Coca and cocaine: Coca has been cultivated since time immemorial for the effects it produces in the body. It is in fact considered a hallucinogenic plant from whose leaves cocaine is obtained

Coca and cocaine: Coca has been cultivated since time immemorial for the effects it produces in the body. It is in fact considered a hallucinogenic plant from whose leaves cocaine is obtained


This article contains information that can generate situations of danger and harm as it deals with hallucinogenic substances. The data present have only an informative purpose, not an exhortation one and in no case medical.

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: Angiosperms


: Eudicotyledons


: Roside











: see the paragraph "Main species"


LaCOCA is a plant belonging to the

family of Erythroxylaceaea

and al


which includes about 250 species two of which, the

Erythroxylum coca

and the

Erythroxylum novogranatense

(commonly called coca) have been cultivated since time immemorial in order to use the leaves for the effects they produce in the body. They are in fact considered to all intents and purposes as pscicoactive plants from whose leaves COCAINE, an alkaloid with amazing effect, is obtained.

The Erythroxylum they are plants native to South America that grow mainly in the Andean regions.

It is a shrubby plant that remains productive even up to 50 years of age. THE flowers they are small and white. The leaves they are of a very intense and alternating green color.

THE fruits they are red drupes of about 6-8 mm in length and 35 mm in diameter which contain only one inside seed.


There are two species from which cocaine is obtained: Eritroxyulum coca and Eritroxulum novogranatense

1) Erythroxylum coca

There Erythroxylum coca (or coca huánuco) is native to the tropical forests of the eastern Peruvian Andes (Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador) and precisely from the north of Ecuador to Chapare (Bolivia's river in the Amazon River basin), an area that remains very limited as it is enclosed by the mountains, which has allowed each valley to maintain its varieties.

There Erythroxylum coca it is a small shrub that does not exceed 3 m in height. It is a very slow growing plant. The bark is wrinkled and reddish in color. The leaves are simple, alternating carried by a short petiole.

The youngest leaves that contain about 1% cocaine are taken from this plant and are used to produce the famous drug.

The leaves of the plants that come from Bolivia are green-brown oval-shaped with a bitter taste while the Peruvian ones are much smaller and light green in color.

The leaves deteriorate very easily in a humid environment for this reason the alkaloid is usually extracted in the collection places before export.

The main variety is theErythroxylum coca var. coca, widespread at altitudes between 500 - 2000 m above sea level at an average temperature of 20 ° C, relative humidity of 90% and in clayey soils.

This is the most valuable variety for the production of cocaine and contributes 80% in the production of coca paste.

At the highest altitudes, its cocaine level is highest (0.93% by weight).

2) Erythroxylum novogranatense

There Erythroxulum novogranatense it is native instead to the mountainous and arid areas of Colombia, the Caribbean and the northernmost areas of Peru.

Its leaves are legally grown to extract cocaine used for therapeutic purposes.

There are two varieties:

2a) Erythroxyulum novogranatensand var.novogranatense (or variety of Colombian coca because it is grown mainly in Colombia)

2b) Erythroxyulum novogranatense var.truxillense (grown along the Peruvian coast)

The two varieties of the Erythroxyulum novogranatense they have been selected over the centuries to favor cultivation in areas with lower atmospheric humidity. They are grown mainly in home gardens for cooking but not to obtain aromatic drinks such as coca cola. It is considered an ornamental plant and used for medicinal purposes.

Their cocaine content is 0.77% in the Colombian one (Erythroxyulum novagranatense var.novagranatense) and 0.72% in the variety Erythroxyulum novogranatense var. truxillense.

Often these plants are called with very different names so that it seems that there are numerous species. In reality they are always the same varieties. This fact has been explained because the differences between the different varieties are so minimal that it is almost impossible to distinguish between them.


