What Is Cocaine Cut With?
What Substances Are Used as Cocaine Cutting Agents?
The substances used to cut cocaine are broken down into adulterants and substitutes. Adulterants such as laundry detergent and baking soda are used to get more doses of cocaine from a batch, while substitutes such as procaine and lidocaine produce similar effects to cocaine at a lower cost, both increasing the overall effect and masking the effect of dilution of the drug. Freebase cocaine is made with ammonia and ether, and crack cocaine is made by dissolving it with water and then mixing it with baking soda or ammonia.
Whether smoked, injected, or snorted, any batch of cocaine you encounter will most likely be altered or cut with some type of additive material.1 Additive materials may vary depending on how and where the drug is manufactured and, later, how it is further prepared for its various methods of use.1-3
In less than five minutes, see if your loved one—or you—may be addicted to cocaine. Take our online confidential survey.
Types of Cocaine
Cocaine in its purest form derives from the leaves of the coca plant. This drug is a member of a large general category of other plant-based alkaloid drugs such as caffeine, nicotine, and morphine. Once isolated and dried into an organic form, cocaine appears as a white, crystal-like powder—though it’s unlikely you’ll find pure, uncut cocaine on the street.5
On the street, cocaine comes in one of two forms: a hydrochloride salt form and a base form. In order to manufacture the salt form, the drug has to be neutralized with an acid solvent. The final product appears in powder form (the hydrochloride salt). This form may be either snorted, as is, or dissolved in water for intravenous use. The base form of cocaine includes any manufacturing process that doesn’t use acid as a neutralizer.
1This helps to thin out the batch, which means a dealer has more of the drug to sell. Depending on the type of additive used, the final product can appear off-white or pinkish. The texture of the drug also changes depending on the type of additive used.
Additives used with cocaine come in the forms of adulterants and substitutes. Adulterants are typically used to stretch the amount of cocaine used in doses while substitutes work to mimic some of the effects of actual cocaine (at a cheaper cost than cocaine itself). Additives used to cut cocaine may include a range of materials, the most common of which are:4,7,8
- Levamisole: A de-worming medication for humans and animals, levamisole was taken off the market due to the side effect of severely lowering white blood cell counts. Levamisole is by far the most commonly used cocaine adulterant of the last decade, primarily because its metabolite, aminorex, has stimulant-like properties.
- Phenacetin and paracetamol: close relatives of the pain reliever acetaminophen.
- Hydroxyzine and diltiazem: blood pressure medications.
- Local anesthetics (e.g., procaine, tetracaine, and lidocaine).8
- Levamisole (as above, due to the stimulant effects of its metabolite).
Freebase Cocaine Cuts
Unlike the salt form of cocaine, freebase cocaine is a drug with a base form that, due to the drug’s lower melting temperature as a base, can be smoked, snorted, or injected.
Instead of the acid neutralizer used to make salt-based cocaine, freebase cocaine involves the use of:6
- Ammonia as a base agent.
- Ether as a solvent.
The mixture is then dried to a powder form. In some cases, the ether actually dries into the final powdered cocaine product. When this happens, the cocaine user can develop burns along the throat and nasal passages.
Freebase cocaine is:
- More pure than the salt-based form of cocaine; since it is produced by evaporation, most additives are filtered out during the manufacturing process.
- More addictive when smoked since the drug can reach the brain more quickly than through snorting or injections, resulting in a more rapid onset of its stimulant effects.
Crack Cocaine Cuts
Crack cocaine is the most commonly used form of freebase cocaine.
How Is Cocaine Made?
The manufacturing process for crack cocaine involves dissolving cocaine hydrochloride in water and then mixing it with baking soda or ammonia.6
Before the mixture develops into rock form, a dealer will often cut the cocaine powder with a readily available additive or adulterant. While it’s preferable to use materials that cause little to no damage to the body—such as baking soda, powdered sugar, or powdered milk—these substances can still wreak havoc if circulated throughout the body via injection. The mixture is then heated until the hydrochloride chemical evaporates. Once dried, the drug becomes a rock-like form that “crackles” when smoked.
