For other uses, see Cocaine (disambiguation).
|Trade names||Neurocaine, Goprelto, Numbrino, others|
|Other names||Benzoylmethylecgonine, coke, blow, crack (in freebase form)|
|Routes of administration||Topical, by mouth, insufflation, intravenous|
|Metabolites||Norcocaine, benzoylecgonine, cocaethylene|
|Onset of action||seconds to minutes|
|Duration of action||5 to 90 minutes|
|CompTox Dashboard (EPA)|
|Chemical and physical data|
|Molar mass||303.353 g·mol|
|3D model (JSmol)|
|Melting point||98 °C (208 °F)|
|Boiling point||187 °C (369 °F)|
|Solubility in water||≈1.8|
Effects begin within seconds to minutes of use and last between five and ninety minutes.
Cocaine has a small number of accepted medical uses, such as numbing and decreasing bleeding during nasal surgery.
After a short period of use, there is a high risk that dependence will occur.
Following repeated doses a person may have decreased ability to feel pleasure and be very physically tired.
Cocaine acts by inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine.
This results in greater concentrations of these three neurotransmitters in the brain.
It can easily cross the blood–brain barrier and may lead to the breakdown of the barrier.
In 2013, 419 kilograms were produced legally.
It is estimated that the illegal market for cocaine is 100 to US$500 billion each year.
With further processing, crack cocaine can be produced from cocaine.
Between 14 and 21 million people use the drug each year.
Use is highest in North America followed by Europe and South America.
Between one and three percent of people in the developed world have used cocaine at some point in their life.
In 2013, cocaine use directly resulted in 4,300 deaths, up from 2,400 in 1990.
It is named after the coca plant from which it is isolated.
The plant's leaves have been used by Peruvians since ancient times.
Cocaine was first isolated from the leaves in 1860.
Main article: Cocaine intoxication
With excessive or prolonged use, the drug can cause itching, fast heart rate, hallucinations, and paranoid delusions or sensations of insects crawling on the skin.
Anxiety, paranoia, and restlessness can also occur, especially during the comedown.
With excessive dosage, tremors, convulsions and increased body temperature are observed.
Severe cardiac adverse events, particularly sudden cardiac death, become a serious risk at high doses due to cocaine's blocking effect on cardiac sodium channels.
Chronic cocaine intake causes strong imbalances of transmitter levels in order to compensate extremes.
Thus, receptors disappear from the cell surface or reappear on it, resulting more or less in an "off" or "working mode" respectively, or they change their susceptibility for binding partners (ligands) – mechanisms called downregulation and upregulation.
Possible side effects include insatiable hunger, aches, insomnia/oversleeping, lethargy, and persistent runny nose.
Depression with suicidal ideation may develop in very heavy users.
Finally, a loss of vesicular monoamine transporters, neurofilament proteins, and other morphological changes appear to indicate a long term damage of dopamine neurons.
All these effects contribute a rise in tolerance thus requiring a larger dosage to achieve the same effect.
The lack of normal amounts of serotonin and dopamine in the brain is the cause of the dysphoria and depression felt after the initial high.
Physical withdrawal is not dangerous.
Physiological changes caused by cocaine withdrawal include vivid and unpleasant dreams, insomnia or hypersomnia, increased appetite and psychomotor retardation or agitation.
Physical side effects from chronic smoking of cocaine include coughing up blood, bronchospasm, itching, fever, diffuse alveolar infiltrates without effusions, pulmonary and systemic eosinophilia, chest pain, lung trauma, sore throat, asthma, hoarse voice, dyspnea (shortness of breath), and an aching, flu-like syndrome.
It can also cause headaches and gastrointestinal complications such as abdominal pain and nausea.
Additionally, stimulants like cocaine, methamphetamine, and even caffeine cause dehydration and dry mouth.
Since saliva is an important mechanism in maintaining one's oral pH level, chronic stimulant abusers who do not hydrate sufficiently may experience demineralization of their teeth due to the pH of the tooth surface dropping too low (below 5.5).
Cocaine use also promotes the formation of blood clots.
