What’s In Cocaine?

What is Cocaine?

Cocaine is a highly addictive and illegal stimulant that is made from the leaves of the coca plant, which is native to South America. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, Colombia is the main producer of cocaine, but Peru, Bolivia, and Chile also make and distribute significant amounts of the drug.

The Foundation for a Drug-Free World reports that cocaine is the second most trafficked substance of all the illegal drugs, and to date, 756 metric tons of it have been intercepted and seized by various international law enforcement agencies. Cocaine is rarely sold in its purest form because producing it is a fairly labor-intensive process, and individual manufacturers want to make as much money as possible from each batch of the drug.

How Is Cocaine Made?

There are essentially three main steps to making cocaine. After the leaves are harvested and soaked, the base for the powdered drug is extracted through one of two extraction methods, and the resulting crystallized substance is dried into bricks. Here is a more detailed step-by-step process for making cocaine:

  • Step 1: Workers harvest the coca leaves.
  • Step 2: The leaves are soaked in gasoline.
  • Step 3: The gasoline is drained.
  • Step 4: The cocaine base is dried.
  • Step 5: The dried substance is dissolved in a solvent.
  • Step 6: Excess solvents are removed, and it is dried into bricks.

Cocaine Additives

People who purchase cocaine off the street — which is essentially the only option that most users have — are rarely getting pure cocaine. The drug is typically diluted with at least one foreign substance during the manufacturing process to increase profits, and additional substances may be added at every step of the distribution process. For example, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the typical purity of cocaine found in the United Kingdom in 2012 was less than 40 percent. Some of the substances used to dilute cocaine, like baking soda, are essentially harmless, but other times, potentially harmful drugs, like levamisole, are added to the final product.

A clear bag of powder cocaine leaning against a brick of cocaine

Levamisole is an anthelminthic that is used to kill parasitic worms in livestock. According to a report originally published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, complications associated with levamisole-laced cocaine include:

  • Neutropenia, or a low count of white blood cells called neutrophils.
  • Agranulocytosis, which is a deficiency of granulocytes in the blood and can lead to an increased risk of infection.
  • Joint pain.
  • Skin lesions.
  • Skin necrosis.

Instead of diluting their stash of cocaine, some distributors and dealers prefer to use it to create crack cocaine, which is the crystal form of cocaine and can be made from facilitating a chemical reaction between powder cocaine and baking soda. Both cocaine and crack cocaine are incredibly addictive, but if a loved one is struggling with a dependence on either, it is never too late to seek help in the form of detox and addiction treatment.

 

About The Contributor
Amanda Lautieri
Senior Web Content Editor, American Addiction Centers
Amanda Lautieri is a Senior Web Content Editor at American Addiction Centers and an addiction content expert for Sunrise House. She holds a bachelor's degree and has reviewed thousands of medical articles on substance abuse and addiction. She... Read More