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The Basics of Cocaine

By Steve Joseph

Cocaine is a drug that is made from an extract that is removed from the leaves of the Erythroxylon plant or coca bush. The bush is mainly found in Peru and Bolivia and has long been used as a stimulant for both medicinal and recreational purposes. Some may be surprised to know that cocaine is still used by doctors as a local anesthetic, but it has gained its notoriety for its illegal popularity with recreational drug users. Cocaine commonly comes in two forms, hydrochloride salt and freebase.

Hydrochloride salt cocaine is the powder form of cocaine that most people see in the movies. It dissolves in water and can be used either by intravenous means (by injection into a vein) or intranasal means (snorted through the nose).

Freebase cocaine on the other hand comes in rock form and must be smoked. Freebase cocaine is known by many as crack or crack cocaine and is smoked through pipes, usually referred to as crack pipes. By administering the drug through inhalation, the user is able to experience a high much sooner that by intranasal use. The high can be delivered in less than ten seconds after smoking and this feature has played a large role in the popularity of the drug.

Common names for cocaine include:




-Flake or


Due to the high value of the drug it is often diluted with other cheaper and inert substances such as cornstarch, talcum powder or sugar. Other dealers may dilute the drug with cheaper active drugs like procaine or stimulants and amphetamines.

The high cost of cocaine is partially due to the risk involved with producing and trafficking although it is also expensive to produce to the low yield ratio of coca plants to cocaine.

Cocaine's popularity peaked in the mid 1980's with an estimated 5.7 million Americans using the drug. Today the number is estimated to be much lower and seems to have reached a plateau. Like many drugs, cocaine is most popular in the 18 to 25 year age bracket. Its use is also more prevalent among African Americans and Hispanics than with Caucasians and men also tend to use the drug than woman.


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