What is Cocaine?

Coca Farmers Harvesting Coca Leaves

Coca Farmers Harvesting Coca Leaves in South America

Cocaine is a  powerful, addictive, harmful, and dangerous stimulant drug (upper). For hundreds of years, indigenous people (mostly farmer’s and laborer’s) of South America chewed the coca leaf for energy and stamina.

Cocaine is derived from the coca plant Erythroxylan Coca and primarily grows in the highland mountainous region in the countries of Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador in South America. These mountainous highland regions provide the ideal seasonal climate to grow the coca plant. So much so, that there are no other geographic locations in the world that the coca plant can thrive and become better than in South America.

Cocaine is a naturally occurring substance and is the active ingredient found in the coca plant leaf. One single coca plant leaf contains about 0.25 to 0.77% of the active ingredient cocaine.  Cocaine is the second largest cash crop for illegal drugs after Cannabis (Marijuana) and is the largest cash crop in South America surpassing coffee, flowers, and fruit.

In the United States cocaine is considered a Schedule I narcotic with the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) placing it in the same class of dangerous and illicit drugs like heroin, methamphetamine, and marijuana.

However in the in the 19th century in the United States, before it was classified as a dangerous drug, Cocaine was used for many over the counter remedies in cough syrup, alcoholic beverages (Cocawine) as well as in the soft drink beverage we know today as Coca-Cola. In 1879 cocaine was used to ward off morphine addiction.

Today, synthetic pharmaceutical manufactured (liquid) cocaine is occasionally used medicinally by Ears, Nose, and Throat (ENT) doctors as a local anesthetic for nasal and lacrimal duct surgery.

The most common form of Cocaine is a fine white powder known in the streets as Coke, C, snow, powder or blow. Street dealers often dilute or “cut” cocaine with baking soda, laxatives (appears as a white powder), cornstarch or flour to increase profit.

Some are even adding the dangerous and often deadly synthetic opiate fentanyl in which one theory is that the fentanyl makes the Cocaine more addicting but 50x more deadly from a single dose.  98% of the Cocaine that comes into the United States makes its way from South America through the Southern Border of Mexico and into the United States by the Mexican Drug Cartels.

How is Cocaine Manufactured?

Once the coca leaves are harvested in large quantities from acres of land in bulk, the leaves are laid out to dry and sprinkled with powdered lime (this is to prevent mold from moisture and fungus) for several days on large tarps. When the coca leaves have dried they are then gathered and ready to be put through an extraction process to make coca paste which is the very first step before the refining process to make the white powder known as Cocaine or cocaine hydrochloride.

The coca paste is made by one of 2 extraction methods the first is a Solvent Extraction that uses gasoline or kerosene, and the less common (due to the accessibility of the chemical) extraction method uses Sulfuric Acid. The process for making the coca paste is considered the first step for making Cocaine at the “farm level” or “growing phase” of the coca plant.

Once the coca paste is made the second step in cocaine production is the process of converting the coca paste into cocaine powder or cocaine hydrochloride. In this process, the use of dilute sulfuric acid and potassium permanganate (a powerful oxidizing agent) are used to convert the less potent and less valuable coca paste (ranges from $100-$150/Kg in South America) to the more potent and more valuable cocaine powder( ranges from $800-$1,200/Kg in South America). Needless to say the dangerous, toxic and caustic chemicals used to make the coca paste and cocaine powder are very detrimental and hazardous to the chronic cocaine user’s long term health (nerve, circulatory damage as well as cancers).

How is Cocaine Used?

Cocaine can be used in several ways that include:

Cocaine being Snorted

Use of Cocaine Can Lead to an Early Death

Insufflation or Snorting– This is the most common way of ingesting Cocaine whereby the user will snort or sniff Cocaine into the mucous membranes lining the nasal passages. This route of administration will produce the uplifting and euphoric high of Cocaine within 3-5 minutes after ingestion and last upwards of 60-90 minutes. If the cocaine user ceases to ingest more Cocaine, this is usually not the case for someone using Cocaine, a tolerance builds rapidly in the short term (within hours), and the user may end up snorting more lines to produce more significant effects. Users will sometimes say that “the best line to snort, is the first one” because after that they keep trying to “Chase the high.”

Injecting Cocaine– This is where the user turns the solution using a small amount of water on a spoon and then aspirates the liquid cocaine solution into a syringe and injects the liquid Cocaine into a vein. This method of using Cocaine provides the highest blood levels of the drug in the shortest amount of time. Injecting Cocaine has an effect on the body within 3 minutes, and the euphoric high passes quickly within minutes.

Inhalation by Smoking Cocaine– The euphoric effect of Cocaine is the fastest when smoked, which begins within 3-5 seconds, and the lasting effects of the high are the shortest just as well within 5-15 minutes. Two words used to describe when Cocaine is smoked freebasing, in which Cocaine is converted to smokable “crack cocaine” which gets its name from the crackling sound that Cocaine makes when it is heated and smoked out of a glass pipe.

