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Using Fake Cocaine Is Risky and Potentially Deadly

Fake cocaine is one of the recent substances to emerge from the synthetic drug scene. As the name implies, it is not real cocaine. Its contents are made up of synthetic cathinones, which are chemicals that are more widely known as bath salts. These are not the bath salts found on the shelves at discount retailers. 

Instead, these products contain human-made stimulants that mimic the effects of cathinone, a chemical found in the khat plant native to southern Arabia and East Africa, as the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports. Methylenedioxypyrovalerone, a central nervous stimulant abbreviated as MDPV, is the active ingredient in bath salts products.

Access to designer drugs is easy for just about anyone to obtain. They can often be purchased online from various sources or in stores that sell drug paraphernalia under misleading or unclear labels.

“Synthetic cathinones usually take the form of a white or brown crystal-like powder and are sold in small plastic or foil packages labeled ‘not for human consumption.’ They can be labeled as ‘bath salts,’ ‘plant food,’ ‘jewelry cleaner,’ or ‘phone screen cleaner,’” NIDA writes. They also may be labeled “for novelty use only.”

Users may recognize them by names such as Bliss, Blue Silk, Ivory Wave, or White Lightning, among countless others. 

Synthetic drug users typically will either snort, swallow, or smoke synthetic cathinones to get high. Because it is a stimulant, users experience the usual effects of a rapid heartbeat, racing pulse, and increased alertness and energy. Using these drugs increases their chances of experiencing the following:

  • Hallucinations
  • Panic attacks
  • Paranoia
  • High sex drive
  • Increased desire to be social

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Why Fake Cocaine Is Dangerous

Many risks come with the use of fake cocaine or any synthetic drug, including “fake weed” or “fake pot.”  Here are just a few:

It’s Likely Not What You Think It Is

Using fake cocaine puts you in a tough spot. You really don’t know what you are getting.

Young man shaping lines of cocaine with a razor

Its ingredients are so varied; users may not know how they’ll be affected until after they take it. Synthetic cathinones have no known medical purpose, which means they aren’t regulated or controlled by the federal government. This makes it easy for manufacturers of these substances to dodge the authorities. 

Tracking down where the drugs’ ingredients come from is near impossible, and trying to figure out the concentration of each is challenging to do. Not knowing what’s in the drug, coupled with the inability to predict what could happen once it is inside the body, is a recipe for putting one’s life in serious danger.

It Is Highly Addictive

Fake cocaine users may use the drugs recreationally, but doing so over time can cause them to build a tolerance for the drug that leads to an addiction that can ruin their health and their lives. Addiction, a chronic brain disease for which there is no cure, makes people use harmful substances repeatedly in destructive ways despite the consequences. Severe substance users find it difficult to stop on their own, especially if they use drugs and/or alcohol for prolonged periods. 

Some bath salts users who abruptly reduce or stop their use of these substances may experience symptoms that affect their physical and mental state. This is a clear sign that the body has become dependent on the substance. These changes may signal that the body has gone into drug withdrawal, which can be uncomfortable and hard to get through without professional help. 

Symptoms of bath salts withdrawal include:

  • Persistent and intense bath salts cravings
  • Anxiety
  • Amnesia, memory problems
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue

While NIDA reports that there are currently no medications available to help treat bath salts addiction, other medical studies have found that benzodiazepines and certain antidepressants may be helpful in managing the worst symptoms of the withdrawal process. 

It Can Cause Long-Term Health Problems

Bath salts use has sent thousands of people to emergency rooms across the U.S. According to the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy; these dangerous substances were involved in more than 20,000 ER visits in 2011.

Longtime users of fake cocaine can develop chronic health problems as a result of their use. This includes brain damage, kidney failure, compromised liver health, which can also result in liver failure. Use can also lead to an overdose that can turn fatal. 

 The safest way to avoid any of these effects is to avoid taking these dangerous substances altogether.


Drug Enforcement Administration. (n.d.). Bath Salts. Retrieved from

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, February). Synthetic Cathinones ("Bath Salts"). Retrieved from

T, Buddy. “Fake Cocaine: Everything You've Been Afraid to Ask.”Verywell Mind, Verywell Mind, 30 Aug. 2019. Retrieved from

Gershman, J. A., & Fass, A. D. (2012, October). Synthetic cathinones ('bath salts'): Legal and health care challenges. Retrieved from

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