Types of Cocaine and How They're Abused

Edmund Murphy
Morgan Blair
Written by Edmund Murphy on 18 November 2022
Medically reviewed by Morgan Blair on 11 July 2024

When most people think of cocaine they imagine the fine white powder that has been abused across the globe for over a century. However, powder white cocaine is not the only form of the drug that is being sold on the streets today. There are many types of cocaine that vary in color, purity, purpose, and effect.

Key takeaways:
  • There are many variations of cocaine, some of which are produced by combing the substance with even more harmful drugs.
  • The purest form of cocaine is coca paste, though this can not be snorted. high purity powder cocaine is sometimes referred to as fish scale due to its reflective quality.
  • New forms of cocaine such as basuco are even more addictive than crack or powder cocaine.
Types of Cocaine and How They're Abused

Types Of Cocaine

Cocaine hydrochloride (coke, powder) is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant that derives from the coca leaf, indigenous to South America. Cocaine goes through a rigorous chemical process when it is made in order to extract the cocaine from the coca leaf and the result is sent off to cartels and other drug dealers to be cut into the white powder form the drug is famous for.

However, from the point of production to the end product it is possible for cocaine to go through additional processes that can drastically alter its purity, color, and structure. 

Some of these processes are intended to alter the final product before it is sold on the street while others are intended to make smuggling the drug into dangerous territories easier. Many of these types of cocaine will never find their way onto US shores and are often byproducts and variants made for profit by local drug gangs globally. 

Here are some of the types of cocaine that exist and their defining features. 

Cocaine/coca paste

Cocaine paste is the end result of the initial manufacturing process and is the purest form of cocaine. The paste is a light grey color and retains some moisture from the initial production method. Cocaine paste can often be up to 90% pure cocaine.

White powder cocaine

White cocaine, or powder cocaine, is the most internationally recognized form of the drug. It is commonly pure white and has a fine, granular texture.  

Powder cocaine is often heavily diluted with other substances and cutting agents in order to change the desired effect or to increase the yield by adding inexpensive chemicals. Powder cocaine is often more expensive when not mixed with cutting agents for both dealers and users.

These diluents often change the color of powder cocaine, sometimes making it an off-white or beige color (light blue or pink is also possible) and can be more clumpy than the original. 

Crack cocaine

The second most widely abused form of cocaine is crack. Crack is produced by removing the salt (hydrochloride) from pure cocaine by cooking it, leaving hard yellowish rocks that are intended to be smoked via a crack pipe or bong. Crack is comparatively cheap when compared with powder cocaine and use is more widespread in low-income areas. 

It is also incredibly potent, causing an almost instantaneous, powerful, and short-lived high. This also means the potential for dependence and addiction forming to crack is extremely high.

Synthetic (fake) cocaine

There is a wide range of compounds and substances that share a similar chemical makeup to cocaine and often produce similar effects. Some of these are marketed as research chemicals and sold on the dark web as designer drugs. A notable synthetic cocaine of this type is RTI-126, a phenyltropane derivative that is around 5 times more potent than cocaine.

In addition to synthetic cocaine compounds like this, fake cocaine is often a variant of synthetic cathinone, a harmful and intoxicating substance found in bath salts and flakka. Synthetic cathinones have been known to cause violent psychosis in users, earning it the nickname ‘the zombie drug’.

Pink cocaine

Though it may resemble cocaine in its texture, pink cocaine is actually a completely different drug. Pink cocaine is actually a synthetic compound known as 2C-B (“Tusi”) that is part of the 2C family of drugs. 

2C-B is often sold as a bright pink powder that is snorted, though pill and tablet variants are also used. The drug is commonly used as a party drug as it provides stimulant effects similar to cocaine as well as hallucinatory effects similar to MDMA

2C-B use has seen a resurgence in recent years, with party-goers around the world favoring the substance over traditional cocaine. Somewhat ironically, 2C-B has become incredibly popular with young people in Colombia, the birthplace of cocaine. 

Known to those who use it as “tusibi”, Colombians are buying 2C-B at almost 6 times the price of regular cocaine and have built a subculture around using the drug, known as “neo-narcos”.

Black cocaine

Black cocaine (coca negra) is a way of illegally smuggling the substance and is not intended for use. To form black cocaine, cocaine base is mixed with other substances such as charcoal, thiocyanates, iron salts, and cobalt salts in order to get passed various drug tests when trafficking the drug to other countries. 

Black cocaine is often disguised as charcoal, printing ink, metal moldings, fertilizer, and pigment in order to fool visual drug tests. Activated carbon in charcoal is also able to get passed drug sniffer dogs in some cases. 

