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What is Cocaine? | Chemistry, Use Cases, Dosage & Side Effects

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Cocaine is one of the most commonly abused illicit substances in the world, and its use has had devastating effects on many people’s lives. It’s known for being a dangerous drug that brings nothing but trouble to those who try it, with potentially lethal consequences if not taken seriously.

But what exactly is cocaine and why is it so damaging? In this blog post, we’ll explore cocaine’s origin, chemical makeup, different forms, and administration methods as well as looking at its effect on mental health and physical abilities. 

By understanding more about this powerful drug we can gain valuable knowledge about how best to protect ourselves from potential harm or addiction. So let’s begin by delving deeper into the history of cocaine.

Chemical Composition 

Legal Status 


C17H21NO4 Controlled Schedule II drug PubChem CID: 446220

Cocaine High-Level Fact Sheet

Before we jump into the side effects associated with the use of this stimulant, we will first discuss its chemical composition and whether its use is legal in the United States.   

Cocaine Chemical Composition

Cocaine is a crystalline alkaloid that is derived from the leaves of the coca plant. The chemical formula for cocaine is C17H21NO4. Cocaine is a potent central nervous system stimulant that affects the brain and body in various ways.

The chemical structure of cocaine consists of a tropane ring with a phenethyl group attached to it, as well as a methyl-ethyl ketone group and a carboxyl group. The tropane ring is a nitrogen-containing ring that is characteristic of many alkaloids, and it is responsible for many of the pharmacological effects of cocaine.

Cocaine is usually found in a hydrochloride salt form, which is a white, powdery substance that can be dissolved in water and injected, snorted, or smoked. It can also be processed into a freebase form, which is a more purified version of the drug that can be smoked or inhaled.

Cocaine Legal Status 

Like most stimulants, cocaine comes with a much higher risk of dependency, which is why cocaine is illegal in the United States. It is listed as a Schedule II drug under the Controlled Substances Act, meaning it can only be prescribed by a medical professional for medicinal use.

However, recently in 2022, the state of Oregon decriminalized the personal possession of cocaine.

Cocaine Clinical Data

Cocaine is a powerful and highly addictive stimulant drug that has been used for decades as both a recreational and medicinal substance. It works by increasing the level of dopamine in the brain, which gives users feelings of euphoria and alertness. 

That is why it is commonly sold on the streets for its stimulant effects under many trade names, such as neurocaine, goprelto, numbrino, coke, blow, and crack. Other street names for cocaine include caine, charlie, dust, powder, and white lady. 

Cocaine usually falls into the following drug categories:

  • Central Nervous System Stimulant (CNS)
  • Serotonin–norepinephrine–dopamine reuptake inhibitor (SNDRI)
  • Local Anesthetic

Cocaine Use Cases:


Cocaine has been used for medical purposes since the late 19th century when it was first discovered that cocaine could be extracted from coca leaves. Initially, the drug was used as a local anesthetic for eye and throat surgery, as well as to treat pain in conditions such as neuralgia and migraines. 

However, due to its limited effectiveness and potential for abuse, cocaine is generally not recommended for treating these conditions.

Performance Enhancement:

While cocaine use isn’t considered healthy or safe in any context, many people anecdotally report that it helps them stay awake longer or perform better when they are sleep deprived or feeling fatigued. 

This is due to its stimulant effects, which can make users feel more alert and energetic. For this reason, some athletes have been known to turn to cocaine as a way of improving their performance on the field or track. 

Unfortunately, this practice is highly discouraged by sports organizations due to the numerous risks associated with cocaine use.


Recreational use of cocaine, or “coke,” is a dangerous and addictive illegal drug that has become increasingly popular over the past several decades. When used recreationally, cocaine affects the brain’s dopamine reward system by rapidly increasing the amount of dopamine available in the brain which causes an intense rush of pleasure and energy. 

When used in small amounts, it can produce feelings of alertness, energy, and euphoria. These effects can be appealing to some people, and as a result, cocaine is often used in social settings or at parties. This initial euphoria is usually followed by an unpleasant crash where users feel exhausted and depressed. 

Cocaine dosages by form and strength:

Cocaine is an illicit drug that can be found in different forms, including powder, flakes, and rocks. Depending on the strength of the cocaine, it may be used as a recreational drug or for medical purposes. The dosage of cocaine depends on the form it takes and how strong it is. 

Powder cocaine is typically more potent than other forms, so dosages are lower than with other types. The typical dose for recreational use is between 10-30 milligrams, while medical doses range from 20-60 milligrams. 

For people wanting to use higher doses, they should consult with their doctor first since serious health risks such as seizures and heart problems can occur at higher dosages or even lead to cocaine overdose

Flakes and rocks of cocaine tend to be less potent than powder, so dosages are higher when using these forms. Recreational users typically take 30-50 milligrams per dose while medical users may take up to 80 milligrams depending on their condition and reaction to the drug. 

As with any form of cocaine, doctors should be consulted before taking higher doses of the drug in order to avoid any potential health risks associated with high doses. 

