The white crystalline powdered variant of the cocaine known as the cocaine hydrochloride is the most commonly used cocaine in the UK. Most often the pure cocaine is adulterated with substances such as glucose or creatine, baking soda, talcum power, flour or other anesthetics like lidocaine. Generally, cocaine is supplied in vials, packets or wraps from plastic, aluminium foil or paper.
The methods of such cocaine intake in the western countries most commonly include insufflations that is, the process of sniffing or snorting through the nasal passage whereby the cocaine enters the body through the mucous membranes. The cocaine hydrochloride is water soluble and therefore, any part that is not absorbed while being trapped in the mucous also finds its way through the body system by being swallowed easily.
You might have seen the white lines of this substance called rails or bumps on the hard surfaces like toilet seats or mirrors that form when the substance is sliced and chopped with sharp razors and then snored through the tubes called tooters. Many things that are available on the occasion such as rolled currency notes, drinking straws, casings of the ball pen and even long fingernails can serve as the tooters. The silver drinking straws that are commonly used for the celebrity parties in London to avoid the lipstick from coming off to the drinking glasses also serve as the designer tooters when the need arises. The cocaine users also tamp the residue onto their fingers and rub onto their gums for more numbing effect as the cocaine also serves as a very powerful anesthetic.
The hydrochloride salts are a form of cocaine known as the freebase. Freebase is refined through a very complicated and dangerous process that involves highly explosive chemicals like ether. Freebase can only be smoked as it is insoluble in the water and therefore, cannot be inhaled, snored or injected.
Ready to use freebase is known as crack cocaine as it makes a cracking noise when heated for smoking. Ready-to-use freebase is produced by heating the mixture of cocaine powder, water, ammonia and sodium bicarbonate. The finished product when cooled is pellets of small hard rocks ranging from creamy white to beige in color according to the purity and preparation of the cocaine. The product is then sold in small quantities of plastic bags or vials that contain enough cocaine for up to three inhalations. Freebase or crack cocaine is inhaled through the glass tube pipe with a mesh or copper / steel wool attached to the bottom. Even the soft drink cans with pierced base also serve as the use and throw smoking devices. The cocaine is heated with a flame, and the vapor is inhaled by the user. The cocaine can also be used in silver foils.
Cocaine reaches the brain within a matter of seconds as it enters the blood stream through the lungs when freebase or crack cocaine is inhaled and thus produce a rapid rush and subsequent high.
When the cocaine is taken by injection, it reaches the brain very quickly, almost within seconds. The powder is dissolved into the water, and the mixture is directly injected into the blood stream. It is also very popular among the addicted people to inject the cocktail of heroin and cocaine called the speedball. This makes a highly dangerous cocktail and many people, including celebrities like John Belushi and River Phoenix are implicated to have died due to this combination. During the smoking process, some of the vapors escape while others might not release due to under heating of the crystals and therefore, less potent than direct injection. On the other hand, in case of injecting the entire amount of cocaine enters into the blood stream.
Even though it’s not a common practice in the western countries, but cocaine can also be taken orally. However, besides the intake of cocaine through the gum-line, some addicted people swallow the powder along with the paper wrapper called the snow bomb, and it is potentially the highest harmful cocaine usage. Traditionally still the indigenous people in the Andes chew the leaves and use coca tea to fight altitude sickness and relieve hunger. During the nineteenth century, the popular drink Coca-Cola was christened so because it contained liquid extracts of coca leaves and Kola nut that really contained cocaine. Still today, the Coca-Cola the non-narcotic extracts of the traditional coca leaves.
This post has been updated since its original publication in 2014.
Photo Credit: DEA, Public Domain