Identifying Cocaine by Look, Smell and Taste

Cocaine probably looks, tastes or smells the way you think it does. However, the danger that it poses and the harm that it inflicts deserve your ability to recognize it. Your knowledge about identifying cocaine by its known characteristics can help you and others you love avoid it. The outcome of using cocaine includes some very undesirable conditions, including asthma and a heightened risk of getting HIV. Taking it by mouth can reduce blood flow to your intestines, creating bowel decay and the accompanying pain it causes. In addition, statistics show 20% of overdose deaths come from cocaine use. Cocaine classifies as a controlled drug because of its addictive properties, making it illicit to use without a prescription.

Understanding Cocaine: A Brief Overview

Ancient Peruvian Incans in South America knew about using cocaine as an anesthetic, and they chewed coca leaves to get relief from pain. The complex culture lasted from the 13th century until the 15th century, producing a rich culture that regarded cocaine as a medicine. In 1880, an Austrian ophthalmologist discovered cocaine’s ability to anesthetize a patient’s eye. Widespread use in America and Europe followed until reports about its addictive potential started to appear.

Cocaine Extraction from Coca Leaves

The noxious process of extracting cocaine from coca leaves and turning it into paste may dissuade anyone from wanting to use it. Stomping or grass whipping the leaves reduces the volume and allows workers to spread concrete over the mulch as a binding agent. In the next stage of extraction, the mulched leaves soak in a large vat of gasoline and ether along with caustic soda, sulfuric acid, ammonia and other chemicals. Workers use a large press to remove the liquid and create a paste for sale to traffickers.

Forms of Cocaine: Powder, Crack and Freebase

The powder form of cocaine comes from coca paste and hydrochloric acid that provides usage choices for people who want to snort it or dilute it with water to inject it. Crack comes from a solid mass of powder cocaine, water and baking powder that breaks into rocks when dry. A mix of ammonia and ether frees cocaine from its hydrochloride content, producing pure or freebase cocaine.

Identifying Cocaine by Its Appearance

Instead of tasting cocaine to identify it, you can take a safer route and learn how to recognize it when you see it. Each of the three forms it takes has a distinctive appearance that helps you avoid the risk of using a highly dangerous substance that may produce lasting or even fatal effects.

Powdered Cocaine

The appearance of cocaine resembles white flour unless someone has mixed another substance into it. A very fine texture characterizes cocaine in its pure form, seemingly something you can recognize easily. However, some traffickers may choose to increase the volume to make an expensive drug supply appear larger.

Estimates of the price of 1 gram of cocaine vary around the world, but it costs about $200 in the United States. For comparison purposes, one-half a teaspoon contains 2.5 grams of cocaine. The addition of baking soda, cornstarch or talcum powder does not change the appearance. Depending on the processing some dealers or traffickers may use, cocaine may have a clumpy texture with the appearance of tiny crystals.

Crack Cocaine

The off-white color of crack cocaine can help you identify it although some batches may have a yellowish tint. Formed by breaking or cracking a block of coca paste, crack cocaine looks like tiny rocks or crystals that retain the primary color of white that characterizes the powdered form.

Freebase cocaine

The ammonia that dealers use to free cocaine from its base form of the paste does not change its white or off-white color. A distinctive oily or waxy texture characterizes the crumbly substance.

Identifying Cocaine by Its Smell

Some distinctions between the odors of the three forms of cocaine may appear, giving you a better chance of recognizing a substance that can harm you. The smell of cocaine depends on how someone chooses to use it. However, the chemicals that some manufacturers add to the drug can create significantly different smells. Because of the processes that produce cocaine from coca leaves, it can produce the smells of diesel fuel, gasoline or kerosene.

Powdered Cocaine

A combination of substances that manufacturers use to cut cocaine can produce a slightly sweet odor in the powdered form. In addition, the ammonia, carbonate salt, caustic soda, potassium permanganate and sulfuric acid added to the processing can give it a chemical odor as well. A visit to a construction site can let you smell diesel that you may detect in powdered cocaine. Likewise, your drive to work probably exposes you to the smell of gasoline, another odor it may produce. Strangely, some batches of the powdered form have a floral scent.

Crack Cocaine

The smoke of crack produces a strong and unpleasantly pungent smell that may resemble burning plastic or rubber. When you pass by a dump where someone may disobey environmental rules and burn products such as tires or children’s toys, you can experience the noxious odors that come from them.

Freebase Cocaine

A slightly less offensive smell may emit from freebase cocaine, producing a milder odor than you may sense from crack cocaine. The strong chemicals in the substance reveal their presence with distinctly identifiable chemical smells.

Identifying Cocaine by Its Taste

While a smart decision can prevent you from knowing what cocaine tastes like, you can understand how to protect yourself, friends and family by gaining an awareness of what others say.

Powdered Cocaine

Hardly a taste that anyone may consider pleasant or enjoyable, powdered cocaine produces a bitter taste that may last for a while. Someone who wants to smoke or snort it may take a small taste to identify it and to check on the effect of any additives it may contain. Some users may rub it on their gums to experience its effects, but gum disease may result. In addition to creating a bitter taste, cocaine can produce a numbing effect on the tongue and mouth tissue.

Crack and Freebase Cocaine

The preferred methods of using cocaine do not require anyone to taste the crack or freebase forms of the substance. People who use cocaine primarily choose oral, nasal, intravenous or inhalation methods. Snorting through the nose allows the substance to enter the bloodstream for absorption. Placing it on the gums provides oral use, and dissolving cocaine in water provides access to the bloodstream through injection. Inhalation through the lungs produces a rapid absorption like an injection.

Thinking About the Safety Considerations and Legal Implications

The consequences of using cocaine pose threats to safety and health, and its classification as a controlled substance makes it illegal to use in any form. Highly addictive, it can gain influence over your body and behavior that become almost impossible to control.

Risks Associated with Handling Unknown Substances

The Centers for Disease Control cites the risks of exposure to potentially hazardous substances that can have devastating effects on your body. Unless a substance has a product label that you can read, you have no way of knowing its toxicity or its potency. Cocaine and the materials that dealers may add to it for volume contain physical and chemical properties that may expose you to the same hazards that hospital workers face.

Legal Consequences of Possessing or Consuming Cocaine

The laws surrounding cocaine use allow steeper penalties than apply to some other drugs. Possession puts you at risk of a felony charge in need of a criminal defense lawyer. States vary in levying penalties for cocaine possession depending on the quantity and other factors. The penalty for a misdemeanor for possessing small amounts may include a short jail time or probation, court fines or all three. Felony offenses can require imprisonment of up to 20 years.

Importance of Contacting Law Enforcement or Drug Awareness Organizations for Assistance

Compassionate and understanding experts in law enforcement and community organizations can provide the help you need if you let them know you want it. You can protect yourself and others you love by reaching out to get assistance before you make a bad decision that can change your life.

Deciding on Your Path Forward

Your knowledge of the appearance, smell and taste of cocaine can help you avoid trouble. You may find the process of converting coca leaves into cocaine disgusting enough to never want to use it. Your concern for your health and desire to protect your body can lead you to a path away from drug use of any kind and especially cocaine. Instead of trying an unknown substance and risking harm to your health and safety, reach out to knowledgeable professionals in your community who can help you protect yourself.