If you have a person living with substance use disorder (SUD) under your roof, you need to know how to recognize their drugs of choice.

In a 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, SAMHSA shows that an estimated 5.5 million people were past users of cocaine, including about 757,000 users of crack. But would you know you saw cocaine if you found it under your roof? 

Cocaine comes in many forms, including:

  • Powdered cocaine
  • Crack cocaine
  • Freebase cocaine
  • Cocaine salts

Contrary to popular belief, cocaine can take many appearances that aren’t an off-white powder.

For instance, crack cocaine looks like a small waxy rock, while freebase looks like crumbly, white crystals with a sandy texture.

In some areas, you can even get coca leaves, which contain the natural form of cocaine.

Here’s how to recognize every form of cocaine:

What Does Cocaine Look Like?

No two batches of cocaine look the same. That’s because it comes in various forms and purities, which can affect the color and texture.

Here’s how to recognize each type of cocaine by appearance:

What Do Cocaine Salts Look Like?

Salts are the white powdered form of cocaine that most people think of first. Its color is usually white to off-white, but a “pure” white may mean that it’s cut with talcum powder or something else.

What Does Cocaine Look Like - Cocaine Salts

What Does Freebase Cocaine Look Like?

Freebase is cocaine that hasn’t been processed with an acid. It might look clumpy or sandy in texture, and the color can range from white to grey to beige.

What Does Cocaine Look Like - Freebase Cocaine

What Do Cocaine Leaves Look Like?

It’s rare to find coca leaves in the United States, but they’re legal in South America so sometimes they’re found in the South. They look like dried, oblong-shaped leaves.

What Does Cocaine Look Like - Coca Leaves

What Does Coca Paste Look Like?

Coca paste is made by soaking leaves in solvents like benzene or kerosene. It looks like a tarry brown substance that people add to cigarettes or cannabis joints.

What Does Cocaine Look like - Coca Paste

What Does Cocaine Smell Like?

Cocaine has a flowery scent that comes from its natural form, the coca leaf. However, there are usually underlying chemical smells too.

Here’s what each form of cocaine smells like:

What Does Cocaine Salts Smell Like?

Cocaine salts are the most pure form of cocaine. It usually smells like ether, which is a chemical used to make it. The smell can be similar to paint or nail polish mixed with ammonia.

Cocaine Salts Smell Like Wet Paint or Nail Polish

What Does Freebase Cocaine Smell Like?

Freebase smells like kerosene, gasoline, or diesel with a flowery note. That’s because cocaine base is derived from a coca paste made with these solvents.

Freebase Cocaine Smells like Gasoline with a Flowery Scent

What Does Coca Leaves Smell Like?

Coca leaves should have a sweet, floral smell if they’re not mixed with other substances.

Coca Leaves Smell Sweet and Floral

What Does Coca Paste Smell like?

The paste form of coca is made by soaking leaves in kerosene, gasoline, or diesel. This process leaves a strong solvent smell. Like many forms of cocaine made with solvents, paste can have an ammonia scent.

Coca Paste Smells like Gasoline and Ammonia

What Does Cocaine Taste Like?

Cocaine always has a bitter taste, no matter what the form. It usually feels like a numbing kind of bitterness, similar to peppercorns.

However, that taste can be accompanied by other flavors in some cases.

Different types of cocaine contain solvents, ammonia, and other chemicals that can affect the taste.

For example:

What do Cocaine Salts Taste Like?

Salts are the purest form of cocaine. They taste bitter and leave a numb feeling in your mouth.

Cocaine Salts Taste Bitter and Leave a Numb Feeling on Tongue

What Does Freebase Cocaine Taste Like?

Freebase can be even more bitter than regular cocaine because it includes acids. It might have an ammonia-like aftertaste. The ether can cause a burning sensation in the mouth.

Freebase Cocaine Tastes Very Bitter and Creates a Burning Sensation on the Tongue

What Do Coca Leaves Taste Like?

Coca leaves can be chewed or brewed. They’re brewed into a drink called mate de coca or made into a paste. Either way, the flavor is typically bitter unless it’s mixed with something sweet. People report coca leaves tasting like flat Coca-Cola without the sweetness or fizz.

What Does Coca Paste Taste Like?

It’s typical for coca paste to taste very, very bad. It tastes like bitter coca leaf mixed with the solvents used to make it. Usually, those solvents are gasoline, benzene, or diesel.

Coca Paste Tastes like Gasoline or Diesel

Is Crack Cocaine Different From Powdered Cocaine?

Yes, crack cocaine is different from powdered cocaine. You can’t identify them by the same criteria.

If you’re looking for white powder, you may not even realize that a pink-beige “rock” could be cocaine!

Crack and powdered coke are the same drugs, but the manufacturing process is entirely different. That’s why their look, taste, and smell are so different.

The alkaloid process used to make crack causes the drug to take on a solid appearance and a salty taste and aroma. Its color is sometimes white, but more often it’s beige, grey, or pink.

On the other hand, powdered coke has a fine texture and a color that’s closer to pure white. It has a bitter, flowery taste and smell that leaves your nose and mouth numb.

Is Freebase Cocaine Different From Cocaine Salts?

Yes, freebase cocaine is different from cocaine salts.

Cocaine salts have a fine texture and a white color. They can be off-white or beige, but there’s less variation in color compared to freebase.

That’s because fewer chemicals are used in processing salts. It results in a product that’s purer compared to freebase. The cocaine salts might look like fine sugar crystals.

On the other hand, freebase has a longer processing system. That leads to a texture that can be a little clumpy or sandy compared to salts. The color can range from white to beige to pink.

Both kinds of cocaine have a flavor and scent that’s bitter and flowery. Freebase may smell or taste like solvents, too.

What Are Street Names for Cocaine?

  • Blow
  • Bump
  • C
  • Coke
  • Dust
  • Flake
  • Nose Candy
  • Snow
  • Sneeze
  • Sniff
  • Toot

What Does Crack Look Like?

This type of crack cocaine looks like a small rock. Its color is often off-white, grey, or beige. With some additives, it may be pinkish. It may flake off when you scratch it with a fingernail.

What Does Cocaine Look Like - Crack Cocaine
Crack Cocaine Looks Like a White Rock

What Does Crack Smell Like?

Crack cocaine smells more similar to meth than other forms of cocaine. That’s especially true when you smoke it. It smells like burning plastic and ammonia. This is because of toxic solvents used to produce it.

Crack Cocaine Smoke Smells like Burning Plastic

Get Treatment for Cocaine Abuse Today

If you’re worried about how cocaine or crack is affecting your life, it’s time to call a treatment center about getting help. Search our directory to find a rehab near you.

At your local treatment center, you’ll get compassionate care in recovery, including evidence-based treatment.

That can include:

  • Counseling: Working with a counselor can help you manage emotional problems without turning to drugs.
  • Inpatient or outpatient care: Inpatient care is the gold standard for most people because it provides such intensive care. Outpatient is a good choice if you can’t leave work or children behind for treatment.
  • Treatment for co-occurring disorders: If you live with depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues, your substance use disorder (SUD) treatment should address those.
  • Medication: In some cases, you’ll be able to manage your symptoms with medication. That can include anti-anxiety medications and sleeping medications. 


  1. Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States (2018)
  2. What Does Cocaine and Crack Look Like? (December 07, 2019)
  3. Cocaine: History, Appearance, Effects (n.d.)
  4. Cocaine and crack. (n.d.) 

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