The Colombian Drug Trade: a greater Threat Than Believed Cristy Aragon edge- prejudice and Poverty Spring 2005 The Colombian Drug Trade: a greater Threat Than Believed

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Forms of cocaine:

Cocaine sulfate

Cocaine sulfate is produced by smashing coca leaves along with water and dilute sulfuric acid. This is often accomplished by putting the ingredients into a vat and stamping on it, similar to the traditional method of crushing grapes. The sulfate itself is an intermediate step to producing cocaine hydrochloride.

Cocaine hydrochloride

Cocaine hydrochloride (HCI) is the standard form of finished cocaine. Because the substance is very stable and soluble in water, it is the most suitable for snorting or injecting. In the seventies, it was commongly used by dissolving it in a glass of Coca-Cola (this was after cocaine had been removed as an ingredient), making a drink names “Coke and Coke” (cite).


While the salt form of cocaine is hydrochloride, the base form is called “freebase”. Unlike its salt counterpart, the base is insoluble in water and is therefore not suitable for drinking, snorting, or injecting. Instead, it vaporizes at a low temperature, which makes it suitable for smoking. Freebase cocaine is produced first by dissolving cocaine hydrochloride in water. Once dissolved, cocaine hydrochloride separates into protonated cocaine ion and chloride ion, while the remaining solids, which are not cocaine, are removed by filtering. Then, a base, typically ammonia (NH3), is added to the solutoin to remove the extra proton from the cocaine. Because freebase cocaine is insoluble in water, it precipitates out and the solution becomes cloudy. To recover the breebase, ether is added to the solution and the mixture is shaken vigorously; after this, the ether is siphoned off and left to evaportae, leaving behind a nearly pire freebase.

Because the cocaine is immediately absorbed into the blood through the lungs, many cocaine users prefer smoking freebase to other methods of cocaine use. The rush is much more intense, since the substance reaches the brain in about five seconds, but the effects do not last as long. This characteristic of freebasing makes the drug especially dangerous as users often continue to smoke freebase until its gone, instead of waiting the five to ten minutes for the high to finish, thus resulting in overdose.

What’s important to note is that the term “freebasing” refers to the process done by users to change finished cocaine HCI product back to cocaine base, in what could be considered a production refersal process.

Crack cocaine

Crack cocaine is another form of cocaine created by users from finished cocaine HCI, similar to that of freebase. The difference is found in its production; instead of using ether to produce freebase cocaine, producers began to omit the step of removing the freebase cocaine precipitate from the ammonia mixture. The end result is that the cut, in addition to the ammonium salt, remains in the freebase cocaine after the mixture is evaporated. The “rock” that forms contains a small amount of water, which, when heated, boils and makes a crackling sound; thus, this substance was named “crack”.

Crack is a unique form of cocaine for it offers a strong cocaine experience in small, low-priced packages. In the United States, crack cocaine is often sold in small, inexpensive doses often referred to as “nickels” or “nickel rocks” (because of its five dollar price), “dimes” or “dime rocks,” “twenties,” or “forties.” Average users of crack cocaine are typically 30 years and older inner-city residents of a lower income bracket.
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