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

Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant drug that comes in two forms: powdered cocaine looks like a white powdered form, and crack cocaine looks like crystalline rocks. Cocaine powder 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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What Does Cocaine Look Like?

Cocaine powder is often white although it can also be off-white or yellow due to dealers cutting cocaine with other additives and drugs. It is often snorted and also rubbed around the gums or dissolved in liquid and injected.[1]

Because cocaine sold on the streets is not regulated, it can look vastly different from batch to batch and include many different additives and substances, so you can never really know what you’re taking. This can be extremely dangerous because cocaine is often cut with potent opioids like fentanyl and carfentanil, which can lead to a fatal overdose. 

It’s very unlikely you’ll find pure cocaine being sold illegally because dealers cut cocaine with other substances to increase profits.[1]

What Does Crack Cocaine Look Like?

Crack cocaine most commonly looks like rocks, smaller pieces, or soap shavings. They can vary in size and shape.[2]

It can be many colors, including:

  • Pink
  • Off-white (most common)
  • Yellow
  • Brown

Crack is made by dissolving powdered cocaine in a solution of water and baking soda or ammonia. The mixture is boiled and the powdered cocaine turns into a solid. Once this occurs, the solid crack cocaine form is removed from the liquid, dried, and broken into rocks.[2]

Cocaine vs. Crack: Comparing Appearance

TypePhysical formColorHow It’s Used
Powdered cocainePowderWhite, off-white, or yellowSnorted or injected
Crack cocaineRocks or soap shavingsOff-white, pink, yellow, or brownAlmost always smoked

In addition to having very different appearances, both crack and cocaine also have a distinctive smell, which is another way you can identify them.

Factors That Affect the Appearance of Cocaine

Several factors can affect the appearance of cocaine and crack.


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, are 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 reasonably 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:

  • Baking soda
  • Flour
  • Creatine
  • Talcum powder
  • Chalk
  • Laundry detergent
  • Laxatives
  • Caffeine 
  • Boric acid
  • Procaine
  • Amphetamines
  • Methamphetamines
  • Heroin
  • Fentanyl and carfentanil

Recently, fentanyl has become a more common cutting agent that can make the drug much more dangerous. When cocaine is cut with fentanyl, a fatal overdose is much more likely. [3] If you misuse cocaine, you should always keep naloxone (Narcan) on you, because it can reverse the life-threatening effects of an opioid overdose. You can also use fentanyl testing strips to detect the presence of fentanyl in your cocaine.

Most cutting agents are white like cocaine, but they may change the texture of powdered cocaine in subtle 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.

Cocaine Street Names

Powder CocaineCrack Cocaine
SnowBlack rock
CHard rock
Nose candySleet
SniffSnow coke
LineJelly beans
TootPurple caps
Devil’s dandruffTornado
White dragon
Happy dust

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.

Short-Term Risks

Some short-term effects and dangers of cocaine and crack cocaine use include:[6]

  • Anxiety and panic
  • Paranoia
  • Irritability
  • Tremors and shakes
  • Muscle twitches
  • Violent and bizarre behavior
  • Dangerously high body temperature
  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate
  • Heart attack
  • Seizure
  • Stroke
  • Coma
  • Sudden death (due to cardiac arrest or seizure)

Long-Term Consequences and Dangers

Long-term dangers of cocaine abuse may include:[7]

  • Tolerance (leading to increased risk of overdose)
  • Physiological dependence and withdrawal symptoms
  • Cocaine addiction
  • Psychosis and hallucinations
  • Bleeding in the brain
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Ulcerations and tears in GI tract
  • Severe weight loss and malnutrition
  • Inflammation of the heart muscle

Snorting cocaine can cause nose bleeds, sinusitis, loss of sense of smell, issues swallowing, hoarseness, and perforation of the nasal septum. [7].[8]

Injecting cocaine can cause track marks, puncture marks, abscesses, cellulitis, increased risk of HIV and hepatitis C, bacterial infection of the heart lining, and more. [7], [8]

Smoking crack cocaine can cause significant lung damage and worsen asthma and other respiratory conditions. [7]

Risk of Overdose Due to Cutting Cocaine with Fentanyl

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. Both carfentanil and fentanyl can be dangerous even in quantities as low as a few milligrams.[3],[4] 

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

The best way to prevent the risk of overdose and prevent long-term cocaine effects is to seek addiction treatment. Inpatient and outpatient rehab programs, such as Boca Recovery Center, can help you quit cocaine use, develop coping and relapse prevention skills, and achieve long-term 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 March 20, 2024
  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.
  6. What are the short-term effects of cocaine use? National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016).
  7. What are the long-term effects of cocaine use? National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016).
  8. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). American Psychiatric Association. (2013).
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