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Cocaine Identification

Recovery Centers of America

Authored by Recovery Centers of America

The Things You Need To Know About Cocaine

The roots of substance use in our culture have grown stronger than some people realize. It’s so casually shown in the media, while at the same time being frowned upon and warned of in other settings like school. 

However, I can still remember, some of my classmates in elementary school crushing up Smarties and snorting them. We were maybe a decade old at most, and yet we already knew what snorting was and the general appearance of drugs like cocaine. 

Could you identify cocaine if it was put in front of you right now? How can you tell the difference between it and other things like heroin or even just baking powder? If your loved one started to show signs of cocaine use, would you know that’s what it was?

Education is a powerful tool. We don’t know what we don’t know. When you don’t know how to tell cocaine apart from something else, you could accidentally accuse someone of something that isn’t happening. You could even hurt yourself in the process of trying to discover what it is. If your loved one starts showing signs of substance use and you don’t know how to spot those signs, you could make the situation worse without realizing it.

Here at Recovery Centers of America, we’ve heard more stories than you can count about substance use, how it’s impacted people, how they found out, and more. There are so many unique people out there with their own experiences that lead them to us. It’s not uncommon for large, cataclysmic events to be the trigger for recovery, but we want to help people at all stages. We don’t want them to feel like they need to wait until it reaches the breaking point.

Today we’re going to talk about cocaine identification as well as the steps you or a loved one can take to work toward recovery. 

When Does Cocaine Use Become Cocaine Addiction?

Addiction is more complex than most people think. It’s not cut and dry and it doesn’t look the same from person to person. While there isn’t a singular recipe that guarantees the development of addiction, (commonly referred to as a substance use disorder or SUD), many factors have been shown to be frequent contributors.

Have you ever had a habit you wanted to break? Let’s look at nail biting, as an example. Research shows that nearly 25% of the population bites their fingernails, or has done it at least once in their lifetime. Maybe you’re one of those people. As a kid, I remember one of my friends’ parents putting lemon juice on her nails to help discourage the habit. My parents never tried to stop me, but I remember eventually thinking, “This is bad and I should stop.” I never knew why it was bad, nor did I understand why I did it, and I wasn’t able to stop until well into adulthood.

Even now, I still bite my nails sometimes. When I do, it’s usually because of high-stress situations or periods of high anxiety in my life. Looking back, I can see that the way to “stop” the habit of nail-biting would’ve been more effective if the source of that behavior was found and treated instead of just trying to stop the habit itself.

This is not too unlike how SUDs occur. There’s usually a source, or more than one, besides simply “substance use.” Some common factors include family history, untreated mental health conditions, trauma, stress, domestic violence, loneliness, and more. Substance use can become a way to escape or manage symptoms of things like stress and mental health. From there, “addiction” can start to develop as repeated use of the substance can lead to withdrawal and dependence.

How Can You Tell if a Loved One Is Addicted to Cocaine?

SUDs don’t always make themselves known in obvious ways. They can range from physical side effects to behavioral and personality changes. 

Some of the physical side effects you might notice include:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Frequent nose bleeds or runny nose
  • A new or worsening cough
  • Scarring
  • Respiratory distress
  • New or worsening depression
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia and disturbed dreams

Unfortunately, not all of these physical changes are always easy to pinpoint. The behavioral changes might be more of a tip-off, especially in combination with physical changes. Oftentimes, people who are managing an SUD will start to withdraw from activities they used to enjoy, become more defensive or reclusive, and have difficulties with loved ones or work. 

On their end, they’re spending most of their time thinking about or acting upon urges to use substances. A large chunk of their day their mind might drift back to it, or they’ll spend most of their time under the influence or recovering from substance use. Additionally, they might have a hard time cutting back or stopping use, even if they want to, or they’re finding they need to take more than usual in order to feel the same effects. All of these are common signs of an SUD.

Street Names for Cocaine

While street names for substances can vary from location to location, year to year, here are some common colloquial names that people use when referring to cocaine:

  • Crack
  • Blow
  • Charlie
  • Coke
  • Snow
  • Crank

How Can You Identify Cocaine?

You are rummaging through your bedside drawer looking for something when you notice a ziploc bag with a powder inside of it. Why would this be here? What is this powder? Is your loved one doing drugs?

