Updated: 24 February 2023 & medically reviewed by Dr. Kimberly Langdon
Cocaine is most known for being snorted when in its white powder form. However, there are many forms of the drug that are abused in a variety of ways, all with their own negative consequences.
Powder cocaine is often laid out on a clean, smooth surface such as a mirror or phone screen and cut into lines with a fine-edged instrument such as a bank card or razor blade.
The most common form of smoked cocaine is crack. When smoked out of a crack pipe the vapors hit the brain almost immediately, creating an intense short-lived high.
Cocaine hydrochloride is one of the only forms of cocaine that is soluble in water and can be injected directly into the system.
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How are different types of cocaine abused?
The primary method of ingesting cocaine is to snort it, often through a straw, rolled up paper such as a dollar bill, or off of a key or spoon. Other methods for taking cocaine include smoking and injecting though the latter is less common.
How cocaine is abused often depends on the type of coke in question.
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Cocaine that is snorted
Snorting cocaine gets the drug into the system quickly but is slower to release than smoking or injecting it. Powder cocaine is often laid out on a clean, smooth surface such as a mirror or phone screen and cut into lines with a fine-edged instrument such as a bank card or razor blade.
White powder cocaine is the most commonly snorted form of the drug. Other forms of cocaine that are snorted include:
Snorting cocaine is synonymous with the drug and is seen as more socially acceptable than smoking or injecting the drug. While popular, snorting cocaine holds additional health risks such as heart problems, raised blood pressure, insomnia, damage to the septum (nose cartilage), and increased anxiety and paranoia.
As the easiest form of administering the drug, it is also one of the most addictive. Tolerance and dependence on cocaine develop quickly and if use continues the chance of addiction forming is greatly increased.
Cocaine that is smoked
The most common form of smoked cocaine is crack. When smoked out of a crack pipe the vapors hit the brain almost immediately, creating an intense short-lived high. Basuco is also almost exclusively smoked.
Powder cocaine has also been known to be smoked, though often alongside tobacco and cannabis in a joint or pipe.
Smoking cocaine, especially crack and basuco, is extremely addictive and can lead to problematic use rapidly.
Cocaine that is injected
Cocaine hydrochloride is one of the only forms of cocaine that is soluble in water and can be injected directly into the system. However, this form of administration is rarely used for cocaine on its own as it takes longer, is more invasive, and has few additional benefits to snorting cocaine.
The only time cocaine is usually injected is when the drug is taken alongside other substances, most notably heroin. Taking heroin and cocaine together, known as “speedballing” greatly amplifies the depressive and stimulative effects of each drug which produces a more intense high but also greatly increases the risk of overdose.
Other methods of taking cocaine
While the above are the most common forms of cocaine abuse, users have experimented with other forms of administration. These methods are said to be ways of getting cocaine into the system faster or producing a more intense high. This is more often than not false and almost always dangerous.
Some other methods of taking cocaine include:
Taking cocaine anally (referred to as “boofing” or "plugging") often requires more than one person, as someone is required to blow the substance into the anal cavity through a tube or straw.
Boofing is said to get cocaine into the system quickly as it is absorbed quickly through the lining of the rectum. This method of taking cocaine is dangerous and can lead to a fatal cocaine overdose, as well as being a strong indicator of addiction.
Cocaine is also sometimes ingested orally. This is done by either rubbing it on the gums for its numbing effect or by wrapping it in tissue or smoking papers and swallowing it (known as “bombing”).
This method is rarely used as it takes cocaine longer to have an effect when digested. However, it is sometimes mixed with other drugs such as MDMA for a more intense high.
Is there a safe way to take cocaine?
All forms of cocaine abuse come with their own inherent health risks. Some of these, such as increased blood pressure and heart rate are found in all forms of cocaine abuse, while others are more prominent in certain forms of use.
Common health risks by use:
Snorting: Runny nose, anosmia (loss of taste and smell), nose bleeds, difficulty swallowing, earache, damage to the septum, and sinus issues.
Smoking: Chronic cough, respiratory distress, asthma, pneumonia, throat cancer, and lung cancer.
Orally: Bowel and digestive decay and life-threatening abdominal complications.
Needle injection: Risk of contracting blood diseases such as HIV, hepatitis C, damage to the skin, and collapsed veins.
Getting help for cocaine abuse
No matter the method of use, taking cocaine can lead to long-term physical and mental health issues as well as dependence and addiction.
Though some people are able to stop abusing cocaine on their own or with the help of support groups like Narcotics Anonymous (NA), the most effective way to get free of the drug is to go through dedicated cocaine addiction treatment.
Treatment at either an inpatient or outpatient cocaine rehab can help manage difficult withdrawal symptoms and cravings as well as offering various forms of talking therapy to identify the root of addictive behavior and develop tools to handle cravings.
If you or a loved one is experiencing issues with cocaine, get help today. Our rehab directory has information on treatment centers across the country, meaning you can find the right treatment for your cocaine use disorder near you.