The Real Ingredients of Street Cocaine

The substances found in fake cocaine

Close-up of a drug user using drugs, Maine, USA.
Jose Azel / Getty Images

If you use cocaine then you have most likely accepted the fact that you are not taking pure cocaine. Drug dealers can cut powder cocaine by up to 80 percent with other substances that mimic the appearance and some of the effects of cocaine. The greatest risk is that fentanyl, a drug that is 50 to 100 times stronger than heroin, is now being used in cocaine, causing a large increase in overdose deaths.

Cocaine is a fast-acting nervous system stimulant, extracted from the leaves of the coca bush, a high altitude plant, which grows in the Andes Mountains of Bolivia, Peru, and Colombia.

What Is in Street Cocaine?

It is always difficult to know for sure whether street drugs are actually the substance the dealer claims they are. If you have used a street drug, then you probably know what the expected drug effect is. For instance, with cocaine, most might get a feeling of numbness in the nose and throat after snorting, this may make you feel that you have successfully purchased cocaine.

But drug dealers have figured out a way to fool cocaine buyers by cutting cocaine with cheap and legal local anesthetics, such as benzocaine or novocaine. These substances do not produce the high that you get from cocaine, but they are used in dental procedures and produce a similar freezing sensation when snorted or rubbed on the gums.

A report by the BBC said that the problem of drug dealers using benzocaine or another anesthetic lidocaine, to cut cocaine is so great, that police target illicit supplies of the cutting agents as a means to interrupt cocaine production and distribution in the UK.

Other fake ingredients used include baking soda, corn starch, Vitamin C powder, sugar, talcum powder, Italian baby milk powder, or amphetamines.

Big Danger of Overdose With Fake Coke

While you might be wondering whether cocaine is really addictive, you would not necessarily be able to tell from using street cocaine, as you may not be using cocaine at all, or may be taking much smaller amounts of cocaine than you realize. However, this does not mean the substance you are using is safe - you may be using an even more dangerous substance, or become addicted to a different substance altogether.

Over recent years, dealers have been mixing a variety of street drugs with fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid analgesic that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent. As fentanyl is not even the same kind of drug as cocaine, it might not seem to make sense that it would be used to cut street cocaine, yet recent evidence has shown that it is, probably because of the intense euphoria that it induces in users. Unfortunately, it also carries an extremely high risk of overdose in very small doses - people have even overdosed from touching fentanyl. Other opioid compounds are being found now that are even more toxic, such as carfentanil.

An experienced cocaine user who tests their cocaine by the numbness effect may be duped into thinking they are using cocaine, and start to wonder why they feel fewer psychoactive or intoxication effects.

That same user may think they were simply developing tolerance to cocaine and increase their dose. This could have the unfortunate effect of causing cocaine withdrawal symptoms or, in a worst-case scenario, an overdose if the next batch the user purchases has a higher cocaine content, and the user takes the same amount as they did with the fake batch.

Is It Worth the Risk?

Whether or not you are using real cocaine or some other concoction, this might be a good time to reflect on why you are taking cocaine in the first place.

For many, cocaine use is described as a social thing. In other cases, there can be an element of peer pressure to use cocaine.

However, taking drugs alone carries the greatest risk of overdose, as there is no-one to call for help or administer first aid if you lose consciousness.

If you are using cocaine as a way to deal with low self-esteem or if you are self-medicating because you want to hide depression, there are much more effective ways of managing both.

If you need help with overcoming abuse or addiction to any drug, support and services are more available than ever before.