This increase in blood clot formation is attributed to cocaine-associated increases in the activity of plasminogen activator inhibitor, and an increase in the number, activation, and aggregation of platelets.
Due to the absorption of the cocaine from cocaine hydrochloride, the remaining hydrochloride forms a dilute hydrochloric acid.
Cocaine may also greatly increase the risk of developing rare autoimmune or connective tissue diseases such as lupus, Goodpasture syndrome, vasculitis, glomerulonephritis, Stevens–Johnson syndrome, and other diseases.
It can also cause a wide array of kidney diseases and kidney failure.
Cocaine use leads to an increased risk of hemorrhagic and ischemic strokes.
Cocaine use also increases the risk of having a heart attack.
See also: Epigenetics of cocaine addiction
ΔFosB levels have been found to increase upon the use of cocaine.
Each subsequent dose of cocaine continues to increase ΔFosB levels with no ceiling of tolerance.
Elevated levels of ΔFosB leads to increases in brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels, which in turn increases the number of dendritic branches and spines present on neurons involved with the nucleus accumbens and prefrontal cortex areas of the brain.
This change can be identified rather quickly, and may be sustained weeks after the last dose of the drug.
They self-administer cocaine at lower doses than control, but have a greater likelihood of relapse when the drug is withheld.
Dependence and withdrawal
Cocaine is known to have a number of deleterious effects during pregnancy.
Pregnant people who use cocaine have an elevated risk of placental abruption, a condition where the placenta detaches from the uterus and causes bleeding.
Cocaine is also teratogenic, meaning that it can cause birth defects and fetal malformations.
In-utero exposure to cocaine is associated with behavioral abnormalities, cognitive impairment, cardiovascular malformations, intrauterine growth restriction, preterm birth, urinary tract malformations, and cleft lip and palate.
The pharmacodynamics of cocaine involve the complex relationships of neurotransmitters (inhibiting monoamine uptake in rats with ratios of about: serotonin:dopamine = 2:3, serotonin:norepinephrine = 2:5).
Dopamine transmitter released during neural signaling is normally recycled via the transporter; i.e., the transporter binds the transmitter and pumps it out of the synaptic cleft back into the presynaptic neuron, where it is taken up into storage vesicles.
Cocaine binds tightly at the dopamine transporter forming a complex that blocks the transporter's function.
The overabundance of 5-HT3 receptors in cocaine conditioned rats display this trait, however the exact effect of 5-HT3 in this process is unclear.
Cocaine has been demonstrated to bind as to directly stabilize the DAT transporter on the open outward-facing conformation.
Cocaine's binding properties are such that it attaches so this hydrogen bond will not form and is blocked from formation due to the tightly locked orientation of the cocaine molecule.
Research studies have suggested that the affinity for the transporter is not what is involved in habituation of the substance so much as the conformation and binding properties to where and how on the transporter the molecule binds.
Sigma receptors are affected by cocaine, as cocaine functions as a sigma ligand agonist.
Further specific receptors it has been demonstrated to function on are NMDA and the D1 dopamine receptor.
It also functions on the binding sites to the dopamine and serotonin sodium dependent transport area as targets as separate mechanisms from its reuptake of those transporters; unique to its local anesthetic value which makes it in a class of functionality different from both its own derived phenyltropanes analogues which have that removed.
In addition to this cocaine has some target binding to the site of the Kappa-opioid receptor as well.
Cocaine also causes vasoconstriction, thus reducing bleeding during minor surgical procedures.
The locomotor enhancing properties of cocaine may be attributable to its enhancement of dopaminergic transmission from the substantia nigra.
Recent research points to an important role of circadian mechanisms and clock genes in behavioral actions of cocaine.
Cocaine effects, further, are shown to be potentiated for the user when used in conjunction with new surroundings and stimuli, and otherwise novel environs.
The metabolism is dominated by hydrolytic ester cleavage, so the eliminated metabolites consist mostly of benzoylecgonine (BE), the major metabolite, and other significant metabolites in lesser amounts such as ecgonine methyl ester (EME) and ecgonine.
Benzoylecgonine can be detected in urine within four hours after cocaine intake and remains detectable in concentrations greater than 150 ng/mL typically for up to eight days after cocaine is used.
