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What Is Fish Scale Cocaine?

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Fish scale cocaine is the purest form of cocaine, more refined and powerful than traditional cocaine hydrochloride. All forms of cocaine are considered Schedule II controlled substances typically found illicitly, although some are used for legitimate medical purposes. Visually, fish scale cocaine differs from white or off-white powder cocaine due to its luminous, iridescent appearance resembling fish scales. Because fish scale cocaine is particularly potent and pure, it is more addictive and dangerous than other forms of cocaine.

For those who become dependent on cocaine in any form, quitting can be challenging, even when they’re facing grave consequences. Fortunately, cocaine addiction is treatable. Through comprehensive, multi-level programs, many people have recovered and gone on to live healthy, productive lives. Guardian Recovery offers personalized, evidence-based treatment that allows individuals struggling with addiction to receive the tools and support they need to sustain long-lasting sobriety.

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What Is Fish Scale Cocaine or Fish Scale Powder?

As noted, fish scale is a high-potency form of the cocaine drug that is lustrous and relective in appearance. Due to its quality, fish scale cocaine can be 2-3 times more expensive than traditional cocaine, which, when sold on the black market, is only about 60% pure. In contrast, fish scale cocaine is 90% pure and typically contains fewer cutting agents and additives. Fish scale cocaine can be snorted, smoked, or dissolved and injected intravenously. Side effects of fish scale cocaine are similar to other forms, but due to the increased potency, they may be substantially more severe.

Common Adverse Symptoms of Fish Scale Cocaine Include:

  • Anxiety and panic attacks.
  • Paranoid psychosis.
  • Hyperstimulation and hyperactivity.
  • Severe depression and suicidal ideations.
  • Rapid heart rate.
  • Appetite loss.
  • Elevated blood pressure.
  • Nausea.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Heart damage or heart attack.
  • Stroke.
  • Overdose.
  • Death.

The euphoric feelings cocaine induces and the brevity of the high often compel users to use the drug repeatedly in rapid succession. This can accelerate the development of tolerance and addiction in regular users. Unfortunately, for inexperienced users with little or no cocaine tolerance, this pattern of misuse can result in overdose and death.

All cocaine misuse, when discontinued, is followed by a period characterized by malaise and effects comparable to a hangover, often referred to as the “comedown.” Fish scale cocaine can affect levels of neurochemicals in the brain more robustly than lower-quality cocaine, meaning the effects related to withdrawal may also be more intense.

Where & How Is Cocaine Produced?

Cocaine primarily comes from Columbia, Peru, and Bolivia. The coca plant from which cocaine is made grows in these countries, with Columbia being the drug’s top producer. However, in recent years, Peru has been closing the gap and becoming an increasingly popular source of cocaine production. The prevalence of coca plants and limited interference from law enforcement make Peru an ideal location for cocaine transport. Bolivia is the third-highest cocaine producer, and its fish scale cocaine products are also referred to as “Bolivian flake” cocaine.

The production of fish scale cocaine is comparable to cocaine hydrochloride, other than being more refined and having few additives. This drug is extracted from coca plant leaves, made into a paste, and then transported to labs for further refinement. Dealers then usually cut the product with other ingredients, such as flour, baking soda, or talcum powder, to bulk up or increase the product’s amount and value. Unfortunately, due to its extremely high potency in recent years, fentanyl has become a lethal cutting agent contributing to many overdose deaths also related to illicit drugs such as heroin, cocaine, or meth.

What Are the Different Features of Fish Scale Cocaine vs. Cocaine Hydrochloride?

Cocaine hydrochloride is typically cut with adulterants such as sugar, corn starch, quinine, and local anesthetics. The inclusion of these and other ingredients give street cocaine a dull white, off-white, or brown tint. Certain features of fish scale cocaine make it relatively easy to identify, such as the bright white color described as glossy, pearly, or iridescent. Like cocaine hydrochloride, it is commonly found in powder form but can also be solid and rock-like if it’s been converted to crack cocaine.

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Is Fish Scale Cocaine Widely Available?

Fish scale cocaine is not found much anymore and has, in fact, been relatively scarce since the 1980s. Before that time, pure cocaine was being trafficked to the United States in kilo bricks, and some dealers even refrained from using cutting agents to boost profit. When these tightly compressed bricks were broken apart, the cocaine separated and fell into a flake-like product resembling fish scales. Due to fish scale cocaine’s high quality, it is not very accessible. It tends to be extremely expensive when it’s found on the street, and due to low demand, dealers are less likely to have it on hand.

Cocaine Overdose Signs & Symptoms

In many cases, cocaine overdose signs and symptoms are more extreme versions of the drug’s usual effects. Cocaine triggers activity in the central nervous system (CNS) and, as a result, produces a euphoric high. Misuse of an extremely pure form of cocaine, such as fish scale is more likely to result in severe adverse effects and overdose. If you suspect you or a person you know is experiencing an overdose, there are several identifiable warning signs and symptoms.

Cocaine Overdose Symptoms Include:

  • Elevated blood pressure.
  • Increased body temperature.
  • Accelerated or irregular heart rate.
  • Profuse sweating.
  • Twitching and tremors.
  • Seizures.
  • Lack of oxygen to the brain.
  • Heart attack.
  • Stroke.
  • Headaches.
  • Chest pain.
  • Respiratory or kidney failure.
  • Excessive teeth grinding.
  • Talkativeness.
  • Severe agitation or aggression.
  • Hyperactivity and restlessness.
  • Paranoia and confusion.
  • Depression or anxiety.

In many cases, the euphoric feelings associated with cocaine use can distract from these symptoms, some of which can be life-threatening. Chronic cocaine users are at high risk for heart attacks, seizures, strokes, coma, and death. Cocaine overdoses can wreak havoc on the cardiovascular system and lead to irreversible damage.

If you notice that signs mentioned above are present in yourself or another following cocaine use, it’s critical to seek emergency help. You are urged to call 911 or visit the nearest emergency department as soon as possible. Death from a cocaine overdose can occur rapidly, so medical care is needed immediately.

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Getting Treatment for Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine dependence can happen quickly, and finding treatment for addiction may seem overwhelming. Guardian Recovery is a highly rated accredited facility that provides effective addiction treatment for alcohol, cocaine, opioids, and other habit-forming drugs. We offer a streamlined, client-friendly admissions process and several levels of care, including medical detox, inpatient, and outpatient programs.

Furthermore, although the FDA has not approved pharmaceutical treatments for cocaine addiction, our center uses medication-assisted treatment to help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms during detox and our other various levels of care. The therapeutic methodologies we offer include behavioral therapy, group support, counseling, and aftercare planning.

Contact us today to speak to an experienced Treatment Advisor and receive a free, no-obligation health insurance benefits check. Learn more about how our caring therapists, health professionals, and support staff can help you get started on your recovery journey.


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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.

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave


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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