The leaves of the coca plant can be used in various ways

1) As LEAVES without any transformation

The leaves as they are are usually used in three ways:

a) the leaves are cut to make infusions (for example coca tea) or are found simply as teabags in shopping centers to be infused which normally contain 1gr of coca leaves and approximately 5 mg of cocaine (after about 10 'infusion releases about 90% of cocaine). They are also found in an aromatic mixture with other herbs such as mint, anise, chamomile and in this case the percentage of coca leaves is around 40%.

b) the leaves are placed in the mouth to form a "ball" to which an alkaline substance is added which has different names such astocra or llipta. This act is called acullicu or coqueo in Spanish and the whole is calledchacchar. In English this is called "coca chewing" or more simply "chewing coca leaves";

The taste of the leaves is bitter, producing a sensation of "falling asleep" or local anesthesia on the tongue.

c) the leaves are used for cooking. This way of using the leaves is practically confined to a few populations of the central Andes and for this reason, this aspect is little studied and known.

These uses are typical of the Andean culture and according to studies it does not cause addiction.


The coca paste is the result of the extraction of the cocaine contained in the leaves. These are first minced, then hydrocarbons such as kerosene, diesel, petroleum, etc. are added. (or potassium carbonate) to dissolve the organic components. Then the hydrocarbons are eliminated and water and sulfuric acid are added.

The whole is filtered and lime or ammonia is added to precipitate the salts.

Once dry, the cocaine paste is obtained, rich in impurities and cocaine is present in the form of COCAINE SULFATE.

It is the raw, unrefined product that is obtained directly from coca leaves.

The basic pasta (in Colombia called bazuco or basuco, in Bolivia pitillo and in Peru kete) is an intermediate product for the production of cocaine hydrochloride which contains from 50% to 85% of cocaine sulfate, the rest are alkaloids and contaminants.

This process is normally carried out in the immediate vicinity of the plantation in order not to move large quantities of leaves. In fact, to obtain 1 kg of coca paste you need 60 kg of leaves, about 9 l of kerosene and about 5 l of sulfuric acid. While to obtain 1 kg of pure cocaine you need 500 kg of dry coca leaves (in addition to the various chemicals).

This form of use is widespread in Latin American cities and is smoked mixed with tobacco and has a high degree of impurity. The duration of its effect is about 5-10 minutes and is addictive.


Cocaine hydrochloride is obtained starting from the base paste treated with hydrochloric acid and extraction with acetone or ethanol. Chemically it is the salt of cocaine therefore water-soluble and also thermolabile.

It comes in the form of white scaly crystals that are ground to a powder and is known as snow or coca.

It can be more or less adulterated and is taken intranasally (snorted is the most frequent use) or injected intravenously diluted with distilled water. You don't smoke because the heat would destroy the cocaine. Its effects are rapid and last from 20 to 40 minutes and is addictive.

The method of habitual smokers is to finely chop the coca crystals and then form thin strips and then vacuum them with small straws with the nose.

Each strip contains 10 to 40 mg of cocaine based on when the cocaine is pure. The average dose of snorted cocaine is 20 - 50 milligrams although regular users reach 100 milligrams.

This form is mainly used in Europe and North America.


It is obtained by mixing cocaine hydrochloride with a basic solution such as ammonia or sodium bicarbonate or sodium hydroxide, then the precipitate is filtered (crack) or dissolved with ether and waits for this to evaporate (freebase).

There are two forms of consumption:

a) inhale the vapors of the free base, FREEBASE or BASE LIBRE, extracted from hydrochloride with volatile solvents (ether) at high temperature using propane lighters. The aspect of its use is linked to the fact that it is necessary to use special pipes (pipa de agua) as well as ether and propane so its use is not very widespread.

It reaches the brain in 15 seconds giving a feeling of euphoria followed by irritability and a desire to consume another dose. It is highly toxic and dangerous.

b) the CRACK which is the form of cocaine base that is obtained by adding ammonia (or sodium bicarbonate or sodium hydroxide) to an aqueous solution of cocaine hydrochloride to alkalize it (practically no volatile solvents are used). It is then heated to 98 ° C and the free base precipitates in the form of a paste which, once dried, has the appearance of porcelain which is ground until it is reduced to scales.