Detection of cocaine metabolites in hair is possible in regular users until the sections of hair grown during use are cut or fall out.
Cocaine in its purest form is a white, pearly product.
It will generally range from white to a yellowish cream to a light brown.
Its texture will also depend on the adulterants, origin and processing of the powdered cocaine, and the method of converting the base.
It ranges from a crumbly texture, sometimes extremely oily, to a hard, almost crystalline nature.
Cocaine – a tropane alkaloid – is a weakly alkaline compound, and can therefore combine with acidic compounds to form salts.
Different salts dissolve to a greater or lesser extent in various solvents – the hydrochloride salt is polar in character and is quite soluble in water.
Main article: Freebase (chemistry)
It is practically insoluble in water whereas hydrochloride salt is water-soluble.
Smoking freebase cocaine has the additional effect of releasing methylecgonidine into the user's system due to the pyrolysis of the substance (a side effect which insufflating or injecting powder cocaine does not create).
Some research suggests that smoking freebase cocaine can be even more cardiotoxic than other routes of administration because of methylecgonidine's effects on lung tissue and liver tissue.
Pure cocaine is prepared by neutralizing its compounding salt with an alkaline solution, which will precipitate to non-polar basic cocaine.
It is further refined through aqueous-solvent liquid–liquid extraction.
Coca leaf infusions
Ornithine then undergoes a pyridoxal phosphate-dependent decarboxylation to form putrescine.
In animals, however, the urea cycle derives putrescine from ornithine.
L-ornithine is converted to L-arginine, which is then decarboxylated via PLP to form agmatine.
Hydrolysis of the imine derives N-carbamoylputrescine followed with hydrolysis of the urea to form putrescine.
The separate pathways of converting ornithine to putrescine in plants and animals have converged.
A SAM-dependent N-methylation of putrescine gives the N-methylputrescine product, which then undergoes oxidative deamination by the action of diamine oxidase to yield the aminoaldehyde.
Schiff base formation confirms the biosynthesis of the N-methyl-Δ-pyrrolinium cation.
Robert Robinson's acetonedicarboxylate
The biosynthesis of the tropane alkaloid, however, is still uncertain.
Hemscheidt proposes that Robinson's acetonedicarboxylate emerges as a potential intermediate for this reaction.
Condensation of N-methylpyrrolinium and acetonedicarboxylate would generate the oxobutyrate.
Decarboxylation leads to tropane alkaloid formation.
Reduction of tropinone
The reduction of tropinone is mediated by NADPH-dependent reductase enzymes, which have been characterized in multiple plant species.
These plant species all contain two types of the reductase enzymes, tropinone reductase I and tropinone reductase II.
TRI produces tropine and TRII produces pseudotropine.
Due to differing kinetic and pH/activity characteristics of the enzymes and by the 25-fold higher activity of TRI over TRII, the majority of the tropinone reduction is from TRI to form tropine.
Detection in body fluids
Cocaine and its major metabolites may be quantified in blood, plasma, or urine to monitor for abuse, confirm a diagnosis of poisoning, or assist in the forensic investigation of a traffic or other criminal violation or a sudden death.
Most commercial cocaine immunoassay screening tests cross-react appreciably with the major cocaine metabolites, but chromatographic techniques can easily distinguish and separately measure each of these substances.
When interpreting the results of a test, it is important to consider the cocaine usage history of the individual, since a chronic user can develop tolerance to doses that would incapacitate a cocaine-naive individual, and the chronic user often has high baseline values of the metabolites in his system.
Cautious interpretation of testing results may allow a distinction between passive or active usage, and between smoking versus other routes of administration.
In 2011, researchers at John Jay College of Criminal Justice reported that dietary zinc supplements can mask the presence of cocaine and other drugs in urine.
Similar claims have been made in web forums on that topic.
Cocaine may be detected by law enforcement using the Scott reagent.
The test can easily generate false positives for common substances and must be confirmed with a laboratory test.
Approximate cocaine purity can be determined using 1 mL 2% cupric sulfate pentahydrate in dilute HCl, 1 mL 2% potassium thiocyanate and 2 mL of chloroform.
