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What Does Cocaine Look Like? Color, Forms & Cutting Agents

Cocaine is most associated with its pure white powdered form. Crack cocaine comes in crystalline rocks. Cocaine that is impure is sometimes off-white or even yellow due to the other agents that are used for cutting the drug.

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Table of Contents

Factors That Impact the Look of Cocaine

Several factors can impact the look of cocaine.


Color is one of the main metrics used to determine cocaine’s purity at a glance, although color alone cannot guarantee the drug’s purity. 

As most people know, pure cocaine is white. Some of its forms, specifically crack cocaine, is often off-white or slightly yellow due to impurities. 

Note, however, that drug manufacturers and dealers are aware that this is common knowledge. The agents used to cut cocaine are almost always white as well to help give the impression that the drug being sold is pure cocaine even when that isn’t the case. 

Form or Shape

People typically associate the word cocaine with powdered cocaine specifically, which is a white, crystalline powder. There is also crack cocaine, which comes in small “rocks” that are irregularly shaped and more solid. This is generally referred to as crack.

Also related is the coca plant, the plant cocaine is derived from. While not a typical drug of abuse in the United States in this form, the leaves of this plant are sometimes used elsewhere as a stimulant. They look like fairly unassuming green leaves that are somewhat similar in appearance to bay leaves. 

Cutting Agents 

It is very common for cocaine to be “cut” with other substances to make its sale more profitable and/or make the drug more potent or addictive. Some common agents used to cut cocaine include flour and baking soda. Opioids and amphetamines are often used to cut cocaine as well. 

Recently, fentanyl has become a more common cutting agent that can make the drug much more dangerous. When cocaine is cut with fentanyl, fatal overdose is much more likely.

Most cutting agents are white like cocaine, but they may change the texture of powdered cocaine in slight but noticeable ways if a user is aware of the texture typical of pure cocaine. However, the reality is that cutting cocaine is so common that getting truly pure cocaine is rare. Many sellers will advertise their drugs as having a higher purity rate than they actually do.

Dangers of Cocaine

Cocaine is a dangerous drug. It can cause significant damage to the lungs, heart, gastrointestinal tract, and brain, resulting in serious harm and even death.

Again, one major concern that has gotten more attention recently is the potential for cocaine to be cut with fentanyl or, in some cases, the extremely potent carfentanil. There was a string of deaths associated with cocaine that was cut with these substances in Florida. Both carfentanil and fentanyl can be dangerous even in quantities as low as a few milligrams. 

There has been a general rise in the availability and use of fentanyl in the United States that has signaled a third wave of opioid-related deaths in the United States. Drug dealers appear to frequently be taking advantage of this potent drug’s wide availability to substitute more expensive cocaine with the drug to mask that their cocaine has been cut.

Damage from cocaine becomes more likely with increased use. Some of the damage can be reversed once cocaine use is stopped, but some damage may be irreversible. The sooner treatment occurs, the greater the chances of a full recovery.

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Medically Reviewed By Dr. Alison Tarlow

Dr. Alison Tarlow is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in the States of Florida and Pennsylvania, and a Certified Addictions Professional (CAP). She has been a practicing psychologist for over 15 years. Sh... Read More

Updated May 1, 2023
  1. Cocaine. (April 2020). Drug Enforcement Administration.
  2. Crack Cocaine Fast Facts. (January 2006). National Drug Intelligence Center.
  3. (U) Deadly Contaminated Cocaine Widespread in Florida. (February 2018). Drug Enforcement Administration.
  4. Carfentanil: A Dangerous New Factor in the U.S. Opioid Crisis. Department of Justice.
  5. What Is Fentanyl and Why Is It Behind the Deadly Surge in US Drug Overdoses? (May 2022). UMass Chan Medical School.
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