How is Cocaine Made? | AspenRidge Recovery

How is Cocaine Made?

lines of coke

Cocaine is a highly addictive Schedule II narcotic stimulant and is typically sold as a white powder or small clumps that are then broken up. It is primarily snorted but it is also injected, smoked, or added to other drugs like marijuana (a 51er joint). This information is commonly known but people are still wondering, “how is cocaine made?”

How is Cocaine Made?

Cocaine is a compound extracted from the leave of the coca plant, which is usually grown in South America. Interestingly because of its stimulant properties, coca leaf extract was an ingredient in Coca-Cola for 44 years. It’s commonly believed that cocaine was part of the original soda, but it’s not true. What we think of cocaine must undergo complex processing, and the soda only contained an extract. The drug is sometimes associated with wealth and opulence, but the manufacturing process is anything but glamourous.

Step 1: Coca Plant Harvest

The leaves are harvested by hand, usually by the impoverished farmers who grow them, from the plant and then mulched. The leaf mixture is sometimes sprinkled with cement to bind the leaves together and make the next step of the process a little bit easier. Business Insider followed the cocaine production process and published photos of each step in the process.

coca leaves

Step 2: Cocaine Extraction

Then, the leaves are added to a mixture of gasoline (yes, you read that correctly, gas!), ether, sulfuric acid, ammonia, and other solvents are mixed in large vats to enable the extraction of cocaine hydrochloride. The substance is now dark green and paste-like, and then pressed to extract the liquid. As it sits, the liquid partially solidifies into a brown paste. The coca paste is now ready to be cooked. The substance is heated until most of the water and other chemicals have evaporated. Now the paste looks somewhat like large chunks of milk chocolate fudge and contains cocaine hydrochloride. From here, the substance is packed, sold, and further processed.

Step 3: Cocaine Chemistry

To make cocaine suitable for snorting (insufflating), the coca paste is dissolved in hydrochloric acid and water, and potassium salt is added. This removes undesirable substances from the mixture. Ammonia is added to the remaining solution, and powder cocaine precipitates from the solution and is dried. The resulting cocaine alkaloid is the same as it was in the coca paste or crack cocaine, the added salt renders cocaine hydrochloride unsmokeable.

Common Street Names for Powder Cocaine

  • Blow
  • Coke
  • C
  • Snow
  • Flake
  • Powder
  • Nose Candy
  • Bump—this refers to snorting a small amount to keep the high going
  • Candy
  • Charlie

How is Crack Cocaine Made?

There are a few more steps to make the cocaine hydrochloride into crack cocaine. Actually, it’s reversing the last step described above. To make base cocaine (freebase and crack) the added salt needs to be removed. Although production methods differ somewhat, the addition of baking soda and heat revert the substance into a smokeable form.

Common Names for Crack

  • Base
  • Rock(s)
  • Gravel
  • Nuggets
  • Sleet

How is Cocaine Used?

There are several ways to ingest cocaine. The first and most well-known is insufflating or snorting through the nose. The drug passes through the mucus membrane in the nose and sinus cavity and the effects are felt almost instantly.

Cocaine is also injected or delivered intravenously. The process for preparing cocaine closely remembers the method used to prep heroin for injection. Cocaine is dissolved in water and then an acid, usually vitamin C or citric acid, filtered and then injected. This probably goes without saying, but don’t try this at home. The above description is nowhere detailed enough to be used as a guide, and you’ll likely die.

What Is Cocaine Cut With?

Additional substances in cocaine will vary greatly depending on who has cut the drug, and how many times the illicit drug has changed hands. The reason people cut cocaine is to extend their supply and increase the weight of their inventory. More coke is worth more money, so dealers add other chemics to increase profits. Some common cutting agents are listed below.

Snorting coke

Common Cocaine Cutting Agents

  • Laundry detergent
  • Laxatives
  • Caffeine
  • Boric acid
  • Local anesthetics like procaine
  • Creatine
  • flour
  • cornstarch
  • talcum powder
  • baking soda

Fentanyl-Laced Cocaine

You’ve heard of fentanyl. It’s in the news daily and we’ve published several blogs on the topic. But why is cocaine, an upper, sometimes laced with a downer? For the same reasons, we discussed above. Profit. Sometimes the drug has been cut so many times that it has lost a lot of its potency. To make up for the weak blow, dealers have started adding the inexpensive fentanyl to boost its strength.

Fentanyl-laced cocaine is highly dangerous. People using cocaine regularly likely don’t have a tolerance and fentanyl is known to be up 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine. And as anyone who’s broken a bone knows, morphine has a hell of a kick.  If you’re choosing to do cocaine in Colorado, you’re playing Russian roulette.

How to Spot Fentanyl-Laced Cocaine

It’s very difficult to identify which batches have been laced. We have a blog about what fentanyl looks like, but the key takeaways are:  cocaine and meth are usually pure white in powder form. Usually, fentanyl-laced drugs have brown spots. This is not a safe and effective way to identify fentanyl, but he may tip you off that something else is present. The only way to be sure is to test it before you do a line!

It’s critical to test any cocaine for the presence of fentanyl these days. It’s in everything. From meth and coke to molly and ecstasy, it’s been found in almost every street drug.

If you’re still willing to take a chance, there are a few things you can do to be a little safer.

  • Test it with fentanyl test strips, which are available from Amazon.
  • Carry NARCAN—it reverses an overdose and saves lives.
  • Don’t do it alone, and tell someone.


We’re here to help. If you’re struggling with cocaine addiction, give us a call and we can help find the right treatment program for you or your loved one–even if it’s not ours! We’ve treated thousands of people for addiction and many of them are on the road of recovery.  Call us at 855-281-5588, and we’ll verify your insurance, and you can begin your new life.



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