Currently, it is challenging, if not impossible, to obtain 100% pure cocaine. Most of the time, cocaine, as found on the black market, contains many adulterants. This technique is typically used to increase the amount of the product and boost the profits of dealers. Cocaine itself is very risky to abuse, but many of the agents used to cut it have dangerous effects of their own, many of which can be life-threatening.
Common Additives in Cocaine
There are various adulterants that may be cut into cocaine, and some are more harmful than others. Commonly used cutting agents that are relatively innocuous include caffeine, creatine, laundry detergent, and laxatives.
While some are not especially dangerous, some of these agents can make a user more anxious, mainly caffeine, which can accelerate heart rate and blood pressure. When mixed with cocaine, this can result in intense feelings of restlessness, anxiety, and panic.
And unfortunately, many cutting agents are much more hazardous and can be very toxic. When laced into coke, these substances can lead to an adverse reaction in many individuals, some of which have the potential to lead to death.
Benzocaine is a common anesthetic used by dentists and also as a cocaine cutting agent because it is relatively inexpensive and has a similar numbing effect. It is also found in powder form, so it is easy to cut into cocaine covertly.
Those who use coke cut with benzocaine are at risk for severe health repercussions. These include a life-threatening condition known as methemoglobinemia. This disorder involves the development of abnormal levels of hemoglobin in the bloodstream. As this occurs, oxygen becomes increasingly unavailable to various tissues, and eventually, these tissues will begin to die.
If hemoglobin levels rise above 15%, the person will suffer from cardiac and neurological symptoms. The condition becomes lethal if levels reach 70% or higher.
Like benzocaine, when combined with pure cocaine, boric acid increases the drug’s anesthetic effects. It also looks similar to cocaine crystals, so it’s easy to hide its presence. But boric acid is a poison, and in fact, it is sometimes used in the making of ant and rodent pesticides.
Due to its toxic nature, the consumption of large amounts of boric acid can lead to death. It can cause many neurological and physical conditions and is considered one of the most dangerous cutting agents commonly found in cocaine.
Fentanyl is an extremely potent opioid up to 50 times more powerful than heroin. Its use has been associated with thousands of deaths in recent years, as it’s been increasingly found combined with heroin, cocaine, meth, and other drugs.
Illicit fentanyl is inexpensive to manufacture and obtain, and for this reason, it has become popular among dealers who are intent on increasing profits. Unfortunately, a minuscule amount can cause a life-threatening overdose. When fentanyl is added to cocaine, the latter may be the least of a user’s worries.
Levamisole is prescribed by physicians and veterinarians to destroy parasitic worms. Levamisole might be used as a cutting agent because it boosts dopamine levels in the brain, enhancing the overall euphoric effects of cocaine consumption.
Unfortunately, however, this drug can also cause agranulocytosis, a disease that will eventually kill all white blood cells in the body. Without these vital cells, the body becomes very susceptible to a wide range of adverse effects and conditions. When faced with this disease, even minor injuries or infections can lead to death.
Lidocaine and Novacaine
Lidocaine and novocaine are commonly used local anesthetics, and their numbing effects have made them ideal cutting agents in cocaine. Unfortunately, cocaine and lidocaine tend to intensify each other’s effects and can lead to acute toxicity, convulsions, and seizures.
Cocaine, when used in conjunction with either lidocaine or novocaine, can also result in heart problems, such as arrhythmia, and also drowsiness, confusion, and blurred vision. Some of these symptoms are only temporary, but their severity can worsen with repeated cocaine abuse.
Mannitol can be added to both heroin and cocaine. It is a diuretic commonly prescribed to decrease swelling and pressure inside the eye or surrounding the brain. It is also used as an anticaking agent that can ensure substances remain in a powdered form. It can be hazardous and addictive, however, and can result in health problems in those individuals who are allergic or have a history of heart disease.
Phenacetin was once a commonly used painkiller but was removed from the drug market due to reports of adverse effects and complications. Most significantly, it has been proven to be a carcinogen, and exposure can result in a loss of consciousness, hypotension, heart failure, and death.
Pure Cocaine Effects
As noted, it is difficult to find 100% pure cocaine. Those who do succeed are likely going to pay double or triple the price of cocaine with additives. And because it is more potent, pure cocaine is also riskier to use, and heart damage or death are more likely to occur.
Indeed, those who ingest pure cocaine after they are accustomed to ingesting the buffered form may be more susceptible to overdose. Moreover, their tolerance level isn’t high enough to deal with the additional potency, which can result in cardiac arrest and death.
But regardless of whether an individual is snorting pure or adulterated cocaine, either scenario can be extremely hazardous. The chemical effects of either form can lead to irreversible damage to the body, primarily when it is used for an extended period. Long-term addicts will also likely experience more severe withdrawal and side effects.
Why Cocaine Is So Addictive
Cocaine is a powerful stimulant culled from the coca plant native to South America. When ingested, it boosts the feel-good chemical dopamine in the brain, resulting in euphoria and increased energy and feelings of reward and well-being. Over time, regular use results in the brain’s inability to produce dopamine independently without the help of cocaine. Prolonged abstinence from the drug, however, will often reverse this condition.
Due to cocaine’s fleeting effects, users often ingest it in a binge-like pattern. This method of use will eventually lead to increased tolerance and some level of physical dependence that results in withdrawal symptoms when use is discontinued. When these effects manifest, a person will often lose all control over cocaine and will continue to engage in use despite the incurrence of adverse consequences.
Getting Professional Help for Cocaine Addiction
Addiction to cocaine can be detrimental to an individual’s life and can result in overdose and other life-threatening conditions. Fortunately, however, this disorder is very treatable, and many have overcome their need to use cocaine and have reclaimed the happy, healthy, and productive lives they deserve.
Programs at Just Believe Recovery are comprehensive, evidence-based, and customized to each person’s individual needs. We offer a wide array of therapeutic activities and services, including behavioral therapy, individual and family counseling, group support, experiential activities such as art and music therapy, aftercare planning, and more.
Are you struggling with cocaine addiction, or does someone you love suffer from this disorder? If so, we urge you to contact us today to discuss treatment options and take the first step toward long-term recovery.
We are committed to helping each person we treat suffering from addiction to break free from the chains of addiction for life!