late 1800s, cocaine was widely used recreationally in the United States. It was added to drinks and tonics and used amongst men and women. It wasn’t until 1903 that cocaine was removed from the famous beverage Coca-Cola. Even after it became illegal, it has still been a widely used drug in the United States. Cocaine is a highly addictive drug that can lead to dependency, overdose, and death. Because people feel an intense high immediately, it creates a desire to have more. In 2020, 5.2 million people aged 12 and older reported using cocaine in the past 12 months.

Injection

Cocaine is injected by dissolving it in water and injecting it into the bloodstream. This is one of the quickest ways to feel the immediate effects of cocaine.

Inhalation

Inhalation takes place by smoking or inhaling the vapor of cocaine. This is the same as injecting cocaine, as the drug enters the bloodstream immediately.

Sniffing & Snorting

Snorting is the most common way people use cocaine. It is snorted and absorbed into the bloodstream through the nasal passage.

Common Effects of Cocaine Use

Cocaine use has significant short and long-term effects. Taking small amounts of cocaine makes the user feel alert, awake, more talkative, and confident. They might experience a reduced appetite and need for sleep.

The long-term effects of chronic cocaine use can be severe. Adverse effects include anxiety, panic attacks, reduced blood flow to the gastrointestinal tract, significant weight loss, malnourishment, permanent damage to the heart and cardiovascular system, increased risk of stroke, permanent damage to the nasal passageways, and a sharp decline in cognitive functioning.

How Addictive is Cocaine?

There are many reasons why cocaine is so addictive. 1. People experience an immediate high when using cocaine. A euphoria and a sudden rush instantly take over. This excitement and energy jolt drive people to seek more cocaine. 2. The high only lasts minutes leading the person to use cocaine repeatedly. 3. Tolerance can increase quickly, leading to more cocaine use to feel the full effects. 4. Cocaine changes the brain; MRI scans often show areas of the brain of addiction and relapse lit up long after people have abstained from cocaine use.

Tolerance & Cocaine Usage

As previously stated, cocaine is highly addictive, and tolerance begins to be formed to the drug as soon as the first use. The medical community also warns people of cross-tolerance, which means a tolerance to one drug produces a tolerance to similar drugs in a similar category. Drugs like cocaine may develop cross-tolerance, including heroin, ecstasy, methadone, LSD, and magic mushrooms.

Cocaine Use, Abuse, & Overdose Statistics

Unfortunately, cocaine use, abuse, and overdose deaths are high for people in the US. Here are the following statistics for the US population in 2020.  5.2 million people reported using cocaine over the past 12 months. 1.3 million had a cocaine use problem. 19,447 people in the US died from a cocaine overdose.

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At Guardian Recovery, we remain dedicated to providing our clients with a comprehensive program of cocaine detox — one that focuses on much more than physical stabilization. In addition to emphasizing physical recovery, we tackle mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. While we prioritize a safe and pain-free cocaine withdrawal, we offer individualgroup, and family therapy sessions, case management services, relapse prevention training, and aftercare planning.

Contact us today if you or your loved one is ready to begin an entirely new way of life and commit to long-term recovery. As soon as you call, we start developing a plan of action that begins with an initial pre-assessment. This assessment helps us determine which level of care is the most appropriate for each unique case. We identify potential coverage options if our medically monitored detox program is a good fit. We work closely with most major regional and national insurance providers. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation insurance benefit check.

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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.

  1. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/cocaine
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4335732/
  3. https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/drugs/buyers/socialhistory.html#fnB9
  4. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine/what-scope-cocaine-use-in-united-states
  5. https://www.dea.gov/factsheets/cocaine
  6. https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/2020-06/Cocaine-2020_1.pdf
  7. https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.dea.gov%2Fsites%2Fdefault%2Ffiles%2F2020-01%2F2019-NDTA-final-01-14-2020_Low_Web-DIR-007-20_2019.pdf
  8. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/synthetic-cathinones-bath-salts
  9. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/1486827
  10. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine/what-scope-cocaine-use-in-united-states

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave

L.M.H.C.

Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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