Once it has reached its final destination, black cocaine is put through another process in order to separate out the base cocaine. This process, known as extraction, involves subjecting the black cocaine to organic solvents such as methylene chloride or acetone in order to extract the base cocaine.

Basuco (trash cocaine)

Basuco, also known as trash cocaine, is made from the remains of the initial cocaine production process. As well as cocaine-production elements such as kerosene, ethanol, and crude coca left over from cocaine past, it has also been found to contain brick dust, ash, sulphuric acid, and in some instances ground up human bones. 

The high from basuco is incredibly potent and highly addictive, with users chasing the short high (often only 30 seconds) with repeated chronic use. The high use of basuco is exacerbated by the low price, with hits costing as little as 20 cents. This makes basuco the cheapest drug on the planet, and one of the most addictive.

Basuco’s popularity has exploded in recent years across South America, with those living in Colombia becoming increasingly addicted to the drug. This has led to widespread cartel control of areas in Bogota and Medellin as the drug costs next to nothing to produce and demand is perpetual.

Fish scale cocaine

Sometimes referred to as Peruvian or Bolivian flake, fish scale cocaine is high quality, often completely pure cocaine. It is called fish scale due to it not looking like normal powder cocaine, instead having a shiny flake structure that looks like tiny scales. 

Fish scale cocaine is said to have a more gradual high that has less of the residual side effects of powder cocaine, such as uncontrollable jaw movement (gurning/coke jaw) and prolonged adrenaline. 

Some drug dealers attempt to replicate the appearance of fish-scale cocaine by adding levamisole to it, a form of worming medication for animals that can be hazardous for humans to ingest. 

Yellow cocaine

While cocaine can have an off-white/yellow color sometimes due to impurities, there is no definitive difference. In powder form, yellow cocaine is most likely heavily cut with other substances and household items and is therefore potentially dangerous. Crack cocaine is also occasionally referred to as yellow cocaine.

Brown cocaine (brown-brown)

Brown cocaine, referred to mainly as “brown brown”, is a combination of pure cocaine and smokeless gunpowder. Gunpowder contains nitroglycerin which when ingested causes vasodilation, allowing the blood to move around the body faster which causes the effects of cocaine to be more intense and faster acting.

Brown cocaine is rarely found outside of African nations and has a history of being used by soldiers in conflicts, most notably with child soldiers.

Any brown cocaine found in the US is most likely the result of impurities which may include harmful opioids such as fentanyl. Snorting brown cocaine containing fentanyl will likely result in overdose which may be fatal.

How are different types of cocaine used?

Powder cocaine is traditionally snorted through straws, rolled-up bank notes, or off spoons and keys. The powder is often cut up and divided into lines using a bank card or razor and will most likely be snorted off of a smooth surface such as a mirror or phone screen in order to avoid any of the powder being lost. 

Other methods of cocaine include injecting, smoking, and ingesting via other methods, read our guide on cocaine administration to learn more.

Is any type of cocaine safe to use?

In short, no. While the risk of accidental overdose may be reduced with pure cocaine, there is still a strong likelihood of dependence and addiction forming over time. Cocaine addiction can come on extremely quickly and is difficult to overcome once formed. Those attempting to quit cocaine without a medically supervised detox as part of a cocaine addiction treatment program are likely to relapse

Outside of the strong possibility of addiction, there are also physical and mental health complications that can arise from cocaine use, regardless of type. 

Some common health side effects of cocaine include:

Treatment for cocaine addiction

Cocaine dependence and addiction can be challenging to overcome on your own. Receiving treatment in an inpatient or outpatient cocaine rehab offers the best chance to achieve sobriety from the drug. 

If you or a loved one are struggling with cocaine use or addiction, visit our rehab directory today to find a treatment option near you.

How are different types of cocaine sold?

Cocaine in all its forms comes in a variety of different packaging designed for ease of use and concealment. Cocaine will often be sold in small bags (baggies) or folded in into small paper envelopes. Large amounts of cocaine, such as 8 balls or ounces, are often sold in cling film wraps.

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Activity History - Last updated: 11 July 2024, Published date:


Morgan Blair


Morgan is a mental health counselor who works alongside individuals of all backgrounds struggling with eating disorders. Morgan is freelance mental health and creative writer who regularly contributes to publications including, Psychology Today.

Activity History - Medically Reviewed on 15 December 2022 and last checked on 11 July 2024

Medically reviewed by
Morgan Blair


Morgan Blair


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