Statistics on Cocaine Use and Abuse

  • The United States is the world’s largest consumer of Cocaine.
  • 98% of the Cocaine that comes into the United States through the Southern Border comes from Central America and Mexico via South America
  • Between 14 and 21 million people use Cocaine each year in the United States.
  • Cocaine is one of the top 2 most frequently used illegal drug used globally, second to marijuana.
  • U.S. adults aged 18 to 25 years have a higher rate of current cocaine use than any other group.
  • Since 2015-2016 the cocaine-related overdose rate increased 52.4 percent.
  • 9 million Americans age 12 and older reported having used crack.

12 Signs That Your Loved One May Be Using Cocaine

  1. Increased Agitation– the cocaine user may “fly off the handle” very quickly when being confronted in a non-confrontational way.
  2. Dilated Pupils– The pupils of the eyes appear very large upon close inspection.
  3. Long Periods of Wakefulness
  4. Impatience and Anxiety– cannot sit still long enough to hold and/or maintain a conversation without fidgeting or make eye contact during a conversation (this is a common sign).
  5. Over excitement and Over-Confidence– the person becomes grandiose and animated in conversation
  6. Extremely Talkative or Extremely Quiet “Locks Up” and cannot talk
  7. Non-Reliable and Irresponsible– Cocaine user will make a last-minute decision to cancel essential plans (Dinner, Dates, Special Events, and etc.).
  8. Loss of Appetite – Eats sporadically when not using Cocaine
  9. Weight Loss– a noticeable weight loss of a gradual amount of time for a chronic cocaine user.
  10. Hypo-sexual or hypersexual former applies primarily to males, and the latter applies mainly on females who use Cocaine and of course, this applies to be under the influence of Cocaine.
  11. Paranoia– cocaine user will act suspicious or hypervigilant appearing as being paranoid.
  12. Increased use of Depressents (i.e. Alcohol, Marijuana, and/or Pharmaceutical Sedative Valium, Xanax) use (polydrug use) to come down from the Cocaine high.

What are the Long Term Health Effects From Chronic Cocaine Use?

Cocaine is a Dangerous Drug

The Health Hazards of Cocaine

Because the process for manufacturing Coca paste and the final product cocaine powder requires very harsh chemical solvents and industrial grade acids this also means that Cocaine has extremely caustic and toxic chemicals that can potentially cause long term health effects that are detrimental to your health such as:

  • Destruction and damage to the nasal passages and septum when snorted
  • Damage to blood vessels of the heart and brain
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attacks and strokes
  • Cancer(s)
  • Respiratory and lung damage if smoked
  • Infectious diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis if injected
  • Severe Depression
  • Permanent mental illness such as Psychosis and Paranoia

How is Cocaine Abuse and Addiction Treated?

Since 2018 cocaine abuse and use accounted for almost 10 percent of all admissions to drug abuse treatment centers. Most (70%) cocaine abusers who are in treatment smoke cocaine and a small percentage 3% inject Cocaine, and some inject it with heroin. This is known as a “Speed Ball” or “Speed Balling.” Several famous celebrities have overdosed and died from doing this.

Unfortunately, most cocaine abusers who have allowed their substance use disorder get out of control (not a difficult feat with Cocaine) do not seek help for treatment on their own. By the time their addiction gets out of control (with finances, relationships, marriages, health, or legal issues), they usually receive help with a family member. This is called an intervention.

Unfortunately, family members or loved ones who do get involved with intervention are not adequately trained and do not know how to intervene with a loved one when things get out of control, and thus the person with the substance use disorder relapses in spite of the help.

Because Cocaine is so addicting, it is best to source out a Recovery Coach or Sober Coach who can assist with getting the Cocaine addicted.

Medications for Cocaine Addiction

Currently there are no medications for cocaine addiction; however, a researcher has focused their attention on dopamine and the changes in the brain with other neurotransmitter chemicals including serotonin, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), norepinephrine, and glutamate. These neurotransmitter chemicals are essential in the “reward center” of the brain, which is where cocaine addiction starts in the brain immediately after one single dose of the drug.

Over the last several years, clinical trials showed that Disulfiram, a medication used to treat alcoholism, has shown some promise. Finally, researchers have developed and conducted a Cocaine Vaccine that could help with cocaine addiction and relapse, but it has not been placed on the market and approved as of this writing.

Behavioral Interventions for Cocaine Addiction

Many outpatient models have been proven very effective for cocaine addiction, depending, upon the severity of the cocaine addiction. There are Online Recovery Coaches and/or Recovery Coaches that can guide you through the process of recovery.

There are also what is called Contingency Management (CM) specialist, also called Motivational Incentives. These programs use a voucher-based or prize based system that rewards the patient/client who can abstain from Cocaine. There are also 12 step programs that help, including Cocaine Anonymous (CA). For most people who are challenged with a Cocaine Use Disorder they have to ask themselves 1.) What triggers your cocaine use before using and 2.) What healthy choices can you substitute for your unhealthy option of using Cocaine?

An experienced Recovery Coach will take a holistic (“Whole Body”) approach with you or your loved one’s recovery by incorporating 1.) Body- with proper nutrition and exercise 2.) Mind- discuss relapse triggers and relapse prevention and 3.) Spirit.


  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cocaine
  2. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine/what-cocaine
  3. https://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/cocaine/effects-of-cocaine.html