cocaine identification

Growing up in a home with addiction is not for the faint of heart, which is something you learned early in your childhood. Even though Dad worked hard, you knew he drank alcohol and used cocaine, something that Mom tried her best to hide. At the end of high school, you made the decision to go away to college. However, just a few months in and you notice that your roommate has similar behaviors as your dad, such as leaving at odd times, coming back to the dorm “pumped up,” and not eating or sleeping consistently.

Cocaine use is not uncommon in young people. According to a recent ACJC State of Arizona Youth Survey, 1.2 percent of youth aged 12-18 reported using cocaine at least once. After making a positive cocaine identification (an empty baggie with powder residue and straws), you approach your roommate. He shrugs it off and says everyone does something to take the edge off.

Wolf Creek Recovery in Prescott, Arizona is familiar with cocaine addiction, and we recognize that people reach out for help when they are ready. This is why we make it a priority to “meet people where they are,” so that we can provide them with the support and guidance they need to heal. Let’s learn more about cocaine, how to identify the substance and the support options available.

how to identify cocaine

How to Identify Cocaine

When you suspect that someone is using cocaine, it helps to know what the substance looks and smells like. In its purest form, cocaine is a white crystalline powder. It comes from coca leaves, which are native to South America. The freebase form of cocaine (also called crack) looks like small rocks that are off-white in color.

Pure cocaine is odorless, though freebase has a burnt rubber or plastic smell. This smell comes from the chemicals in the cocaine – mostly gasoline and ammonia. If the cocaine contains cutting agents, such as baking soda or cornstarch, you may also pick up these odors as well. Usually, cheaper forms of cocaine contain a lot of additives.

Another way to identify cocaine is by learning to recognize paraphernalia. Pay attention to items such as straws, rolled up paper tubes, small mirrors, small spoons, razor blades, lighters and baggies with white powder residue.

Different Forms of Cocaine

There are different types of cocaine, which can make things confusing when you’re attempting to make a cocaine identification. Most people assume that cocaine is the fine white powder that’s been on the streets for decades, but this isn’t the only type available.

Cocaine comes in three main forms: a paste, cocaine hydrochloride (powder) and crack cocaine (crystal rocks). When cocaine is extracted from the coca leaf, it goes through a rigorous chemical process before being sent off to be cut into white powder. However, there are also other processes the cocaine may go through that can alter its purity, color and structure.

  • Cocaine paste is the purest form of cocaine (usually around 90 percent) and the result of the initial manufacturing process. It is light gray in color.
  • Powder cocaine is the most common and well-known form of cocaine. It’s pure white and often heavily diluted with other substances and cutting agents. The purer the cocaine, the more expensive it is.
  • Crack cocaine is the second most widely used form of cocaine, and it’s made by removing the salt. What’s left are hard, yellow rocks that can be snorted. Crack is cheaper than cocaine, making it more widespread in lower-income areas.

Where Cocaine Comes From

Cocaine comes from coca leaves mostly grown in Bolivia, Peru and Colombia. These countries are able to grow coca plants naturally and in sufficient quantities, allowing them to produce mass amounts of cocaine. In fact, it’s estimated that Colombia alone produces $400 million worth of cocaine each week!

The cocaine manufacturing process takes place in remote processing labs where the product undergoes several different transformations. The most popular method is to soak freshly picked coca leaves in gasoline to extract the coca base from the leaves. Another method uses acidic solutions for extraction.

Once the coca leaves have been soaked in industrial-sized drums, a base is formed, and this is poured into brick molds. The water is then pressed out, leaving a hard brick that contains about 50 percent cocaine. The bricks are sent to collection sites, where they are shipped out to various markets in the U.S. and other countries. Drug cartels in Colombia handle almost all of the cocaine trafficking.

What Cocaine Looks Like

As mentioned above, cocaine can look different based on the type of cocaine and the cutting agents used. The purest form of cocaine is white crystalline powder that looks similar to baby powder, cornstarch or white flour. However, when dealers add cheap cutting agents, it can change the appearance of the cocaine. This is why the substance may be off-white, yellow, green or pink.

Crack cocaine, on the other hand, looks like crystalline rocks. These rocks (or shavings) can also be in many different colors, such as pink, off-white, yellow and brown. Remember, since cocaine is not regulated, it can look different from batch to batch.

Understanding Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine is a stimulant that directly affects the brain. Scientists have discovered regions in the brain that produce feelings of pleasure when simulated. One system that appears to be especially affected is called the ventral tegmental area (VTA), which is a region located deep within the brain. It’s believed that cocaine stimulates the VTA, releasing dopamine and causing intense feelings of pleasure.

Furthermore, cocaine’s intense but brief high can lead to additional use almost immediately. For most people, the effects of cocaine wear off in less than one hour. If cocaine use continues, tolerance can develop. This means that higher doses and more frequent use of cocaine are needed to achieve the same feelings of pleasure.

The effects from cocaine are also highly desirable, as users generally feel excited, alert, energetic and confident. For someone who is naturally shy or withdrawn, this burst of energy could make them feel confident. However, these pleasurable feelings are often followed by a “crash,” which can lead to irritability, depression, and anger.

Side Effects of Cocaine

The effects of cocaine depend on the strength of the dose, the mix of chemicals, the route of administration and the individual. Cocaine’s effects appear almost instantly after a single dose and disappear within minutes or hours. The immediate effects include:

  • Feelings of euphoria
  • Accelerated heart rate
  • Increase in body temperature
  • Burst of energy
  • Dilated pupils
  • Loss of appetite

Over time, cocaine use can lead to longer term effects, such as addiction, irritability, mood disturbances, restlessness, paranoia and hallucinations. Regular use of the substance can also cause cardiovascular problems, gastrointestinal complications and neurological effects.

For those who snort cocaine, the drug can damage the lining of the nose, leading to an increase in nasal inflammation and infections. Those who inject cocaine may have “tracks” on their forearms, while those who ingest the drug can develop severe bowel gangrene due to reduced blood flow.

treatment for cocaine use disorder

Getting Treatment for Cocaine Use Disorder in Prescott, AZ

If you or a loved one is experiencing a cocaine use disorder, it’s important to know that cocaine use treatment is available. At this time, there are no FDA-approved medications that treat cocaine addiction specifically, though researchers are looking into several potential options. The good news is that several behavioral interventions can be very effective in treating cocaine use disorder, including evidence-based therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and community-based recovery programs like Cocaine Anonymous.

As with other addictions, the goal of therapy is to help you understand the root causes for the cocaine use, such as low self-esteem, mood disorders, or depression. Ongoing therapy like CBT also teaches healthy coping skills and how to change unhelpful ways of thinking. Even though taking the first step to recovery can be scary, you never have to walk this path alone.

Wolf Creek Recovery is here to empower you to build a life that you love. With our holistic values and emphasis on adventure and outdoor therapy, we inspire clients to create a life that is happy, healthy, and full of meaning. Located in beautiful, sunny Prescott AZ, there’s no better backdrop for outdoor activities and connecting with nature. Contact us today at 1-833-732-8202 to learn more about our programs and services.