From a chemical point of view, cocaine is actually an alkaloid. This chemical substance is present in the leave structure of the so-called coca plant. This plant is highly adaptable, which allows it to grow in a range of different climate conditions, while soil quality does not seem to affect it either.
The coca plant has a life span of approximately fifty years. It grows to be three metres tall and its leaves are harvested and processed throughout every season. The coca bushes need to be stripped only manually. The harvested leaves are then dried in the sun until they become brittle. These dried coca plant leaves are then taken to an illegal drug laboratory. Cocaine is an illegal drug throughout the world.
Depending on the quality of the harvested leaves, it may take up to a 150 Kg of dry, brittle coca leaves to make only 1 Kg of dry coca paste. The earliest stage of cocaine production is usually to chop the harvested leaves. Afterwards, they are dusted with lime and a small quantity of fresh water. The dried leaves are then soaked in plain water, a powerful alkali like lime is then added - this releases the alkaloids. After that, kerosene needs to be added to the mixture and stirred in. This further dissolves the alkaloids. The solvent, kerosene, does not mix with the watery part of the mixture.
The kerosene is then separated from the water, after which the water is drained through the bottom of the mixing container and the solvent is poured out the top. A further step in the making of pure cocaine paste is the adding of sulphuric acid. This leads to the separation of the alkaloids. The resulting cocaine paste is then separated from the remainders of the used solvent and finally dried in the sun, as were the leaves in the beginning. A more detailed description of the process follows.
After the successful extraction of the cocaine, the resulted liquid is heated. This process removes any remaining wax from the processed coca leaves and then the vegetable matter is separated. The liquid is mixed with sulfuric acid and mixing starts again. This is how cocaine sulfate is obtained. The mixture has to sit for the separation of the cocaine sulfate to take place. The sulfate is blended with lime or, in some cases, even with caustic soda. These substances neutralize the sulfuric acid. The cocaine paste is then dried again, prior to being sent to yet another laboratory where further extraction processes take place.
Once this cocaine paste is ready for further processing, it requires further alterations to convert it into a final product. When these processes are completed, cocaine becomes ingestable. This part of the process is actually a purification process. Sulfuric acid is required once again to complete this stage. The paste is dissolved in a small quantity of acid.
Potassium permanganate, yet another chemical substance, has to be added to the mixture - the permanganate acts as an oxidizing agent. The resulted chemical reaction leads to the change of color in the coca paste. The paste turns from yellow-brown to colorless or, at times, white. This white or colorless acidic substance is then filtered again. Ammonia is required for the neutralization of the present sulfuric acid.
The resulted cocaine product is then dried again. This process converts it into what is known as cocaine hydrochloride. This is the actual street cocaine, which is an a crystalline powder of usually a faint white color. Its taste is very bitter and the effect on the consumer is numbing. In any other forms, the potency of cocaine, as well as its solubility, may be lost.
High quality cocaine must be completely soluble in water. Otherwise it cannot be injected. If it is not, the narcotic can have a clumpy texture (the so-called crack cocaine) that, if it is injected can cause an immediate cardiac arrest. As cocaine hydrochloride, a substance that strongly resembles fine salt, the narcotic can be both snorted and injected. The blood stream absorbs it immediately.
Usually, cocaine is mixed with other substances before it is sold. These substances increase the power of the narcotic and make it even more dangerous.