Cocaine Defined

What is cocaine? First, let’s establish what it is not. It is not a narcotic. It is a stimulant. The Harrison Narcotics Tax Act, passed in 1914, incorrectly labeled cocaine as a narcotic and this mistake has followed the drug through the decades as is still does today in some realms of identification.

The word cocaine comes from the plant that it is extracted from. The leaves of the coca plant contain what is called a crystalline tropane alkaloid (not identified until 1855). When this material is removed from the leaves of the coca and ingested, injected or inhaled it gives the body a momentary jolt of energy, excitement and euphoria. The alkaloid is the ine and the beginning of the word is the plant name coca which is how we end up with the name cocaine. This is what we technically know cocaine to be called, however, there are over 137 documented street names with more being created on a daily basis. You may be familiar with the standards such as coke, snow, nose candy and toot, but what about the less obvious and sometimes even hilarious terms used by everyday people to describe cocaine. Words like Bing (as in White Christmas), ching (like the noise from a cash register), devil’s dandruff, Lucifer’s left nostril, showbiz sherbet, shnazzle, sleigh ride, just about anything with the word white in front of it and booger sugar.

In spite of the illegal stigma attached to producing, possessing and distributing cocaine, this drug remains extremely popular amongst the party crowds, social settings, society gatherings and personal bedrooms. Media star icons in music, theater, big screen, intellectual giants and athletes help to perpetuate the glamour and exhilaration associated with its use. But the blame cannot all be placed on those in the rich and famous category who the youth idolize and look up to. In 2003, the estimated market revenue for cocaine sales exceeded $35 billion in the U.S. (more than AT&T) and it is the average everyday individual longing to be a part of the dazzle whose numbers far exceed that of the celebrity world that keep the industry rolling.

What does cocaine look like? If it is in its purest form, it will appear pearly white, in a powder form it tends to look a great deal like salt, also called cocaine hydrochloride. Much of the cocaine purchased on the black market is anything but pure and, in fact, is mixed with a wide variety of blending agents such as baking soda, lactose, talcum powder, powdered sugar, chalk and caffeine with additional numbing agents like benzocaine and/or lidocaine which mimics the loss of sensation when it comes in to contact with mucous membranes. These concoctions may contain no cocaine what-so-ever, but the user may “feel” the anticipated effect just like a sugar pill being given as a medication relieves a headache. This is called a placebo.

Interestingly, the use of common anesthetics like Anbesol, Novacaine and benzocaine may cause a positive drug test for cocaine although the person had no contact with the street drug. Cocaine use is evident in the urine for approximately four days and is present in the hair for as long as the hair during the cocaine use remains in tact.

What are some possible side-effects? Many…

  • Hallucinations and paranoid delusions
  • Elevated blood pressure and increased heart rate
  • Restlessness and hyperactivity
  • Euphoria followed by depression and discomfort
  • Cravings for more frequent use with higher doses
  • Seizures, cardiac and respiratory failure
  • Impotence
  • Destruction of muscle cells and renal failure
  • If injecting, increased risk of disease transfer
  • In many cases, depletion and loss of income