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Facts About Cocaine

Heroin and fentanyl have made the headlines in the last few years, but cocaine is still widely abused. Cocaine is tied to thousands of overdose deaths every year and can cause long-term damage to your health that will eventually kill you. Learn more about cocaine and potential consequences of using it.

Brief History of Cocaine

Cocaine has a varied past. The first known use of cocaine dates back to the 1400s according to writings by Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci. It comes from the leaves of the coca plant, which is found in parts of South America. People in this region have been using cocaine for its euphoric properties as well as for some medical purposes. 

Over 100 years ago, people began isolating cocaine hydrochloride from the coca plant. This is a type of purified chemical. It was used in elixirs and tonics for treating certain illnesses and as an anesthetic. The first formulas of Coca-Cola® contained cocaine hydrochloride. As the addictive nature of the drug became apparent, it was deemed to only be used in the U.S with special permission from the DEA for numbing the linings of the throat, mouth, or nose for medical purposes.

Cocaine saw its Hay Day in the 1980s, but the drug is still widely abused. The DEA classifies cocaine as a Schedule ll drug, which means it has limited medical use and has a high potential for addiction and abuse

How Long Does Cocaine Stay in Your System?

You typically feel the effects of cocaine within seconds or minutes depending on how you took it, and the high can last around 30 minutes or an hour. Factors that affect how long cocaine is in your system may include:
  • How much cocaine you’ve taken.
  • Your tolerance to cocaine.
  • Your individual physical makeup.
Even after the high from cocaine is gone, cocaine remains in your body for some time, and you can test positive on drug tests. The detection window for cocaine in your system depends on the half-life of cocaine and what drug test is used. Estimates of how long cocaine stays in your system based on the type of drug test:
  • Urine test – Cocaine stays in urine up to 4 days
  • Hair test – Cocaine is detectable in hair follicles up to 90 days
  • Blood test – Cocaine is detected in blood up to 2 days
  • Saliva test – Saliva tests can detect cocaine for up to 2 days
These are general estimates. It’s possible that the cocaine detection time for an individual could fall below or above these ranges.

How Is Cocaine Made?

Cocaine is made by harvesting and soaking the leaves of the coca plant in a solvent such as gasoline. The leaves are drained, dried, and dissolved. Then the substance needed to make cocaine is extracted from it and made into powder or crystallized into dried bricks for crack cocaine crystals. Once cocaine gets into the hands of illicit drug manufacturers, they often cut it with various substances like:
  • Talcum powder
  • Baking soda
  • Corn starch
  • Flour
  • Amphetamine
  • Heroin
  • Baby powder
  • Ammonia
  • Fentanyl
It is rare that you’re getting “pure cocaine” when you buy it off the streets. It’s almost always cut with a household substance so the drug dealers can make more money or another addictive substance (ex. heroin), to keep you coming back for more.

Street Names for Cocaine

Cocaine goes by several names on the streets. These include:

  • Flake
  • Nose candy
  • Coke
  • Coca
  • White powder
  • Blow
  • Soda Cot
  • Snow
  • Line
  • Crack
  • Crack cocaine
  • Gold dust

How Do People Use Cocaine?

Cocaine usually appears in powdered form and is cut with fillers like baking soda and local anesthetics to increase its weight. It’s also cut with other drugs like fentanyl and heroin. Cocaine powder is an ingredient in crack cocaine, which is a rock-like form of the drug. Cocaine can be snorted, smoked, or injected.

Cocaine abusers usually take cocaine by:

  • Snorting
  • Smoking
  • Injecting
  • Chewing (in leaf form)
  • Swallowing (by wrapping up the cocaine in rolling paper and swallowing it)

Snorting is the most common method. Any material not directly absorbed through the mucous membranes is swallowed. 

What’s the Difference Between Cocaine and Crack Cocaine?

Powdered cocaine and “crack” both come from the chemical manipulation of substances that appear naturally in the coca plant. Powdered cocaine is the product of the basic processing of coca. Crack cocaine comes from a secondary processing of powdered cocaine. 

Both forms of cocaine trigger an increased amount of activity inside the body’s central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). They also heighten levels of pleasure (euphoria). People who smoke crack cocaine experience a stronger form of these effects that fades away relatively quickly. People who inject a powdered cocaine solution directly into their bloodstream also experience relatively strong, short-acting drug effects. The longest lasting, least intense cocaine “highs” come from inhaling the powdered form of the drug.

What Does Cocaine Look Like?

Cocaine looks like a white powder similar to baking flour that has a crystal-type appearance to it. Powdered cocaine is typically sold in plastic baggies. When dissolved to shoot intravenously, it may look like a whitish, clear liquid.

Crack cocaine is a form of cocaine that’s chunkier in appearance. It looks similar to small crystal rocks and is white or light pink.

What Does Cocaine Taste Like?

Cocaine users often say it has a bitter taste. It’s been compared to the taste of peppercorns and can have a numbing quality. The taste of cocaine may vary depending on the cutting agents. These can range from baby powder and baking soda to ammonia and corn starch.

What Does Cocaine Feel Like?

People who use cocaine describe the feeling they get from it as euphoric. They may feel less inhibited and more sexual. Cocaine users also say it makes them feel more alert and aware. 

The desired feelings from cocaine use kick in quickly and usually dissipate within about 30 minutes or an hour. Cocaine users often continue to take cocaine over several hours or days to keep the high going.