It is inhaled in heated vessels (usually special pipes such as freebase) or more normally and frequently smoked after having pulverized it associated with tobacco, marijuana, phencyclidine (PCP), etc. as it vaporizes easily at low temperatures.

Its effects are almost immediate (5 seconds) and it is said that they are much more potent than snorted cocaine and much more fleeting in fact lasting just a few minutes.

Among the various drugs it is considered the one that causes the greatest psychological dependence, so much so that it is said: "El crack es el sueño del traficante y la pesadilla del adicto" "Crack is the sleep of the trafficker and the nightmare of the drug addict".

The name crack was given to it for the noise generated when crystals are heated to smoke them.

Both freebase and crack are the most widely used forms in North America although crack is also frequently found in Europe.

There is another form of cocaine use and that is what it is called


which consists of mixing cocaine and heroin that is injected. It is a very toxic form (66% of deaths caused by cocaine are due to speedball)

It causes a rapid acceleration of the heartbeat, but when the effect wears off there is a slowing of the heartbeat and the heart risks arrest. John Belushi died from a dose of speedball.

It is known that the coca containing the greatest quantities of cocaine is that of Cuzco and Huánuco in Peru and Yungas in Bolivia (Erythroxylum coca with 0.6% - 1% cocaine) and the one that contains the lowest percentages are those of Trujillo in the Peruvian and Cauca in Colombia (Erythroxylum novogranatense, with less than 0.6% of cocaine).


The leaves contain from 0.2 to 1.3% of alkaloids of which the main one is cocaine.

Cocaine is an ester belonging to the group of natural alkaloids and structurally it is a benzoylmethylecgonine, that is to say an ester of benzoic acid and a nitrogenous base belonging to the group of local anesthetics.

On the black market you can find cocaine hydrochloride, which however is usually cut by dealers with other, sometimes harmless substances, such as fructose, purgatives, mannite, sometimes dangerous, such as amphetamine, atropine, etc.

Often the percentage of active ingredient contained in the so-called "street cocaine" does not exceed 20%.


Cocaine acts at the synapse level by prolonging the activity of some neurotransmitters such as dopamine, noradrenaline and serotonin. In fact, cocaine inhibits the reabsorption process of these molecules. In particular, the enhancement of noradrenaline activity is the cause of the effects that this drug produces on the cardiovascular system, while the prolonged action of dopamine is the cause of most of the behavioral effects.

Cocaine is also a local anesthetic with a powerful vasoconstrictor effect.

The effects when using cocaine occur quite quickly and are a function of how it is taken: faster if injected by vein, followed by crack / freebase, snorting or chewing the leaves:

Effects on a psychic level: increased attention and concentration, reduction of the sense of fatigue, reduction of sleep and hunger, sense of euphoria, greater sexual power;

Effects on a physical level: contraction of blood vessels, dilation of the pupils, increase in body temperature, heart rhythm and blood pressure, block of dopamine reabsorption in the synapses;

Long-term effects: depression, anxiety, irritability, paranoia, insomnia and psychosis, weight loss, rupture of the nasal septum if the drug is taken intranasally for a long period of time;

Symptoms of Overdose: agitation, hostility, hallucinations, psychosis, paranoia, anxiety, convulsions, hyperthermia, heart attack, muscle and respiratory paralysis, death.

A very important aspect in the use of cocaine is that it causes addiction with real withdrawal crises.

Chronic use of cocaine can lead to a serious debilitation of the state of health and the appearance of organic disorders. The organs most affected are above all the heart and the entire cardio-circulatory system. Nasal intake can lead, due to the vasoconstrictive effects of the substance, to necrosis and perforation of the nasal septum.

Pure cocaine is rapidly metabolized by the body in the urine within a few days and no traces remain in the body.

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