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What Is Cocaine Most Commonly Cut With?

Anyone who uses cocaine for recreational purposes most likely understands that the substance sold by street drug dealers is not pure. Dealers cut or dilute the drug to increase their profits.

Often, when users buy cocaine, the drug has been through several different illicit dealers, with each one diluting it further.

Various estimates regarding the purity of cocaine sold on the street suggest that 80 percent or more of the product is not pure cocaine.

What Type of Substances Are Typically Use to Cut Cocaine?

The number of potential fillers used to cut cocaine can be quite extensive. It often varies depending on the availability of cutting agents to the particular street dealer.

A general list of the categories of substances that are used to cut cocaine includes:

Categories of Substance Used to Cut Cocaine

  • Substances with psychoactive effects that can add to the belief that the drug is pure. Typically, these are substances with numbing effects.
  • Substances that mimic the appearance of cocaine but have no psychoactive effects (typically white powdery substances).
  • Potentially poisonous substances that can be toxic but do not have any significant psychoactive effects.

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Psychoactive Substances

It is highly unlikely that cocaine bought on the street would include only cocaine as its psychoactive ingredient. Numerous psychoactive ingredients are used to cut cocaine.

Psychoactive Ingredients Used to Cut Cocaine

  • Caffeine is commonly used.
  • Other substances, such as PCP and ecstasy, have turned up in cocaine.
  • Other stimulant drugs of abuse, like methamphetamine and other amphetamines, are often used.
  • Anesthetics are commonly used because they have a numbing effect, which leaves the impression that the drug is purer than it really is.
  • Procaine (Novocain)
  • Lidocaine
  • Benzocaine
  • Opiates and other dangerous drugs are sometimes used to cut cocaine.

Fillers Without Significant Psychoactive Effects

Ingredients that may mimic the appearance of cocaine but have few, if any, psychoactive effects are often used to cut the drug on the street. This allows for a cheap way to increase profits.

Numerous white powders and other fillers can be used. The following substances are commonly found in samples of cocaine that is seized in drug raids:

Common Fillers

  • Talcum powder, flour, cornstarch, and sugar powders of all types
  • Quinine
  • Baking soda, vitamin C powder, other vitamin powders (e.g., vitamin B1), and milk powder
  • Many different chemical formations that are similar in appearance to powdered cocaine, such as magnesium, sodium, phosphorus, manganese, and others
  • Powdered asbestos and/or Epsom salts

Toxic Substances

It is relatively rare for toxic substances without psychoactive effects to be mixed into cocaine, but it does happen.


For instance, a study of cocaine samples that were purchased through illicit sources online indicated that nearly 40 percent of the cocaine contained a medication called levamisole, a drug used to kill and expel parasitic worms in animals. The drug is not designed to be used by humans, and it is not available in the United States.

There are reports that the toxin strychnine is sometimes used in cocaine as filler, but these reports appear to be extremely rare, if they are legitimate at all.

Arsenic, an extremely dangerous toxic substance, has been found in some samples of cocaine.

A Disturbing Recent Finding

One of the most dangerous substances that is known to be mixed with cocaine is the synthetic opiate drug fentanyl.

Fentanyl is far more potent than morphine or heroin. It is responsible for numerous overdose deaths because it is used to enhance the effects of heroin.

Fentanyl is an extremely dangerous drug that is between 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin. Individuals have been known to experience overdose effects by simply touching fentanyl.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recently released a series of warnings about the potential dangers of cocaine laced with fentanyl. There have been numerous overdose deaths associated with cocaine, and an alarming proportion of these deaths is believed to be due to the mixture of cocaine and fentanyl.

The warnings also report that there is a dangerous trend for drug dealers to cut other drugs of abuse with fentanyl.

Why Cut Cocaine With Fentanyl?

According to the DEA, there are a couple of reasons that fentanyl may be used to cut cocaine.

Reasons to Cut Cocaine with Fentanyl

  • It is used on purpose to create a speedball, which combines the rush of cocaine with the depressant effects of an opiate.
  • Dealers are accidentally cutting cocaine with fentanyl, and they are unaware of this.

The DEA and some news outlets have suggested that the rising number of cocaine overdose deaths observed in the past several years may be related to people being unaware that their cocaine is cut with fentanyl. All sources agree that more data is needed to understand the problem.

How Can You Tell What Else Is in Cocaine?

According to the DEA and most other sources, outside of laboratory tests, there is no sure way to tell what cocaine is laced with. According to Scientific American, there is a relatively inexpensive laboratory test to determine the presence of fentanyl in any substance, including cocaine. However, for most of the substances that it been found in, formal laboratory tests are necessary to determine its presence.

Anyone cocaine users who begin to experience extreme nausea, muscle stiffness, confusion, or other effects that would not be expected from using the drug should immediately call 911.

How to Ensure Safety

The only way to truly ensure safety is not to use cocaine at all.

“Cocaine is an extremely potent stimulant drug that by itself has numerous potential negative effects, including the development of a substance use disorder. Cocaine laced with other substances can produce unpredictable effects, many of which can be potentially dangerous and even fatal.”

Individuals who can’t seem to stop their cocaine use should get treatment for a substance use disorder from a licensed mental health professional who specializes in treating addictive behaviors.

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