How to Identify Cocaine

Every year, about six million people across the U.S. use cocaine at least once. The drug is highly addictive. For this reason, anyone who uses it is at-risk for serious problems. With this fact in mind, you may be concerned about the possibility of a loved one taking cocaine. How to identify cocaine and cocaine-addicted person?

To investigate this possibility, it’s a good idea to learn as much about cocaine and its effects as you can. That way, you have a better chance of noticing when someone is using the drug. One important area of knowledge is how to identify cocaine. Awareness of the drug’s appearance, smell and taste will make it much easier for you to detect its presence.

General Cocaine Facts

A helpful first step in identifying cocaine is educating yourself about some of the general facts regarding it. For starters, what is cocaine? The drug is made by chemically processing leaves of the coca plant, a South American native.

A single processing of the leaves produces a powdered substance called cocaine hydrochloride. A second processing of cocaine hydrochloride produces the hardened substance known as “crack” cocaine. 

Both powdered cocaine and crack have an intense stimulating effect on your brain and nervous system. That’s why each form of cocaine is classified alongside other stimulant drugs such as:

  • Amphetamine
  • Methamphetamine
  • Bath salts, i.e., synthetic cathinones
  • Khat, i.e., methcathinone 

What Are the Effects of Cocaine Use

What Are the Effects of Cocaine Use

Cocaine use affects systems throughout your body. Inside your brain, it speeds up the normal activity of your nervous system. Since your nervous system controls a variety of major organs, this effect spreads outward. Some of the biggest changes impact your heart and its connected blood vessels. Specific examples of these changes include:

  • Tachycardia, i.e., an unusually rapid heartbeat
  • Narrowed blood vessels and higher blood pressure

Other notable changes include dilated pupils and a jump in your normal body temperature. 

Cocaine is also noted for producing euphoria inside your brain’s pleasure center. Euphoria goes far beyond everyday pleasure. The feeling is compelling, and many people do what they can to experience it repeatedly. 

This repeated use is a crucial factor in the development of cocaine addiction. If you only use cocaine a few times, your brain resets itself when the drug leaves your body. However, past a certain point, this return to normal will no longer occur.

Instead, the brain will now treat the presence of cocaine as a new “normal.” In other words, it will expect you to keep taking more of the drug. Experts call this state physical dependence.

On its own, physical dependence is not the same as addiction. However, it does act as urgent warning sign that an addicted state is near. What distinguishes physical cocaine dependence from addiction? Addicted people develop a powerful emotional need for the drug. This need leads to the onset of what’s known as compulsive drug-seeking and drug use. 

Even without triggering addiction, cocaine abuse can significantly damage your ability to function. Roughly one million Americans suffer from addiction or impairing cocaine abuse. Both issues fall into a category of drug problems called stimulant use disorders

How Does Cocaine Look

Appearance is a big factor in cocaine identification. The drug doesn’t always look the same. Still, a few indicators will probably help you recognize it. 

Appearance of Cocaine Hydrochloride 

In its pure form, cocaine is a powder with a fine or flaky texture and a white or whitish color. However, the exact appearance of powdered cocaine may be different from batch to batch. That’s true, in part, because drug dealers often add other substances to the drug.

Often, these add-ins are also white and powdery. They may include non-drug substances such as:

  • Wheat flour
  • Baking soda
  • Talcum powder
  • Corn starch

They may also include drugs such as:

  • Heroin
  • Amphetamine
  • The cocaine-related local anesthetic procaine
  • The synthetic opioid fentanyl 

However, other types of additives may also be used. In some cases, an additive may change the color of cocaine. To hide such changes, drug dealers sometimes use chemical methods to make impure cocaine look more appealing. This practice is knowing as beiging or chalking

Appearance of Crack Cocaine

Once it’s made, hardened crack cocaine is broken up into small pieces for sale and distribution. These pieces resemble little rocks or pebbles. The color of crack can vary, and you may see examples that are:

  • Yellow
  • Off-white
  • White and opaque
  • White and clear

 Crack with a high level of purity may look as white as powdered cocaine. 

How Does Cocaine Smell

You may also be able to detect cocaine by its smell. That’s true for both powdered cocaine and crack.