Cocaine Side Effects:

Like any other drug, cocaine use comes with risks such as addiction, overdose, and even death if misused or taken in large amounts. Even short-term use can cause severe physical as well as psychological side effects.

Common Side Effects on  Cocaine:

The most common side effects experienced when using cocaine include:

  • Increased alertness
  • Decreased appetite
  • Dilated pupils
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Nervousness and restlessness
  • Tremors
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness

People may also experience changes in their sense of taste and smell. When taken for a long period of time or in large doses, cocaine use can produce mental disturbances such as 

  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations. 
  • Insomnia or difficulty sleeping
  • Agitation or even aggression

Serious Side Effects of Cocaine

In addition to the more common side effects associated with the use of cocaine, there are more severe risks associated with its use. Prolonged use has been linked to an increased risk of stroke and heart attacks due to the drug’s ability to raise blood pressure. 

Not only can it impair cognitive abilities such as decision-making as well as coordination but it also decreases judgment which may lead to taking other dangerous drugs or engaging in risky behaviors that could have dire consequences. 

Cocaine Long-Term Effects

Long-term effects of cocaine depend on how much is used and how frequently it is taken. Prolonged abuse can cause permanent damage to organs such as the liver and kidneys due to toxicity levels in the body rising over time; it can also damage nasal passages if smoked or snorted and lead to lung damage if injected intravenously.  

Continuous cocaine use alters brain chemistry leading to depression and anxiety as well as increasing an individual’s chance of developing psychosis including paranoia, auditory hallucinations, and impaired judgment. 

Furthermore, addiction is a serious risk with extended abuse; withdrawal symptoms such as extreme fatigue, feelings of despair, and suicidal thoughts are typical when someone stops using after becoming addicted.

Cocaine Addiction: 

The chemical structure of cocaine makes it highly addictive due to its ability to bind to dopamine receptors in the brain, which results in feelings of euphoria and pleasure when taken in large doses. 

Cocaine addiction is a serious mental health disorder that can take over one’s life. It is a progressive disorder, meaning the need for more of the drug increases over time, requiring larger doses and more frequent use in order to get the same pleasurable effect. 

People who suffer from cocaine addiction often build up a tolerance to the drug, making it hard to quit. Cocaine addicts also experience intense cravings when they try to abstain, making it difficult to kick the habit. 

Types of Drug Treatment for  Cocaine Addiction

As with any form of substance abuse disorder, professional treatment is needed in order for someone addicted to cocaine to make a full recovery. The following are possible treatment options for cocaine addiction.

Inpatient Rehab 

It is an intensive form of treatment for cocaine addiction, as it involves an in-depth assessment of the patient’s physical, mental and emotional health. This type of drug treatment typically involves 24/7 medical care and monitoring, individual and group counseling sessions, nutrition education, and occupational therapy. 

During this program, patients receive personalized treatments to help them overcome their cravings for the drug and learn how to live healthier lives without cocaine. Inpatient rehab programs usually last from 30 to 90 days depending upon the severity of the addiction. 

Outpatient Rehab

Outpatient rehab is another type of drug treatment that allows people with cocaine addiction to continue living at home while attending regular counseling sessions at a clinic or center. In outpatient rehab, individuals receive medication-assisted treatments such as buprenorphine or naltrexone as well as psychological therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). 

Outpatient programs are typically more flexible than inpatient programs, allowing patients to work around prior commitments such as work or family responsibilities. They can last from six weeks up to a year depending on the person’s progress in recovering from cocaine dependence. 

Intensive Outpatient Treatment (IOP) 

This is a more intensive version of outpatient drug treatment for those who require more structure than just regular weekly counseling sessions. IOPs involve group counseling two to three times per week plus additional individual sessions with a therapist on a regular basis. The goal of an IOP is to teach individuals how to cope with cravings and develop strategies for avoiding relapse into using drugs again. 

Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP) 

This course of treatment provides an even higher level of care than IOPs by offering full-day therapy several times per week in addition to providing access to medications that can help control cravings for cocaine and other substances. 

PHP participants have access to medical staff throughout their day who monitor their progress and make adjustments accordingly. This type of program is often used for people suffering from severe substance use disorders who may need additional assistance managing their symptoms or need support with setting goals towards recovery from addiction.

Cocaine Withdrawal:  

Cocaine is a powerful stimulant drug that can have significant effects on the body and brain. When an individual becomes dependent on cocaine, they may experience a range of withdrawal symptoms when they stop using the drug.

Cocaine withdrawal symptoms can vary in intensity and duration, but common symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue and increased sleep
  • Depression and other mood changes
  • Increased appetite
  • Vivid and unpleasant dreams
  • Slowed thinking and movement
  • Increased agitation or irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Flu-like symptoms, including muscle aches and pains, fever, and chills

In severe cases, cocaine withdrawal can also lead to more serious symptoms such as seizures or psychosis. It is important for individuals experiencing cocaine withdrawal to seek medical attention and support to manage their symptoms and safely detox from the drug.

