Cocaine (benzoylmethylecgonine) is a crystalline alkaloid drug obtained from the leaves of the coca plant, native to South America, where the leaves are chewed as a mild stimulant. Cocaine, extracted at far higher concentrations, is a stimulant, an appetite depressant, and produces an anesthetic effect at low dosages. It is considered far more dangerous than other central nervous system (CNS) stimulantssuch as amphetaminesbecause it can cause sudden cardiac death at higher doses. Cocaine is the second most popular illegal recreational drug in the U.S., behind marijuana. Although historically medical uses have been explored, there are virtually no legitimate medical applications in the United States. The global trafficking market is massive, estimated at greater than $70 billion annually. Although cocaine was known as a rich mans drug, a cheaper version, crack cocaine, appeared in the 1980s. Cheap to produce and market, this smokeable form of the drug is highly addictive and led to what was characterized as a crack epidemic in America.

Abuse and Detection

The most common method of ingestion is nasally, snorting the white powder into the nasal passages for absorption through the mucus membranes. Remaining powder residue is often rubbed into the gums to maximize the effect. This is also an alternate method of ingestion. Other methods include oral swallowing and inhalation of vapor produced by heating crack cocaine rocks (crystals) in specialized pipes.

Common street names:

Coke, nose candy, snow, crack, C, flake, toot, freebase, blow, rock

Symptoms of Abuse:

Short-lived euphoria and increased energy levels, possibly changing to depression, anxiety, paranoia, irritability, nervousness, and tightness of muscles as the effect wears off; sniffling, nasal dripping, redness around the nostrils. Effects can last from 15 minutes up to an hour.

Testing Medium:

Urine, oral fluid, hair

Medical Dangers (including withdrawal effects):

Especially in high dosestachycardia, arrhythmias, hallucinations, increased blood pressure, convulsions, respiratory arrest, death; chronic use of powder and smoked forms can lead to trauma and degradation of nasal, tracheal, and pulmonary tissues, as well as increased risk of autoimmune and connective tissue diseases, strokes, and heart attacks.

Window of Detection

Urine and oral 1-3 days; hairup to 90 days, depending on hair length