What Is Cocaine Cut/Laced With?

Cocaine comes from the coca plant, native to Central and South America. When the drug is first extracted from the coca leaves, the manufactured product is estimated to be between 90%–100% pure cocaine. But as dealers move the drug to other countries like the United States, it is often cut and diluted a number of times before it actually ends up in the hands of the user.

While some fillers and additives are harmless, many can cause health problems and put users at risk of potentially lethal side effects. Read on to learn more about the dangers of using cocaine that has been adulterated with other substances.

Common Cocaine Cutting Agents & Additives

The process of turning the coca plant into cocaine requires the use of certain substances, including gasoline and other solvents. Dealers also often use cocaine fillers and cutting agents—some of which can be extra dangerous for people who use cocaine. These cocaine adulterants include:

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

Why Do People Cut Cocaine?

Many drug cartels will cut cocaine with additives and fillers in order to increase their profit margins. The most common cocaine additives are typically cheaper (and sometimes more harmful) than the original substance and appear similar in color and texture, so they are easily mixed into the product without the user knowing.

Estimates of the purity of cocaine that is bought on the street may range from 20% to 65% pure.

Fentanyl-Laced Cocaine

Because illicit fentanyl is relatively inexpensive for cartels to produce and distribute, it is increasingly being cut into cocaine and other drugs. The combination of fentanyl and cocaine is especially dangerous.

Fentanyl is about 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. Just 2 mg, equivalent to a few grains of salt, is considered a lethal amount. This poses a serious risk of overdose and death to anyone using any type of illicit drug that could be laced with fentanyl, including cocaine.

Drug dealers use fentanyl as a cocaine cutting agent because of its extremely powerful effects and low cost. Many people who use cocaine laced with fentanyl may not realize it contains this added substance and could accidentally take too much.

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, but the different substances that are cut into cocaine can make it even more dangerous.

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 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 benign, while 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 risky. 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 risk of overdose is also significantly increased. Other long-term risks include an increased chance of developing 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 this drug was found in up to 70% 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?

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 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.

Additionally, mixing cocaine with other drugs, also known as polydrug use, can affect the length it stays in a person’s system.

Worrying about how long cocaine stays in your system may mean you have a problem. If you’ve found yourself unable to control your cocaine use, you may need treatment for cocaine addiction. 

Get Help for Cocaine Addiction at Laguna Treatment Center

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.

For more information about our facility and programs, such as 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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