The shade of brown shown by the chloroform is proportional to the cocaine content.
This test is not cross sensitive to heroin, methamphetamine, benzocaine, procaine and a number of other drugs but other chemicals could cause false positives.
Main article: List of countries by prevalence of cocaine use
|Amphetamine- type stimulants||34.16||13.42||55.24|
According to a 2016 United Nations report, England and Wales are the countries with the highest rate of cocaine usage (2.4% of adults in the previous year).
Other countries where the usage rate meets or exceeds 1.5% are Spain and Scotland (2.2%), the United States (2.1%), Australia (2.1%), Uruguay (1.8%), Brazil (1.75%), Chile (1.73%), the Netherlands (1.5%) and Ireland (1.5%).
Cocaine is the second most popular illegal recreational drug in Europe (behind cannabis).
Since the mid-1990s, overall cocaine usage in Europe has been on the rise, but usage rates and attitudes tend to vary between countries.
European countries with the highest usage rates are the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, and the Republic of Ireland.
Approximately 17 million Europeans (5.1%) have used cocaine at least once and 3.5 million (1.1%) in the last year.
About 1.9% (2.3 million) of young adults (15–34 years old) have used cocaine in the last year (latest data available as of 2018).
Usage is particularly prevalent among this demographic: 4% to 7% of males have used cocaine in the last year in Spain, Denmark, Republic of Ireland, Italy, and the United Kingdom.
The ratio of male to female users is approximately 3.8:1, but this statistic varies from 1:1 to 13:1 depending on country.
In 2014 London had the highest amount of cocaine in its sewage out of 50 European cities.
Main article: Cocaine in the United States
Cocaine is the second most popular illegal recreational drug in the United States (behind cannabis) and the U.S. is the world's largest consumer of cocaine.
Cocaine is commonly used in middle to upper-class communities and is known as a "rich man's drug".
It is also popular amongst college students, as a party drug.
A study throughout the entire United States has reported that around 48 percent of people who graduated from high school in 1979 have used cocaine recreationally during some point in their lifetime, compared to approximately 20 percent of students who graduated between the years of 1980 and 1995.
Its users span over different ages, races, and professions.
The coca leaf was, and still is, chewed almost universally by some indigenous communities.
The remains of coca leaves have been found with ancient Peruvian mummies, and pottery from the time period depicts humans with bulged cheeks, indicating the presence of something on which they are chewing.
There is also evidence that these cultures used a mixture of coca leaves and saliva as an anesthetic for the performance of trepanation.
But after discovering that these claims were true, they legalized and taxed the leaf, taking 10% off the value of each crop.
In 1569, Spanish botanist Nicolás Monardes described the indigenous peoples' practice of chewing a mixture of tobacco and coca leaves to induce "great contentment":
Isolation and naming
Although the stimulant and hunger-suppressant properties of coca had been known for many centuries, the isolation of the cocaine alkaloid was not achieved until 1855.
Various European scientists had attempted to isolate cocaine, but none had been successful for two reasons: the knowledge of chemistry required was insufficient at the time, and contemporary conditions of sea-shipping from South America could degrade the cocaine in the plant samples available to European chemists.
The cocaine alkaloid was first isolated by the German chemist Friedrich Gaedcke in 1855.
Gaedcke named the alkaloid "erythroxyline", and published a description in the journal Archiv der Pharmazie.
In 1856, Friedrich Wöhler asked Dr. Carl Scherzer, a scientist aboard the Novara (an Austrian frigate sent by Emperor Franz Joseph to circle the globe), to bring him a large amount of coca leaves from South America.
In 1859, the ship finished its travels and Wöhler received a trunk full of coca.
Niemann described every step he took to isolate cocaine in his dissertation titled Über eine neue organische Base in den Cocablättern (On a New Organic Base in the Coca Leaves), which was published in 1860—it earned him his PhD and is now in the British Library.
He wrote of the alkaloid's "colourless transparent prisms" and said that "Its solutions have an alkaline reaction, a bitter taste, promote the flow of saliva and leave a peculiar numbness, followed by a sense of cold when applied to the tongue."
