Cornerstone of Southern California Drug and Alcohol Rehab
Can You Eat Cocaine? Dangers of Cocaine Use.
Author: Cornerstone of Southern California
Published: May 5, 2022

Cocaine is one of the most used illicit substances in the United States, with around five million people reporting using it in the past 12 months. Cocaine can be highly addictive because the high generally lasts for five to 30 minutes. It is an illicit stimulant derived from the coca leaves and is available in powder, liquid, and rock (crack cocaine) forms. Cocaine is generally snorted, although crack cocaine is also injected or smoked.

Less commonly, people may eat cocaine as an alternative to snorting, smoking, or injecting. Cocaine can be taken orally by rubbing the drug along their gums or swallowing the drug for its intoxicating and numbing effects.

Some individuals will rub cocaine onto their gums to test the quality of the substance. A more numb sensation means the cocaine is higher in purity.

What Is Cocaine?

For thousands of years, native peoples in South America have chewed and ingested coca leaves from the coca plant, which is the source of cocaine.

More than 100 years ago, the purified chemical - cocaine hydrochloride - was isolated from the plant. This was the main active ingredient in various tonics developed to treat various illnesses in the early 1900s. It was even an ingredient in early formulations of the drink Coca-Cola®.

Before developing synthetic local anesthetic, doctors would use cocaine as a pain blocker. Research has shown that cocaine is a powerfully addictive substance that can alter brain structure and function after long-term chronic use.

Cocaine is now a Schedule II controlled drug by the Drug Enforcement Administration. It has a high potential for abuse but can be administered by a doctor for legitimate medical uses, such as local anesthesia for some eye, ear, and throat surgeries.

Different Forms Of Cocaine

People abuse two chemical forms of cocaine: the water-soluble hydrochloride salt and the water-insoluble cocaine base.

Powder Form

The hydrochloride salt is powder cocaine, and so is the form that is most commonly snorted or eaten.

Crack Cocaine

The other form of cocaine, crack, is created by combining the drug with ammonia or baking soda and water; the substance is then heated to remove the hydrochloride to produce a smokable substance.

While powder cocaine and crack are very similar and are derived from the same drug, society often views them differently. Several factors affect this, including the price of each form, how they are consumed, and how they are made.

Methods of Consumption

Powdered cocaine is generally snorted or swallowed, whereas crack is smoked or injected. Snorting cocaine means the substance must travel through the blood vessels in the nose to the heart, then be transported to the lungs to be oxygenated. Finally, the oxygenated blood containing the cocaine is pumped throughout, including to the brain.

Smoking crack cocaine skips some of this process, and the substance travels straight to the lungs, providing a more immediate rush.

Duration of Effects

Smoking crack causes an immediate high that often diminishes within five to 10 minutes. This can cause cycles of bingeing and crashing, which increases the risk of dependence.

Snorting powdered cocaine takes three to five minutes to experience effects. The effects are felt for around 30 minutes.

Addiction Potential

The rapid, intense high, and short duration of effects of crack can make an individual more likely to use it repeatedly. This kind of cocaine abuse increases the risk of developing a drug addiction.

Cost Disparity

Crack is diluted with other substances and can be produced anywhere; this makes it a much lower-cost alternative to cocaine in powder form. The lower price of crack is what made it so popular initially. Crack is generally associated with lower-income communities, homelessness, and ethnic minorities. The so-called 'war on drugs' to tackle substance abuse, particularly cocaine abuse in the US, introduced a considerable gap in how possession of each substance was prosecuted, creating racial and economic divides.

War On Drugs

Mandatory minimum sentences were introduced in the 1980s as part of the war on drugs, with a substantial gap between crack and powder cocaine amounts that resulted in the same prison sentence. Possession of five grams of crack resulted in an automatic five-year sentence, whereas possessing 500 grams of cocaine powder resulted in the same sentence. This led to an unequal increase in incarceration rates for nonviolent Black drug offenders.

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Why Would People Eat Cocaine?

There are several reasons that cocaine users may eat cocaine in powder form. Eating cocaine may seem less dangerous than snorting or injecting, although it is not a standard method of consumption. In theory, cocaine can be consumed or drunk, dissolved in liquid, or combined with food. However, there is no particular reason that cocaine users would want to use this method because the cocaine would have to pass through the digestive system so that the cocaine high would be milder, and the effects would take much longer to be felt.

Another method of oral use is rubbing cocaine into the gums above the teeth, which puts the drug straight into the bloodstream.

Effects Of Eating Cocaine

Regardless of the method of consumption, the effects of cocaine are intense and short-lived. Individuals that consume cocaine orally are at risk of a range of health problems that can include:

  • heart attack
  • high blood pressure
  • anxiety
  • poor decision-making
  • lack of self-awareness
  • irritability
  • paranoia
  • tremors
  • increased energy and alertness
  • sweating
  • coma


People who eat cocaine are also at risk of cardiovascular issues, seizures, and overdose. In addition, they are at risk of consuming cocaine in combination with other drugs or consuming too much to experience an intensified high. Signs of overdose include seizures, elevated body temperature, and unconsciousness, and in the case of an overdose, a healthcare provider should be contacted immediately. Unlike some other drugs, there is no medicine to reverse the effects of a cocaine overdose.

What Happens In The Brain When You Eat Cocaine?

The drug triggers a release of hormones like dopamine and norepinephrine, responsible for feelings of confidence.

Cocaine use causes blood vessels to constrict, and chronic, regular use can decrease the quantity of oxygen delivered to the brain. This can cause brain damage and increase the risk of aneurysms. Other health risks of cocaine use include strokes, seizures, brain shrinking, and inflammation of blood vessels in the brain and spinal column.

What Happens In The Body When You Eat Cocaine?

Cocaine can reduce the blood flow to the stomach and intestines, leading to tears and ulcers.

Chronic or acute substance abuse can cause muscle fibers to die, and these dead fibers enter the bloodstream. This can both cause muscle damage and have severe complications for the kidney.

Liver damage resulting from increased toxins in the body is a risk with chronic use.

Is Eating Cocaine Addictive?

With repeated use, the drug can disrupt the way the brain's dopamine system works, which reduces a person's ability to feel pleasure from everyday activities. Drug abuse, including eating cocaine, can also cause you to develop a tolerance, meaning you must take more of the drug to get the desired effect, further increasing the risk of addiction.

Cocaine Addiction Treatment

Cocaine addiction treatment must start with detox to remove all drug traces from your system. In cases of chronic cocaine abuse, one may experience withdrawal symptoms, including depression, fatigue, increased appetite, insomnia, restlessness, and cravings.

However, the proper treatment can help a person who is addicted control cravings and achieve long-term recovery.

Contact Cornerstone today to enquire about immediate treatment help and hear about our different treatment options.