Cocaine is a stimulant drug derived from the leaves of the South American coca bush. It is produced into three forms:

  • Cocaine hydrochloride: A white, crystalline powder with a bitter taste and numbing effect. Often containing other substances such as glucose, lactose and fentanyl for diluting purposes and increasing profit margin.
  • Freebase: A white powder that is purer containing less impurities than hydrochloride.
  • Crack: Crystals ranging in color from white, cream and transparent with yellow or pink hues. It likely contains impurities.

Most commonly snorted, cocaine can also be injected, rubbed into gums and an additive to food and drinks. In freebase and crack forms, the substance is smoked. In South America, indigenous people have been known to chew or brew the leaves as a tea to use an appetite suppressant or use as a stimulant. In the early 1900’s it was widely used in the United States as the active ingredient in a variety of tonics and elixirs (Alcohol and Drug Foundation, 2019). Even America’s top selling soda (Coca-Cola) included 9 milligrams of cocaine per glass. Although it was removed from the recipe in 1903, the U.S. staple still includes coca flavoring for its thirst-quenching follower’s enjoyment.

To the average person, it’s difficult to comprehend how the derivative of a seemingly harmless plant can destroy countless lives throughout the United States. In order to comprehend the danger cocaine poses, one needs to understand the highly addictive nature of the drug. Additionally, it wreaks havoc on the brain’s natural reward system, resulting in the brain no longer producing its initial pleasurable effects. Essentially, cocaine alters the state of a user’s brain, resulting in long-term changes to brain chemistry. What does this mean? Users of this drug will experience a chemical addiction (dependency) within his/her brain, making it nearly impossible to discontinue the use of this drug. In fact, cravings for the drug will be so strong, that you’ll need a stronger dose each time you use it. Couple this with the fact the “high” a user will experience will only last between 5-30 minutes (depending on the form in which the drug was taken), it’s no surprise that countless victims become addicted to cocaine before they can even acknowledge they are suffering from a disease.

In addition to the high risk for developing a substance use disorder (SUD), using this drug can lead to risky behaviors such as needle sharing and unprotected sex. The National Institute of Drug Abuse’s Cocaine Research Report states that cocaine use impairs the immune system, making people more susceptible to HIV or hepatitis infection (Gans, 2019).

Alcohol and Drug Foundation (2019, June 27) What is cocaine? Retrieved from
Gans, S. (2019, September 2) What to Know About Cocaine Use. Retrieved from