After a cocaine binge, users typically “crash.” This is a period of depression, anxiety, and exhaustion.

Why Is Cocaine Dangerous?

The short-term effects of a cocaine high aren’t worth the long-term damage this drug can do to your physical and mental health. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, heavy users are at risk for several issues, including:

Heart Problems

People who abuse cocaine are at high risk for heart problems. Effects of cocaine on brain chemicals can send signals to the heart to beat faster and more intensely. The heart starts working overtime. Cocaine abuse can also decrease oxygen and blood flow to your heart. Because of the burden cocaine puts on the heart, people who abuse cocaine are at greater risk for:
  • Heart attacks
  • Heart failure 
  • Tears in the aorta
  • High blood pressure
  • Enlarged heart

Mental Health Disorders

People with cocaine dependence often also struggle with mental health disorders. These may include:
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • PTSD
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Personality disorders
When people struggle with both mental illness and cocaine abuse — or any substance abuse — it’s known as a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders. Sometimes it’s difficult to determine which came first: mental illness or substance abuse. Some people try soothing mental illness symptoms with drugs and alcohol. Substance abuse can provide a brief reprieve from depression or anxiety. Other times drug and alcohol abuse contribute to mental illness symptoms. Some of the same brain chemicals are involved in drug use and mental health disorders. More or less of these chemicals can create mental health symptoms. This is true whether you have a natural imbalance, or the imbalance comes from the long-term effects of cocaine abuse. Cocaine abuse can cause mental disorder symptoms like:
  • Paranoia
  • Homicidal thinking
  • Suicidal thinking
  • Hallucinations
  • Agitation
  • Violent behavior
Drug abuse can also make existing mental illness symptoms worse.

Brain Damage

Addiction to cocaine can damage your brain. A study by the University of Cambridge suggests cocaine may age the brain quicker. It can shrink the brain’s gray matter. This impacts normal brain functioning. Another study found cocaine can damage the brain in both casual users and dependent users. Functions that might be affected include:
  • Reading
  • Thinking
  • Remembering
  • Learning
  • Paying attention
  • Reasoning

What Are Cocaine Addiction Signs?

Some people view cocaine as a harmless party drug. The truth is cocaine is a highly addictive and dangerous illicit drug. If you or someone you love is showing signs of cocaine abuse, take it seriously. 

Signs of Cocaine Use in a Loved One

If you’re concerned a loved one is using cocaine, there are certain signs you can look out for. The short-term effects of cocaine come on quickly after taking the drug. The high usually lasts several minutes to an hour. During the high of cocaine people are very “up” and chatty. They may appear uninhibited, energetic, and carefree.  People who take cocaine may exhibit the following:
  • More energy
  • Euphoria
  • Giddiness
  • Alertness
  • Sensitivity to touch, sounds, and sights
  • Talkative
  • Less need for sleep and food
  • Uninhibited
  • Runny nose
  • Dilated pupils

Signs You’re Addicted to Cocaine

Some people consider themselves casual cocaine users. It’s a risky game to play. Casual cocaine use often progresses to full-blown drug addiction. Anytime a substance impacts the reward center of the brain, trouble is often around the corner.  Cocaine acts on dopamine in ways that trigger physical and psychological cravings in a short time. Before you know it, you’re dependent on this highly addictive drug. You need more to get the same effect. You experience strong cravings for cocaine and think about it constantly. Symptoms of cocaine addiction may include mental and physical symptoms like:
  • Craving cocaine.
  • Trying to quit or decrease cocaine use without success.
  • Needing increasing amounts of cocaine to get the same effect.
  • Spending lots of time thinking about cocaine, trying to get cocaine, and using cocaine.
  • Continuing to abuse cocaine despite it causing problems at work, school, or in relationships.
  • Financial, professional, or legal problems because of cocaine use.
  • Needing cocaine to feel normal.
  • Having cocaine withdrawal symptoms when you go for any amount of time without using.
Because of withdrawal symptoms, detox is safest and most effective in a medical setting or residential rehab where professionals are with you around the clock. This is especially important if you mix cocaine with alcohol or other drugs. In medical detox, a treatment team will monitor your vital signs, ease withdrawal symptoms, and attend to medical emergencies. Though cocaine withdrawal is rarely life-threatening, withdrawal from other substances can be.  Cocaine withdrawal symptoms may include:
  • Insomnia
  • Problems controlling movement
  • Lack of energy
  • Nightmares and unusual dreams
  • Changes in appetite
  • Agitation and anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Headaches
  • Stomach issues
  • High heart rate
  • Paranoia
  • Difficulty concentrating 

Get Help for Cocaine Addiction

If you or a loved one is abusing cocaine, don’t wait to get help. Cocaine addiction can have serious long-term consequences including physical damage, cocaine overdose, and death.  At Vogue Recovery Center, we offer evidence-based cocaine addiction treatment in home-like welcoming drug rehabilitation centers. We have various levels of care to fit your clinical needs and life situation. These include: We use a combination of individual and group therapy, traditional behavioral therapy, and alternative approaches like EMDR (trauma therapy), art therapy, mindfulness, and yoga. Our drug and alcohol rehab programs accept most insurance plans, and our admissions process is simple and straightforward. Addiction recovery is possible. Call us for a free, confidential consultation today.



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