If you find a strange substance hiding in your house or in the possession of a loved one, how can you tell what it is? You might have the thought of investigating it further, by smelling it or tasting it, but this is rarely recommended. In the case of cocaine, both sniffing and oral ingestion are common ways to take the substance, so doing either to determine what it is would mean ingesting some yourself. 

With that in mind, let’s talk about some of the visual cues for cocaine.

What Are the Different Forms of Cocaine?

The most common form of cocaine is a white or off-white powder. It is not uncommon for it to be cut with other substances like corn starch, flour, baking soda, or even talcum powder so that dealers can make a bigger profit. Additionally, the lacing of fentanyl within substances like cocaine has been on the rise as well. With the inability to know exactly what is within the substance they’re buying and taking, there are always additional risks with cocaine use. Fentanyl, especially when taken unknowingly, can lead to an increased risk of overdose. Additionally, when cocaine is taken via injection, things like flour and cornstarch in your veins can lead to their own concerns, too.

Cocaine is often taken in one of four ways: rubbing it on the gums, snorting it, smoking it, or injecting it directly into the bloodstream. When it is smoked, it is usually turned into a crystal or rock form and then heated up in order to inhale the vapors. This is referred to as “crack cocaine.”

Where Does Cocaine Come From?

Cocaine is a stimulant derived from the leaves of the coca plant, which is native to South America. While there are actually medical uses for cocaine, such as local anesthesia, there is no form of recreational use that is legal in the United States.

Withdrawal and Overdose Signs for Cocaine Use

Substance use always comes with risks. As is often said across many health sites, there is no safe level of substance use. The two things you should know how to keep an eye out for are signs of overdose or withdrawal.

Withdrawal is the body’s way of trying to adjust to not having a substance within it. Altering substances like cocaine impact the way the body functions. The more regularly it’s in your system, the more likely the body will make space for that substance. That doesn’t mean that the use of the substance becomes any safer, it simply means that when you stop taking it, the body will have to try to readjust to the gap left by the substance use. The side effects that occur because of this are known as withdrawal. 

One of the ways people react to cocaine withdrawal and its side effects is often by simply taking more of the substance. This is one of the many contributing factors of an overdose. 

An overdose occurs when too much of a given substance is in the body at a time. Things like cocaine, heroin, and even alcohol are inherently toxic to the body. The way it processes them is through the liver, but it can only handle so much at a time. If you continue to add more substances into your body, or you accidentally take a higher dose than intended, you could end up overwhelming the body, leading to an overdose.

You cannot be legally prosecuted for seeking medical help for an overdose in the state of Indiana due to the Good Samaritan law. If you notice these signs in your loved one, seek medical help. 

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Slurred words and confusion
  • High body temperature
  • Hallucinations
  • Extreme anxiety or agitation
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Seizures
  • Stoke
  • Heart attacks

Getting Treatment for Cocaine Use Disorder

Wanting to start on a new path in life isn’t easy. Change is scary, and sometimes the breaking points we reach in order to start that change can be just as terrifying, but you’re not alone.

The goal of proper substance recovery is to build a strong foundation for long-term success. The road isn’t always straight, and hiccups and upsets aren’t uncommon, but that doesn’t mean you’ve failed. 

Whether you’re looking to start your journey for the first time, or you’re wanting to try recovery again, Recovery Centers of America here in Indianapolis is here to help. We believe in establishing a strong foundation for recovery through our Pathways Program, as well as offering ongoing support even after you leave our doors. We want to see you succeed.

Our Pathways Program is split into three groups, one for first-time recovery clients, one for return or relapse recovery, and one for clients with co-occurring disorders. Finding the source or sources of recovery starts with knowing what you’re addressing, that’s why the three different paths are so important. We want to help clients in a way that suits their needs best. 

If you want to get started on your cocaine recovery journey, RCA is here to help. We offer everything from detox to inpatient and outpatient programs, as well as other support services such as nutrition and family therapy. Our team is ready to get you started 24/7 and our phone lines are always open. Don’t hesitate to give us a call today at 855-917-3268.


What is cocaine?

Cocaine is a form of stimulant drug that is derived from the leaves of the coca plant.

Where does cocaine come from?

Cocaine originally was derived from the leaves of the coca plant, which is native to South America.

Authored by

Recovery Centers of America

Recovery Centers of America



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