Drug and Alcohol

How to Identify Cocaine: Look, Smell, and Taste

Cocaine can be detected by appearance, smell, and taste. All of them can help you recognize the signs of cocaine abuse. Learn how in our blog.

How to Identify Cocaine: Look, Smell, and Taste

Table of contents

Written by

Brian MooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

Jeremy ArztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

March 31, 2023

The Edge Treatment Center

Cocaine is a potent stimulant that has caused around 24,486 deaths in our country in 2021. One of the misconceptions about this drug is that it is only available in a white, powdery form. Cocaine can vary in type, taste, appearance, and smell.

By the Numbers:

Nearly 4.8 million people have used cocaine. According to the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, nearly 1.4 million American people fulfill the criteria for being addicted to cocaine.

What Is Cocaine?

Cocaine is a stimulant that goes by many different labels. Some examples include crack, coke, coca, blow, speedball, and space ball. It's used to get high and feel euphoric because it stimulates the central nervous system.

It is harvested from the leaves of two different South American varieties of the Coca tree. Erythroxylum coca and Erythroxylum novogranatense are the names of the two plants. It stimulates the areas of the brain responsible for elevated levels of sociability, confidence, and happiness. This powerful stimulant can lead to the quick development of tolerance and addiction.

Cocaine can be consumed by injecting its powder, snorting, and smoking it. A few types of cocaine include pure cocaine, brown cocaine, crack cocaine, cocaine hydrochloride, pink cocaine, and more. 

What Is Cocaine Addiction?

Cocaine is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant that impacts our neurological systems in the brain. Anyone who uses this drug has the possibility of developing an addiction. If someone is frequently and repetitively intaking cocaine, it will impact and eventually alter the pleasure system associated with the neurotransmitter known as dopamine. It will also later affect memory and decision-making abilities as a person rapidly becomes physically and mentally dependent on it.

When a person starts developing a cocaine addiction, they cannot resist the urge to use it. This inability to stop makes it harder to quit altogether. An individual may immediately feel the pleasurable feeling due to the brain simulation, but once the substance leaves their body, they may experience unpleasantness, concussion, anxiety, aggression, and more.

When someone is repeatedly exposed to cocaine, they will end up with neuroadaptation. The term neuroadaptation refers to the feeling of tolerance and sensitization. In the end, they would be addicted to cocaine. Various factors can cause addiction to substances as potent as cocaine. These factors include family history and association with drug addiction, addiction to alcohol or other forms of drugs, physical trauma, and mental health problems like anxiety, personality disorder, and depression. 

What Does Cocaine Look Like?

While discussing the appearance of cocaine, let's first talk about how pure cocaine looks. The purest form of cocaine is a white crystalline powder. It would look similar to baby powder, cornstarch, white flour, or every average talcum powder. This is the reason it can be a little challenging to identify the pure cocaine form. Also, before breaking down into powder form, cocaine comes into the rock formation. The color of this rock can range from white to off-white. Sometimes it has a pearl-like shiny appearance.

Another vital thing is that, besides the pure form of cocaine in white, the impure form of cocaine comes in off-white, yellow, green, pink, and other variants. Many dealers add cheap cutting agents and chemical impurities, diluents, pollutants, and contaminants to increase their profit margin. Sometimes the impure forms of cocaine may appear too white and bright. It's because they have added baby or talcum powder to it.

This is the reason you may have seen in the movies that drug dealers taste the substance rather than checking by just looking at it. Cocaine is also sold in small plastic bags; some even mix heroin with it. This combination is known as speedballs, generally injected or snorted by the user.

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What Does Cocaine Smell Like?

Just like the pure form of cocaine has a white-colored appearance, it is also odorless. So, the white powder form of pure unadulterated cocaine has no smell. Some people have also contradicted this and said it smells sweet and floral. This is how raw coca leaves smell, too.

However, cocaine generally sold on streets has different kinds of impurities and cutting agents, which, if heard, give a chemical-based smell. Therefore, it would give off a metallic or refined chemical smell. Some people describe cocaine as smelling like baking soda, gasoline, ammonia, or other chemicals and solvents.

Cocaine is often cut with various harmful substances, which is why it can smell like bleach or have a sour, irritating acid smell.

Similarly, if someone smokes crack, it will give off the smell of burnt plastic and rubber. The smell of cocaine often depends on the chemicals used while preparing it. Some chemicals that are generally used in the manufacturing of cocaine are diesel, carbonate salt, gasoline, sulfuric acid, ammonia, caustic soda, kerosene, potassium permanganate, and more.

Finally, liquid cocaine has a faint metallic, chemical smell.

How Does Cocaine Taste?