Smell of Cocaine Hydrochloride

Even after processing, powdered cocaine retains some of its plant-based smell. People familiar with this smell often describe it as “floral” and sweet. However, many of the substances used to process raw coca leaves have their own powerful scents. Examples of these substances include:

  • Diesel fuel
  • Kerosine
  • Sulfuric acid
  • Gasoline 
  • Ammonia

Inevitably, smells from chemicals like this will have an impact. That’s why powdered cocaine is also described as having an artificial, metallic scent. 

Smell of Crack Cocaine

Crack is heated inside a pipe until it turns into a smoke or vapor. Users of the drug inhale this vapor into their lungs. Crack smoke has a very pungent smell. People exposed to this smell often compare it to the acrid odor of burnt plastic or rubber. Be aware that the smell of crack may resemble the smell of methamphetamine production. 

How Does Cocaine Taste

Many people opine that smell is the main criteria when you ask them how to identify cocaine. If possible, you should avoid identifying cocaine by taste. That’s true because the drug has more or less immediate effects, even when used in small amounts.

People who have tasted both powdered cocaine and crack typically describe them as having a bitter flavor.

How To Tell If Someone Is High on Cocaine

It’s also helpful to learn how to identify cocaine use signs and symptoms. People “high” on cocaine may exhibit a number of telltale outward indications. That includes things such as:

  • An exhilarated or extremely upbeat mood
  • Unusually high energy levels
  • Rapid speech or unusual talkativeness 
  • Jitteriness
  • A lack of desire for food
  • Disregard for sleeping

Heavy doses of the drug may also produce a range of other, more ominous changes, including:

  • Unpredictable changes in mood or behavior
  • Feelings of panic or anxiety
  • Twitching or trembling muscles
  • A paranoid outlook
  • Unusual aggression or violence

How To Tell If Someone Is Addicted to Cocaine

Can you tell if someone is addicted to cocaine? Not necessarily. It takes an addiction specialist or doctor to conduct an examination and say for sure. Still you may notice some of the symptoms of addiction. These symptoms include such things as:

  • Loss of control over the level or frequency of cocaine use
  • The need to take increasing doses of cocaine to feel “high”
  • A powerful craving to use more of the drug
  • Making cocaine-related activities the focal point of a daily routine
  • Using the drug despite its obvious, damaging health effects
  • Going into withdrawal when cocaine use falls off or stops entirely

You may also notice more general signs of a problem. For example, addicted people may grow withdrawn or secretive. They may also:

  • Change friendship groups
  • Steal from you
  • Lie frequently
  • Get into trouble at work or at school
  • Have unexplained money issues
  • Become reckless 
  • Stop caring about their appearance
  • Have frequent nosebleeds
  • Have a runny nose or experience nasal congestion
  • Experience nausea or vomiting
  • Sweat heavily
  • Develop insomnia
  • Seem unusually restless
  • Have trembling or twitching muscles

How to Get Help for Someone Struggling With Cocaine Addiction

How to Get Help for Someone Struggling With Cocaine Addiction
Panorama of female psychologist during meeting with a support group for workaholics

So, you already know how to identify cocaine, now, if you suspect that a friend or loved one is addicted to cocaine, seek advice from a professional. A doctor or addiction specialist will be able to answer any questions you may have. In addition, they can direct you to important resources for addiction education and treatment.

You may also choose to speak directly with your loved one. But be aware that the results of these conversations vary from situation to situation. People addicted to cocaine may be willing to seek help on their own. However, this is not always the case, and an affected person may be resistant or hostile. 

In some situations, you may want to consider staging an intervention. This is the name for an organized, coordinated meeting designed to get someone to seek treatment. If you choose this route, consult an expert first. Some professionals work exclusively as intervention specialists. Other sources of expert advice include:

  • Mental health counselors
  • Psychologists
  • Addiction specialists
  • Social workers

Ask your chosen specialist for information on intervention techniques and planning. Some professionals get actively involved and even attend the intervention with you. 

Learn More About Cocaine, Cocaine Addiction and Cocaine Treatment

If you have any additional questions about how to identify cocaine, the experts at The Discovery House can help. We can also answer any questions you may have about cocaine addiction. In addition, The Discovery House is your source for targeted, high-quality addiction treatment. With our help, you can leave cocaine problems behind and return to a sober everyday lifestyle. Contact us today for more information.