The first synthesis and elucidation of the structure of the cocaine molecule was by Richard Willstätter in 1898.
It was the first biomimetic synthesis of an organic structure recorded in academic chemical literature.
The synthesis started from tropinone, a related natural product and took five steps.
With the discovery of this new alkaloid, Western medicine was quick to exploit the possible uses of this plant.
In 1879, Vassili von Anrep, of the University of Würzburg, devised an experiment to demonstrate the analgesic properties of the newly discovered alkaloid.
He prepared two separate jars, one containing a cocaine-salt solution, with the other containing merely salt water.
He then submerged a frog's legs into the two jars, one leg in the treatment and one in the control solution, and proceeded to stimulate the legs in several different ways.
The leg that had been immersed in the cocaine solution reacted very differently from the leg that had been immersed in salt water.
In an infamous experiment in 1884, he experimented upon himself by applying a cocaine solution to his own eye and then pricking it with pins.
His findings were presented to the Heidelberg Ophthalmological Society.
Also in 1884, Jellinek demonstrated the effects of cocaine as a respiratory system anesthetic.
He proceeded to experiment on himself and upon his return to Milan he wrote a paper in which he described the effects.
In this paper he declared coca and cocaine (at the time they were assumed to be the same) as being useful medicinally, in the treatment of "a furred tongue in the morning, flatulence, and whitening of the teeth."
A chemist named Angelo Mariani who read Mantegazza's paper became immediately intrigued with coca and its economic potential.
The ethanol in wine acted as a solvent and extracted the cocaine from the coca leaves, altering the drink's effect.
It contained 6 mg cocaine per ounce of wine, but Vin Mariani which was to be exported contained 7.2 mg per ounce, to compete with the higher cocaine content of similar drinks in the United States.
A "pinch of coca leaves" was included in John Styth Pemberton's original 1886 recipe for Coca-Cola, though the company began using decocainized leaves in 1906 when the Pure Food and Drug Act was passed.
In 1879 cocaine began to be used to treat morphine addiction.
In 1885 the U.S. manufacturer Parke-Davis sold cocaine in various forms, including cigarettes, powder, and even a cocaine mixture that could be injected directly into the user's veins with the included needle.
The company promised that its cocaine products would "supply the place of food, make the coward brave, the silent eloquent and render the sufferer insensitive to pain."
Stevedores along the Mississippi River used the drug as a stimulant, and white employers encouraged its use by black laborers.
During the mid-1940s, amidst World War II, cocaine was considered for inclusion as an ingredient of a future generation of 'pep pills' for the German military, code named D-IX.
In modern popular culture, references to cocaine are common.
The drug has a glamorous image associated with the wealthy, famous and powerful, and is said to make users "feel rich and beautiful".
In addition the pace of modern society − such as in finance − gives many the incentive to make use of the drug.
In many countries, cocaine is a popular recreational drug.
In the United States, the development of "crack" cocaine introduced the substance to a generally poorer inner-city market.
Use of the powder form has stayed relatively constant, experiencing a new height of use during the late 1990s and early 2000s in the U.S., and has become much more popular in the last few years in the UK.
Cocaine use is prevalent across all socioeconomic strata, including age, demographics, economic, social, political, religious, and livelihood.
The estimated U.S. cocaine market exceeded US$70 billion in street value for the year 2005, exceeding revenues by corporations such as Starbucks.
There is a tremendous demand for cocaine in the U.S. market, particularly among those who are making incomes affording luxury spending, such as single adults and professionals with discretionary income.
Cocaine's status as a club drug shows its immense popularity among the "party crowd".
In 1995 the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) announced in a press release the publication of the results of the largest global study on cocaine use ever undertaken.
However, a decision by an American representative in the World Health Assembly banned the publication of the study, because it seemed to make a case for the positive uses of cocaine.
An excerpt of the report strongly conflicted with accepted paradigms, for example "that occasional cocaine use does not typically lead to severe or even minor physical or social problems."
In the sixth meeting of the B committee, the US representative threatened that "If World Health Organization activities relating to drugs failed to reinforce proven drug control approaches, funds for the relevant programs should be curtailed".