If you’ve used or seen crack on more than one occasion, you may have noticed how crack rocks can vary in color and texture. Crack rocks can appear in brownish or tan-like colors with either a crumbly or hard surface texture.
Dangers of Cocaine Abuse
The dangers of abusing cocaine are not anything to be taken lightly. Cocaine abuse can have a number of short-term and long-term harmful effects on your body, and the risk of deadly overdose only increases the longer you use cocaine.
Short-term effects of cocaine abuse can include:10
- Extreme mood changes.
- Impaired judgment.
- Sleep problems.
- Involuntary movement disorders.
- Heart attacks, seizures, strokes.
- Overdose and sudden death.
Long-term effects of cocaine abuse can include:11
- Persistent cognitive impairment.
- Higher risk of infection.
- Mental health issues, including depression with suicidal ideation.
- Damage to multiple organs.
Long-term needle use (intravenous, intramuscular, or subcutaneous administration) may also result in skin and tissue infections around injection sites, arterial blockages, septic emboli, and lung infections.
Luxury amenities matter
Treatment for Cocaine Addiction
There are many cocaine addiction treatment options to choose from. Generally speaking, most rehabilitation programs will assist you through an initial drug detox period, followed by some combination of individual and group therapy. The following are a few of the specific types of treatment centers that you would be able to choose from, depending on your unique preferences and circumstances:
- Luxury rehab centers offer residential rehab treatment that is accompanied by a wide range of high-end, resort-like amenities designed to make your stay as comfortable as possible.
- Executive rehab facilities also offer residential rehab treatment with many of the same luxurious qualities that luxury rehabs offer, with the primary difference being that executive facilities cater to busy business professionals who needs to remain actively involved in their work during the course of their treatment.
- Standard or traditional rehab may be sought on either an inpatient (residential) or outpatient (non-residential) basis. The more standard rehab offerings are often available at a relatively lower price since they tend to forego the same range of plush amenities that both luxury and executive treatment facilities provide.
- Lapachinske, S.F., Okai, G.G., dos Santos, A., de Bairros, A.V., Yonamine, M. (2015). Analysis of cocaine and its adulterants in drugs for international trafficking seized by the Brazilian Federal Police. Forensic Science International; 247:48-53.
- Stambouli, H., El, Bouri A. Chemical profile of cocaine seizures and its adulterants in Morocco. Forensic Science and Addiction Research. 1(4). FSAR.000520.
- Solimini, R., Rotolo, M.C., Pellegrini, M., Minutillo, A., Pacifici, R., Busardò, F., Zaami, S. (2017). Adulteration practices of psychoactive illicit drugs: an updated review. Current Pharmaceutical Biotechnology; 18: 524.
- Hofmaier, T., Luf, A., Seddik, A., Stockner, T., Holy, M., Freissmuth, M., Kudlacek, O. (2014). Aminorex, a metabolite of the cocaine adulterant levamisole, exerts amphetamine like actions at monoamine transporters. Neurochemistry international, 73(100), 32–41.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). DrugFacts: Cocaine.
- The University of Arizona. (n.d.). Cocaine Overview: Chemistry.
- Shea, J. (2012). Bioanalytical methods for quantitation of levamisole, a widespread cocaine adulterant. Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine, 51(1), 205-212.
- Gameiro R, Costa S, Barroso M, Franco J, Fonseca, S. (2019). Toxicological analysis of cocaine adulterants in blood samples, Forensic Science International; 299: 95-102.
- Prieto, J.P., Scorza, C., Serra, G.P. et al. (2016). Caffeine, a common active adulterant of cocaine, enhances the reinforcing effect of cocaine and its motivational value. Psychopharmacology; 233: 28-79.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). What are the short-term effects of cocaine use?
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). What are the long-term effects of cocaine use?