What Is Cocaine Cut With and How to Recognize Laced Cocaine

In order to increase profit margins, many drug cartels will cut cocaine with additives and fillers. Estimates of the purity of the cocaine that is typically bought on the street range from 20 percent to 65 percent pure. While some fillers and additives are benign, many can cause health problems and put users at risk of potentially lethal side effects.

What Are Common Substances Used to Cut Cocaine?

Cocaine comes from the coca plant, native to Central and South America. South American countries are the biggest sources of cocaine. In the laboratories in these countries, where cocaine is extracted from the leaves of the coca plant, the product that is produced is estimated to be between 90-100 percent pure cocaine. The process of turning the plant into cocaine requires the use of certain substances, including gasoline and other solvents.

When the drug is moved to the United States, it is often cut and diluted a number of times before it actually ends up in the hands of the user. Dealers will use cocaine fillers — a range of both licit and illegal substances — some of which can be dangerous for people who use cocaine. These include:

  • Household goods, including flour, baking soda, and talcum powder.
  • Boric acid.
  • Levamisole.
  • Anesthetics such as procaine and lidocaine.
  • Illicit drugs, including heroin, MDMA, methamphetamine, and fentanyl.

Crack cocaine is a type of cocaine with a much shorter but more intense effect. Individuals producing crack dissolve cocaine in a solution of water and baking soda or ammonia. These ingredients are cooked until they turn into a solid substance. The substance is dried and broken into pieces, and then smoked by users. Smoking drugs results in their effects being experienced more intensely and much quickly than snorting or taking drugs orally. The DEA estimates that crack cocaine may be between 75 percent and 90 percent pure as a result of this process.

Fentanyl Laced Cocaine

Because illicit fentanyl is relatively inexpensive for cartels to produce and distribute, it is more frequently being cut into cocaine. The combination of fentanyl and cocaine is especially dangerous. There has been a recent uptick in the number of cocaine-related overdoses and overdose deaths, largely attributable to cocaine cut with fentanyl. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports synthetic opioid-laced cocaine accounted for approximately 15,000 overdoses in 2020.

How to Recognize Cut Cocaine

On its own, cocaine is a powerful stimulant drug that can lead to significant health risks, including overdose. The different substances that are cut into cocaine can make it even more dangerous — especially for individuals who have not built up a tolerance to opioids. This is why it can be important to know how to tell if your cocaine is cut.

While there is no definitive way to determine what substances are in cut cocaine, people can test for certain drugs — particularly fentanyl — in order to reduce the risk of unintentionally ingesting substances that might cause serious harm.

Drug Testing Kits

To help reduce the risk of overdose through exposure to drugs that are cut into cocaine, drug testing kits can help. Fentanyl testing strips were originally developed for use in urinalysis drug screening. They have been shown to be effective at testing cocaine for fentanyl. These kits can often be found at local heath department centers, needle exchange programs, or other community outreach programs. 

How Additives and Fillers in Cocaine Impact the Body

One of the primarily problems with using illicit drugs like cocaine is there are no standards, inspections, or sanctions for individuals who cut them with potentially dangerous substances. Some of the cocaine cutting agents that are found in the drug are relatively harmless, and others can be seriously harmful. The most dangerous additives found in cocaine include:

Amphetamine and methamphetamine. These drugs mimic the stimulant action of cocaine, and cutting cocaine with amphetamine drugs is particularly dangerous. The potential for the development of seizures, heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular issues is increased when cocaine is cut with these substances. In addition, the potential for overdose is also significantly increased. Additionally, there are other long-term risks including the increased potential for the development of neurological condition such as Parkinson’s disease.

Boric acid. This substance is used as an antiseptic, flame retardant, and insecticide. Chronic use can result in kidney damage, and in large quantities, it can be lethal.

Levamisole. Levamisole is a drug used to treat cattle with parasitic worms. At one time, it was even considered for this use in humans; however, there were too many potential health complications. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported that in 2009 this drug was found in up to 70 percent of cocaine samples. Levamisole can cause agranulocytosis, a condition that weakens the immune system and increases the risk of developing infections from even small cuts. These infections can result in potentially life-threatening conditions, such as sepsis and MRSA.

How Long Does Cocaine Stay in the System?

individual meeting with doctor to test for traces of cocaine in his system

The half-life of cocaine is relatively short and may be an hour or less. Cocaine is eliminated from the system very quickly and may only be detectable in the urine for a few days, depending on how much cocaine an individual uses. However, substances that that are formed in the system to metabolize cocaine known as metabolites may be detectable for quite some time after using cocaine – in some cases, up to 10 days or even longer.

The more cocaine someone uses, the longer the drug will remain in the system. Other types of analyses, such as hair analysis, may be able to detect levels of cocaine in the system for 90 days or more. Depending on one’s usage, the peak levels of concentration of cocaine in a person’s saliva and sweat may be 5-24 hours.

Get Help for Cocaine Addiction At Laguna Treatment Hospital

If you or someone you love is using cocaine or cocaine cut with other substances, it may be time to get help. At our inpatient drug rehab in Orange County, we provide whole person addiction-focused healthcare to help you find meaningful recovery from substance use disorders. We offer different levels of addiction care, including inpatient residential treatment and a medical detox program.

If you are interested in learning more information about our facility, how to start addiction treatment, or what to expect in inpatient rehab, please contact our caring admissions navigators at . They can also answer your questions about using your insurance to pay for rehab or other rehab payment options.

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We are here to help you get sober and learn how to stay that way. Laguna Treatment Hospital is located in Orange County within easy reach of the entire Los Angeles metro. We are the premier chemical dependency recovery hospital in the OC. We offer safe medical detox, mental health support, and wellness programs.