These may be added in order to change or intensify the effects of the drug or to allow dealers to sell less of the actual cocaine for more money. These cutting agents can change the texture, form, and/or color of the drug, and make it easier to smoke, snort, or inject. Pure cocaine comes in a salt form. It is then neutralized with a solvent to make a white powder. Typical additives can make this powder appear light pink or off-white. Some of these additives can also be dangerous and have led to overdose or poisoning deaths.
Common cocaine additives include:
These all come in a white powder form that is visually indistinguishable from the standard form of street cocaine. They are not particularly dangerous but also not something you would generally want in your body. Small particles in laundry detergent can build up in arteries and cause dangerous blockages in the heart, brain, or liver.
In addition to cutting cocaine to make it more profitable, the substance may be altered in order to change it into different forms. Freebase cocaine is made to be easy to smoke through the use of ammonia and ether.
If not prepared carefully, the ether in freebase cocaine can actually cause burns in a person’s throat and nasal passages. This form of cocaine is also considered to be more addictive.
Another very common form of cocaine is crack cocaine. This substance was invented in order to make it cheaper and more affordable for low-income individuals who are more vulnerable to drug abuse and addiction. It’s made by dissolving cocaine in water and then mixing it with ammonia or baking soda. The substance then develops into a rock form. During this process, additives like powdered milk, powdered sugar, or more baking soda may be added to make it even cheaper.
In addition to the more common fillers, dealers have been known to cut cocaine with much more dangerous substances in an attempt to make the most profit. For example, it was discovered in 2005 that 2 percent of all the cocaine seized by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was cut with levamisole, a cattle dewormer. This drug used to be used for humans infected with parasitic worms but was found to severely deplete white blood cells. By 2011, 73 percent of all the cocaine tested by the DEA contained levamisole.
Due to the fact that levamisole kills white blood cells, frequent users of cocaine that contains this drug are highly susceptible to infection. In severe cases, individuals can get a dangerous infection from even small cuts and scratches. For those who inject cocaine with needles, this risk is even higher. There have been
several deaths associated with this one additive alone as the victims’ immune systems were completely unable to fight off infection.
Cocaine can be dangerous even in pure form due to its chemical nature and addictive properties. However, added danger comes from the fact that any illicit cocaine bought on the streets is likely to have some kind of additive, and it’s impossible to know what else is in the powder without special equipment. The longer cocaine is taken, the greater the overall risks.