There are more than 250 varieties of the coca plant, but only three are prominently used in the illegal cocaine trade. Huanuco coca is grown in Bolivia and Peru, Amazonian coca is grown in the Amazon River basin, and Colombian coca is grown primarily in Colombia. Despite small increases in the Plurinational state of Bolivia (6%) and Peru (4%), the total area under coca cultivation decreased by 8% in 2008, due to a significant decrease in Colombia (18%). The total area under coca cultivation fell to 167,600 ha, close to the average level of coca cultivation between 2002 and 2008, and well below the levels reached in the 1990s. In spite of this years decrease, Colombia remained the world’s largest cultivator of coca bush, with 81,000 ha, followed by Peru (56,100 ha). Estimated global cocaine production decreased by 15% from 994 metric tons in 2007 to 845 metric tons in 2008. This decrease is due to a strong reduction in cocaine production in Colombia (28%), which was not offset by increase in Bolivia and Peru.

There are two forms of cocaine: powdered cocaine and crack. The powered, hydrochloride salt form of cocaine can be snorted or dissolved in water and injected. Crack is cocaine that has not been neutralized by an acid to make the hydrochloride salt. The form of cocaine comes in a rock crystal that can be heated and its vapors smoked. Cocaine is the most potent stimulant of natural origin and is one of the oldest identified drugs. The pure chemical, cocaine hydrochloride, has been an abused substance for more than 100 years, and coca leaves, the source of cocaine, have been ingested for thousands of years. Pure cocaine was first extracted from the leaf of the Erythroxylon coca bush, which grows primarily in Peru and Bolivia, in the mid-19th century. In the early 1900s, it became the main stimulant drug used in tonics and elixirs that were developed to treat a wide variety of illnesses. Today, cocaine is not used medically because of its high potential for abuse and addiction.

Signs and Symptoms:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Hyperactivity
  • Euphoria
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Excessive talking
  • Depression of excessive sleeping
  • Long periods without eating
  • Long periods without sleeping
  • Weight loss
  • Dry mouth and nose
  • Paranoia
  • Disturbance of heart rhythm
  • Chest pain
  • Heart failure
  • Respiratory failure
  • Strokes and seizures


Crack is derived from cocaine. Cocaine (powder) is dissolved in a solution of ammonia and sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and water. The solution is boiled until a solid substance separates from the boiling mixture. The solid substance, crack cocaine, is allowed to dry and then broken or cut into “rocks,” each weighing from one-tenth to one-half a gram. Crack is most typically heated and smoked. The term “crack” refers to the crackling sound heard when it is heated. One gram of pure cocaine will convert to approximately 0.89 grams of crack cocaine. Crack is typically between 75-90% pure cocaine.

The effects of crack are similar to those of cocaine yet they occur more rapidly and are more intense but do not last as long as a cocaine high. Smoking crack can cause severe chest pains with lung trauma and bleeding. Smoking crack also has more rapid addiction potential. Smoking crack delivers large quantities of the drug to the lungs, producing effects comparable to intravenous injection. These effects are felt almost immediately after smoking and are very intense, but do not last long. For example, the high from smoking crack cocaine may last from 5-10 minutes. The high from snorting can last 15-20 minutes.

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