Rather than smelling or looking at it, most people identify cocaine by tasting it. It is probably the only way to recognize it from other similar-looking drugs. Tasting also helps in checking the purity of the substance. It is not only tasted orally; many people check its purity by snorting or applying it to gums. Just like meth, cocaine also tastes bitter.

Most people describe it as tart and bitter due to its various chemicals. However, coming on to the cheaper quality of cocaine that is mainly found on the streets, the taste can vary. The more pure cocaine is, the more bitter it will taste. Why? Because cocaine is extracted from the coca leaf, it has an extreme, unpleasant, and bitter taste. 

What Does Cocaine Do?

The immediate effects of consuming cocaine are stimulating in nature. It would increase the body's activities and functions, such as heart rate, temperature, and breathing. The user will experience pleasure, conscience, alertness, and increased social interaction. You must be wondering how. Like many other drugs with similar potency, cocaine increases dopamine activity. Our brain has a naturally occurring dopamine neurotransmitter that helps us feel pleasure, satisfaction, reward, etc. It naturally releases in our brains.

When a person uses cocaine, the dopamine concentration level increases, making us feel high and euphoric. The drug also prevents dopamine and other neurotransmitters like norepinephrine and serotonin from reaching and being taken up into the nerve cell. Due to this, a massive concentration of these neurotransmitters starts accumulating in the nerve cells. This leads to the feeling of heightened pleasure and euphoria. Cocaine is a powerful stimulant; hence, one of its minor side effects is less intake of food and trouble falling asleep. It also increases a person's physical activity, making them more active and alert. 

Let's check out some physical and psychological health effects of cocaine addiction. 

Physical Effects

This includes nausea, increased heart rate, unhealthy weight loss, headaches, chest pain, abdominal pain, heart arrhythmia, seizure, and even heart attack. Some severe side effects include hepatitis, weakened immune system, respiratory problems, gangrene of the bowels, and more. 

Psychological Effects

This includes paranoia, depression, panic, anxiety, hallucinations, impaired judgment, irritability, abnormal behaviors, aggression, and more. 

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Do you have more questions about cocaine abuse? Reach out.

Some Common Signs of Cocaine Use

If you suspect that someone close to you or you are becoming dependent on a dangerous substance named cocaine, it is best to be aware of the warning signs and symptoms. These signs and symptoms may or may not be experienced by everyone as everybody is unique, and the repose would be similarly unique. However, the below-mentioned signs and symptoms of frequent cocaine users are typical that commonly experienced by people. 

Signs of Using Cocaine

One of the biggest signs of using any addictive drug like cocaine is missing out on deadlines and weakened performance in work/studies. Those immersed in the addiction would not care about their performance, and they are fairing on the professional or school/college front. They would also not care about their physical appearance and would start exhibiting signs of agitation, lack of enthusiasm, hyperactivity, altered concentration level and focus, twitching, etc.   

Symptoms of Using Cocaine

One of the first and most typical symptoms of using cocaine is the inability to stop using it. This happens when your body becomes physically dependent on the drug, and even when one tries to quit it, they can't, as they experience extreme withdrawal symptoms.

Apart from that, their body develops a tolerance for cocaine and would require more doses to get high. A person would also face strained relationships at home, office, and with friends. They would be short of money and borrow and even steal it. They would engage in a binge session and forget to eat or drink water. They may also experience anxiety and irritability more than usual. 

Treatment & Recovery for Cocaine Addiction

Drug addiction is a very complex disorder. Any person suffering from this chronic condition should never overlook it. They should think it is some emotional or physical phase that can change itself. You cannot get rid of it by withdrawing from drugs. This is especially the case with people hooked up on drugs for a significant amount of time. If we talk about cocaine addiction, it's a complicated disorder that is strongly affected by social, familial, mental, physical, and environmental factors. However, there are many treatments available to manage and cure this condition.

Contingency management is part of behavioral counseling where the patients are given some kind of incentive to motivate them. This incentive is generally in the form of movie coupons or other discounts so that they stay off the drugs for an extended period. 

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is another popular way of treating cocaine addiction patients. Here, the patients are treated in a manner where they have to address the issues related to their addiction. They have to introspect about the reason behind their condition and the steps they can take to remedy that. 

Leave Cocaine Addiction Behind at the Edge Treatment Center

The Edge Treatment Center offers the most advanced treatment programs available for people suffering from cocaine addiction. We are a fully accredited facility with certified and qualified addiction specialists and highly experienced and compassionate staff. Our patient-centric approach provides individualized treatment to suit their unique health needs.

Cocaine addiction is treatable. If you want to know more about cocaine abuse and if you're ready to leave it behind, reach out to The Edge Treatment Center today.

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