This led to the decision to discontinue publication.
A part of the study was recuperated and published in 2010, including profiles of cocaine use in 20 countries, but are unavailable as of 2015.
In October 2010 it was reported that the use of cocaine in Australia has doubled since monitoring began in 2003.
A problem with illegal cocaine use, especially in the higher volumes used to combat fatigue (rather than increase euphoria) by long-term users, is the risk of ill effects or damage caused by the compounds used in adulteration.
Cutting or "stepping on" the drug is commonplace, using compounds which simulate ingestion effects, such as Novocain (procaine) producing temporary anesthaesia, as many users believe a strong numbing effect is the result of strong and/or pure cocaine, ephedrine or similar stimulants that are to produce an increased heart rate.
The normal adulterants for profit are inactive sugars, usually mannitol, creatine or glucose, so introducing active adulterants gives the illusion of purity and to 'stretch' or make it so a dealer can sell more product than without the adulterants.
The adulterant of sugars allows the dealer to sell the product for a higher price because of the illusion of purity and allows sale of more of the product at that higher price, enabling dealers to significantly increase revenue with little additional cost for the adulterants.
A 2007 study by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction showed that the purity levels for street purchased cocaine was often under 5% and on average under 50% pure.
Society and culture
Main article: Legal status of cocaine
The production, distribution, and sale of cocaine products is restricted (and illegal in most contexts) in most countries as regulated by the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.
In the United States the manufacture, importation, possession, and distribution of cocaine are additionally regulated by the 1970 Controlled Substances Act.
Some countries, such as Peru and Bolivia, permit the cultivation of coca leaf for traditional consumption by the local indigenous population, but nevertheless, prohibit the production, sale, and consumption of cocaine.
The provisions as to how much a coca farmer can yield annually is protected by laws such as the Bolivian Cato accord.
In addition, some parts of Europe, the United States, and Australia allow processed cocaine for medicinal uses only.
A schedule 8 substance is a controlled Drug – Substances which should be available for use but require restriction of manufacture, supply, distribution, possession and use to reduce abuse, misuse and physical or psychological dependence.
In Western Australia under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1981 4.0g of cocaine is the amount of prohibited drugs determining a court of trial, 2.0g is the amount of cocaine required for the presumption of intention to sell or supply and 28.0g is the amount of cocaine required for purposes of drug trafficking.
See also: Cocaine in the United States
The US federal government instituted a national labeling requirement for cocaine and cocaine-containing products through the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906.
The next important federal regulation was the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act of 1914.
While this act is often seen as the start of prohibition, the act itself was not actually a prohibition on cocaine, but instead set up a regulatory and licensing regime.
The Harrison Act did not recognize addiction as a treatable condition and therefore the therapeutic use of cocaine, heroin or morphine to such individuals was outlawed – leading a 1915 editorial in the journal American Medicine to remark that the addict "is denied the medical care he urgently needs, open, above-board sources from which he formerly obtained his drug supply are closed to him, and he is driven to the underworld where he can get his drug, but of course, surreptitiously and in violation of the law."
The Harrison Act left manufacturers of cocaine untouched so long as they met certain purity and labeling standards.
Despite that cocaine was typically illegal to sell and legal outlets were rarer, the quantities of legal cocaine produced declined very little.
Legal cocaine quantities did not decrease until the Jones–Miller Act of 1922 put serious restrictions on cocaine manufactures.
Colombia seized 188 t, the United States 166 t, Europe 79 t, Peru 14 t, Bolivia 9 t, and the rest of the world 133 t.
Because of the drug's potential for addiction and overdose, cocaine is generally treated as a "hard drug", with severe penalties for possession and trafficking.
Demand remains high, and consequently, black market cocaine is quite expensive.
Unprocessed cocaine, such as coca leaves, are occasionally purchased and sold, but this is exceedingly rare as it is much easier and more profitable to conceal and smuggle it in powdered form.
The scale of the market is immense: 770 tonnes times $100 per gram retail = up to $77 billion.
Colombia is as of 2019 the world's largest cocaine producer, with production more than tripling since 2013.