Commonly Seen  Cocaine Drug Combinations: 

Cocaine is a powerful stimulant drug that has been abused for recreational purposes, particularly in the party or club scene. One of the most commonly seen combinations of drugs involves cocaine with other substances such as crack, alcohol, marijuana, opioids, benzodiazepines, and amphetamines. This combination of drugs is often referred to as polydrug abuse and can have very serious consequences. 

Another common combination seen is cocaine and adderall which is also a central nervous system stimulant. Adderall is used mainly by those looking for increased focus and energy but when taken alongside Cocaine it can create an even longer-lasting buzz that might lead some users into addiction even quicker than either drug alone could do so on its own. 

Cocaine Facts and Statistics:

Here are five cocaine addiction facts and statistics:

  • Cocaine is a highly addictive substance. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), approximately 21% of individuals who use cocaine will develop an addiction.
  • Cocaine is a leading cause of overdose deaths in the United States. In 2018, more than 14,000 overdose deaths in the US involved cocaine, making it the second most common drug involved in overdose deaths (behind only opioids).
  • Cocaine use can have long-term effects on the brain. Chronic cocaine use can lead to changes in the brain’s reward system and can cause changes in the way the brain processes information and emotions.
  • Treatment for cocaine addiction is effective but underutilized. Research has shown that evidence-based treatment, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, can be effective in helping individuals recover from cocaine addiction. However, only a small percentage of individuals who need treatment for cocaine addiction actually receive it.
  • Cocaine use is more common among certain populations. According to NIDA, men are more likely to use cocaine than women, and use is more common among young adults and individuals with higher income and education levels.
  • According to CDC, ethnic and racial minorities are at a higher risk of cocaine overdose death due to health inequalities.

Cocaine History and Cultural Impact: 

Cocaine has been used for centuries, with archaeological evidence suggesting that it was used as early as 3000 BC in South America. Since then, the use of cocaine has become widespread and its influence can be seen across the world. 

The drug was first isolated in 1860 by German chemist Albert Niemann and its medical uses were explored soon after. Cocaine was initially used to treat a variety of illnesses such as depression, asthma, and even addiction. However, its addictive properties quickly led to a ban on medical use in 1912.

In the 1920s and 30s, cocaine became popular among celebrities and wealthy elites as it was seen as an exotic way to show wealth and social status. It wasn’t long before the recreational use of cocaine spread throughout the United States, particularly among jazz musicians and performers. 

The 1980s saw a huge increase in cocaine trafficking from South American countries such as Colombia, leading to increased availability on the street market. This sparked an epidemic of cocaine use which caused numerous deaths due to overdoses or gang-related violence connected to the drug trade. 

In response to this epidemic, governments around the world began implementing stricter laws against drug trafficking and possession of illegal drugs. In 1988 an international treaty known as the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances was signed by over 180 countries in an effort to reduce drug production and usage worldwide. 

Cocaine has had a significant impact on popular culture over the years with countless books, films, songs, and other art forms depicting the dark side of its usage. In movies, cocaine has been depicted in a range of contexts, from party scenes to more serious portrayals of drug use and addiction. Some examples of movies that have featured cocaine include “Scarface,” “Trainspotting,” “The Wolf of The Wall Street” and “Blow.”

As well as being a major issue in the 20th century, cocaine continues to be an issue today with more than 14 million people estimated to have used it at least once in 2019. 

Although there are many initiatives aimed at tackling this problem such as prevention campaigns targeted at young people or rehabilitation programs for those seeking help with addiction, there is still much work that needs to be done if we are going to effectively reduce its impact on society.

Cocaine Identifiers 

Here is a list of identifiers you can use to gain information about the drug safety and standards of Cocaine.

Identifier Name Identifier ID
CAS Number 50-36-2
PubChem CID 446220
DrugBank DB00907
ChemSpider 10194104
KEGG D00110
CHEBI 27958
ChEMBL 370805

Bottom Line:  Cocaine in the United States 

Cocaine is a leading cause of overdose deaths in the United States, and the use of the drug can also lead to other negative outcomes, such as the increased risk of infectious diseases like HIV and hepatitis, financial and legal problems, and social and relationship issues.

Despite the risks and consequences associated with cocaine use, the drug remains popular in the United States, particularly among certain populations, such as young adults and individuals with higher income and education levels.

Effective treatment is available for individuals struggling with cocaine addiction, but unfortunately, many people who need treatment do not receive it. Addressing the issue of cocaine use in the United States will require a multifaceted approach that includes prevention, treatment, and efforts to reduce the availability and attractiveness of the drug.


Warren Phillips

Warren is a Licensed Master Social Worker, who specializes in substance abuse and mental health treatment. Clinically, Warren has developed a therapeutic skillset that utilizes a strengths-based perspective, Twelve Step philosophies, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Motivational Interviewing.

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Located on the historic peninsula of Charleston, South Carolina, Lantana Recovery takes a modern approach to Substance Use Disorder treatment, offering intensive clinical care while also immersing our clients in local Charleston culture.