Cocaine is made by processing the leaves of the coca plant, a shrub found in high altitudes of South America in countries like Peru, Bolivia, and Colombia.
Through a process of chemical extraction, the coca leaves are reduced to cocaine hydrochloride, a fine white powder used for snorting.
Cocaine is often cut with other agents to dilute it and increase profits for dealers. Sugar, flour, talcum powder, and cornstarch are all common cutting agents in cocaine.
Substances like caffeine and amphetamines can also be cut into cocaine.
Cocaine can also be processed further to produce “freebase” cocaine and crack cocaine. Freebase is a more pure form of the drug, while crack cocaine is cooked with baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) to produce “crack rocks” that are then smoked.
What Is In Cocaine?
The truth is, people who engage in cocaine drug use almost never know what is actually in the drug they are taking.
While the cocaine base is South American coca leaves, there aren’t actually leaves in the final drug. The process of cocaine production takes coca leaves and turns them into a more pure cocaine form.
Cocaine can then be cut with harmless additives that dilute its potency. It can be cut with other psychoactive drugs, too, that change its effects and make it more dangerous.
And it can even have poisonous fillers, like laundry detergent, which are toxic.
The Process Of Making Cocaine
The process of making cocaine starts with the coca plant and ends with the white powder we know as cocaine.
The process is usually the same whether the coca plants used are Colombian, Peruvian, or Bolivian.
This white powder can then be cut with other agents or further processed into freebase or crack cocaine.
Harvesting The Coca Plant
The first step in making cocaine is to harvest the leaves of the coca plant. The leaves only grow for a short period each year, so growers have a small window to harvest.
The leaves are collected, and oftentimes the people who grow and harvest the coca leaves are the same ones who begin the processing to make cocaine.
Chemically Processing The Coca Leaves
The next step is to process the coca leaves in order to extract the chemicals that make up cocaine from the plant.
This is done by first pulverizing and soaking the leaves in a gasoline and/or acetone mixture which acts as a solvent. The water is then drained from the mixture.
Making The Coca Paste
Next, sulfuric acid is used to remove the rest of the solvents and an alkaloid, such as baking soda, is added to the remaining mixture. This mixture is dried to form “coca paste”.
Coca paste contains enough cocaine to smoke and get high from. This practice is common in South America, but coca paste is rarely found in the U.S.
Coca paste is turned into powder cocaine by dissolving it in hydrochloric acid and water, then adding potassium salt which separates adulterants from the mixture.
Finally, ammonia is added to this final solution, and powder cocaine forms.
Adding Cutting Agents To Powder Cocaine
The final step to cocaine production before it is smuggled into the U.S. (often through Mexico by the cartels) is to cut it with other substances.
Usually, other white powders are added to the cocaine to either dilute it or enhance its effects.
Making Crack Cocaine
Crack cocaine is a form of cocaine that is smoked by people who use it. Crack cocaine is made from powder cocaine and its production usually takes place in the U.S. by dealers.
To make crack cocaine, powder cocaine is dissolved in water with baking soda. The mixture is boiled down until a crystalized substance forms, which is then broken up into crack “rocks”
Crack cocaine is smoked using crack pipes. Its effects are intense and hit within seconds. It has been suggested that it could be more addictive than cocaine powder.
Common Cutting Agents In Cocaine
Cocaine can be cut with other drugs that make it more addictive and might make its effects more desirable to users. Additionally, it can be cut with diluting agents to increase the profits of sellers.
Fentanyl is a deadly synthetic opioid drug. There is currently a vast problem in the U.S. with illegal drugs like heroin and cocaine being cut with fentanyl.
A very small amount of fentanyl is needed to cause an overdose. It can cause euphoric effects, is highly addictive, and is relatively easy to produce, which is why dealers are adding it to cocaine.
Fentanyl overdose was the leading cause of death among people aged 18 to 45 last year in the U.S. It killed more people in this age range than car crashes, COVID, heart disease, or cancer.
Many of the overdose deaths from fentanyl happened when people used fentanyl-laced cocaine.
Carfentanil is a fentanyl-related synthetic opioid. It is one of the most common fentanyl-like substances to be cut into cocaine.
It is extremely powerful (about 10,000 times more potent than morphine) and can cause overdose easily.
Caffeine is a common cutting agent in cocaine. It can add to the alertness and euphoria that cocaine causes.
Caffeine can also increase the risk of heart problems from using cocaine. It is possible that caffeine enhances cocaine’s effects and makes it more addictive.
Other Drugs Cut With Cocaine
Cocaine is often cut with other drugs which enhance or alter its effect and may make it more addictive.
Other drugs that are cut with cocaine include:
- stimulant drugs like meth
- procaine (a local anesthetic)
Other Cutting Agents Found In Cocaine
Other substances are often cut into cocaine simply to dilute it and make bigger profits for those who produce and sell it.
- talcum powder
- laundry detergent
Risks Of Cocaine Use
Cocaine use has several side effects and health risks.
Long-term effects of cocaine abuse include:
- depression and mental health issues
- heart problems and increased risk of heart disease
- high blood pressure
- intense cravings for cocaine and other cocaine withdrawal symptoms
- increased risk of infectious disease (especially if cocaine is injected)
Using cocaine can also lead to overdose. As someone uses cocaine more and becomes addicted, their tolerance to the drug increases.
An increased tolerance means that someone must take a higher dose of cocaine in order to feel its effects. So, as tolerance increases, the risk of overdose also rises.
Treatment Options For Cocaine Addiction
Don’t let cocaine addiction ruin your life or that of a loved one. Seeking detox and treatment at a certified treatment center is the best option once cocaine addiction takes hold.
The most reputable treatment centers offer their clients personalized care plans and set them up for success after they leave rehab.
Evidence-based treatment approaches like group therapy and medication-assisted treatment can increase the chances of recovery.
Find Cocaine Abuse Treatment At Bedrock Recovery Center
Bedrock Recovery Center is one of the east coast’s top addiction treatment centers. Located just outside of Boston, MA, our facility serves clients from New York, to Florida, to Maine — and everywhere in between.
Our inpatient treatment facility is top-of-the-line, and we focus on providing our clients with physical and emotional stability in the early stages of their recovery.
Call our helpline today to learn more about treatment options at Bedrock.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/cocaine
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine/what-are-short-term-effects-cocaine-use
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine/what-cocaine
- United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/2020-06/Cocaine-2020_1.pdf