Three-quarters of the world's annual yield of cocaine has been produced in Colombia, both from cocaine base imported from Peru (primarily the Huallaga Valley) and Bolivia, and from locally grown coca.
There was a 28% increase from the amount of potentially harvestable coca plants which were grown in Colombia in 1998.
This, combined with crop reductions in Bolivia and Peru, made Colombia the nation with the largest area of coca under cultivation after the mid-1990s.
Coca grown for traditional purposes by indigenous communities, a use which is still present and is permitted by Colombian laws, only makes up a small fragment of total coca production, most of which is used for the illegal drug trade.
An interview with a coca farmer published in 2003 described a mode of production by acid-base extraction that has changed little since 1905.
Roughly 625 pounds (283 kg) of leaves were harvested per hectare, six times per year.
The leaves were dried for half a day, then chopped into small pieces with a string trimmer and sprinkled with a small amount of powdered cement (replacing sodium carbonate from former times).
Several hundred pounds of this mixture were soaked in 50 US gallons (190 L) of gasoline for a day, then the gasoline was removed and the leaves were pressed for remaining liquid, after which they could be discarded.
Then battery acid (weak sulfuric acid) was used, one bucket per 55 lb (25 kg) of leaves, to create a phase separation in which the cocaine free base in the gasoline was acidified and extracted into a few buckets of "murky-looking smelly liquid".
Once powdered caustic soda was added to this, the cocaine precipitated and could be removed by filtration through a cloth.
The resulting material, when dried, was termed pasta and sold by the farmer.
The 3750 pound yearly harvest of leaves from a hectare produced 6 lb (2.5 kg) of pasta, approximately 40–60% cocaine.
Repeated recrystallization from solvents, producing pasta lavada and eventually crystalline cocaine were performed at specialized laboratories after the sale.
Attempts to eradicate coca fields through the use of defoliants have devastated part of the farming economy in some coca growing regions of Colombia, and strains appear to have been developed that are more resistant or immune to their use.
Whether these strains are natural mutations or the product of human tampering is unclear.
These strains have also shown to be more potent than those previously grown, increasing profits for the drug cartels responsible for the exporting of cocaine.
Although production fell temporarily, coca crops rebounded in numerous smaller fields in Colombia, rather than the larger plantations.
The cultivation of coca has become an attractive economic decision for many growers due to the combination of several factors, including the lack of other employment alternatives, the lower profitability of alternative crops in official crop substitution programs, the eradication-related damages to non-drug farms, the spread of new strains of the coca plant due to persistent worldwide demand.
|Net cultivation km (sq mi)||1,875 (724)||2,218 (856)||2,007.5 (775.1)||1,663 (642)||1,662 (642)|
|Potential pure cocaine production (tonnes)||770||925||830||680||645|
The latest estimate provided by the U.S. authorities on the annual production of cocaine in Colombia refers to 290 metric tons.
As of the end of 2011, the seizure operations of Colombian cocaine carried out in different countries have totaled 351.8 metric tons of cocaine, i.e. 121.3% of Colombia's annual production according to the U.S. Department of State's estimates.
Synthetic cocaine would be highly desirable to the illegal drug industry as it would eliminate the high visibility and low reliability of offshore sources and international smuggling, replacing them with clandestine domestic laboratories, as are common for illicit methamphetamine.
However, natural cocaine remains the lowest cost and highest quality supply of cocaine.
Actual full synthesis of cocaine is rarely done.
Formation of inactive stereoisomers (cocaine has 4 chiral centres – 1R, 2R, 3S, and 5S, 2 of them dependent, hence a total potential of 8 possible stereoisomers) plus synthetic by-products limits the yield and purity.
Trafficking and distribution
Organized criminal gangs operating on a large scale dominate the cocaine trade.
Most cocaine is grown and processed in South America, particularly in Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, and smuggled into the United States and Europe, the United States being the world's largest consumer of cocaine, where it is sold at huge markups; usually in the US at $80–120 for 1 gram, and $250–300 for 3.5 grams (1/8 of an ounce, or an "eight ball").
Caribbean and Mexican routes
The cocaine is then broken down into smaller loads for smuggling across the U.S.–Mexico border.
Typically, land vehicles are driven across the U.S.–Mexico border.
Sixty-five percent of cocaine enters the United States through Mexico, and the vast majority of the rest enters through Florida.
Cocaine traffickers from Colombia and Mexico have established a labyrinth of smuggling routes throughout the Caribbean, the Bahama Island chain, and South Florida.
They often hire traffickers from Mexico or the Dominican Republic to transport the drug using a variety of smuggling techniques to U.S. markets.
These include airdrops of 500 to 700 kg (1,100 to 1,500 lb) in the Bahama Islands or off the coast of Puerto Rico, mid-ocean boat-to-boat transfers of 500 to 2,000 kg (1,100 to 4,400 lb), and the commercial shipment of tonnes of cocaine through the port of Miami.
Another route of cocaine traffic goes through Chile, which is primarily used for cocaine produced in Bolivia since the nearest seaports lie in northern Chile.
While the price of cocaine is higher in Chile than in Peru and Bolivia, the final destination is usually Europe, especially Spain where drug dealing networks exist among South American immigrants.
Cocaine is also carried in small, concealed, kilogram quantities across the border by couriers known as "mules" (or "mulas"), who cross a border either legally, for example, through a port or airport, or illegally elsewhere.
The drugs may be strapped to the waist or legs or hidden in bags, or hidden in the body.
If the mule gets through without being caught, the gangs will reap most of the profits.
If he or she is caught, however, gangs will sever all links and the mule will usually stand trial for trafficking alone.
Bulk cargo ships are also used to smuggle cocaine to staging sites in the western Caribbean–Gulf of Mexico area.
These vessels are typically 150–250-foot (50–80 m) coastal freighters that carry an average cocaine load of approximately 2.5 tonnes.
Commercial fishing vessels are also used for smuggling operations.
In areas with a high volume of recreational traffic, smugglers use the same types of vessels, such as go-fast boats, as those used by the local populations.
Sophisticated drug subs are the latest tool drug runners are using to bring cocaine north from Colombia, it was reported on 20 March 2008.
Although the vessels were once viewed as a quirky sideshow in the drug war, they are becoming faster, more seaworthy, and capable of carrying bigger loads of drugs than earlier models, according to those charged with catching them.
Sales to consumers
Cocaine is readily available in all major countries' metropolitan areas.
According to the Summer 1998 Pulse Check, published by the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy, cocaine use had stabilized across the country, with a few increases reported in San Diego, Bridgeport, Miami, and Boston.
In the West, cocaine usage was lower, which was thought to be due to a switch to methamphetamine among some users; methamphetamine is cheaper, three and a half times more powerful, and lasts 12–24 times longer with each dose.
Nevertheless, the number of cocaine users remain high, with a large concentration among urban youth.
In addition to the amounts previously mentioned, cocaine can be sold in "bill sizes": As of 2007 for example, $10 might purchase a "dime bag", a very small amount (0.1–0.15 g) of cocaine.
Twenty dollars might purchase 0.15–0.3 g. However, in lower Texas, it is sold cheaper due to it being easier to receive: a dime for $10 is 0.4 g, a 20 is 0.8–1.0 g and an 8-ball (3.5 g) is sold for $60 to $80, depending on the quality and dealer.
These amounts and prices are very popular among young people because they are inexpensive and easily concealed on one's body.
Quality and price can vary dramatically depending on supply and demand, and on geographic region.
In 2008, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction reports that the typical retail price of cocaine varied between €50 and €75 per gram in most European countries, although Cyprus, Romania, Sweden and Turkey reported much higher values.
World annual cocaine consumption, as of 2000, stood at around 600 tonnes, with the United States consuming around 300 t, 50% of the total, Europe about 150 t, 25% of the total, and the rest of the world the remaining 150 t or 25%.
It is estimated that 1.5 million people in the United States used cocaine in 2010 down from 2.4 million in 2006.
The 2010 UN World Drug Report concluded that "it appears that the North American cocaine market has declined in value from US$47 billion in 1998 to US$38 billion in 2008.
Between 2006 and 2008, the value of the market remained basically stable".
Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cocaine.