Fake Cocaine | Identification, Effects, & Dangers Of Synthetic Cocaine

Manish Mishra, MBBS

Medically Reviewed By: Manish Mishra, MBBS

on December 7, 2022

Fake cocaine likely refers to synthetic cathinones, or bath salts, a type of designer drug that causes a strong stimulant high and unpredictable psychological effects.

In recent years a new type of psychoactive stimulant with unpredictable and dangerous properties has appeared in US drug markets, presented both as a cheaper alternative to cocaine and as a counterfeit version of the drug.

What Is Fake Cocaine?

‘Fake cocaine’ and ‘fake crack’ are terms that have been used to describe a wide variety of substances passed off as cocaine, including household white powders and roadside pebbles. 

But the terms are also used more specifically to identify a new, emerging class of “designer drugs” called synthetic cathinones, better known as bath salts.

Bath Salts

Bath salts appeared in the United States around 2010 and typically contain the active ingredients methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), methylone, or mephedrone. These synthetic drugs closely resemble a natural cathinone found in the Ethiopian khat plant.

After being identified as analogues of khat, currently a Schedule I controlled substance with no accepted medical use, bath salt drugs were explicitly banned in the United States in 2012.

Nevertheless, they have become increasingly common over time, often being covertly imported as bath salts, plant food, or other innocuous products marked “not for human consumption.”

Identifying Fake Cocaine

Cocaine comes in two forms:

Depending on their purity, both forms of cocaine will have a bitter taste and will act as a local anesthetic, numbing the surface of the lips or tongue on contact. 

However, street cocaine is generally cut with a wide variety of common and uncommon materials, which can influence the drug’s appearance and physical properties.

Bath salts, in contrast, tend to look like white, pink, or brown crystals or, if crushed, a white or brown powder or dust. They are also sometimes dyed a variety of other bright colors.

Bath salts may be packaged in small bags with misleading labels like Ivory Wave or Zoom, or simply placed in a clear plastic baggie.

Lab Testing 

The only truly reliable way to tell the difference between these drugs, or to ensure that bath salts or other drugs haven’t been laced into a sample of cocaine, MDMA, or some other street drug, is to have a sample tested in a laboratory.

But because professional testing isn’t a practical option for those struggling with chronic drug use or cocaine addiction, it’s important that those who use either substance participate in a professional substance abuse treatment program.

Fake Cocaine Vs. Real Cocaine

Freebase cocaine, also called crack cocaine, shares a number of similarities with bath salts. Both:

  • act as central nervous system stimulants
  • are euphoric and severely addictive
  • are illicit, controlled substances that must be smuggled into the country
  • can be deadly in cases of overdose, especially in combination with other drugs

However, they also have a variety of important differences, including:


Bath salts are fully synthetic drugs that are made from scratch in illicit Asian laboratories. Cocaine, on the other hand, is a natural drug harvested from the leaves of coca plants in South America.


Bath salts are usually snorted, though they can also be smoked, swallowed, plugged or dissolved into water and injected.

Real cocaine, on the other hand, is usually taken by snorting, injection, or swallowing, and must be converted into crack cocaine before it can be smoked.


Bath salts tend to be cheaper than cocaine, especially high-quality or pure cocaine, which commands a premium price.


MDPV, the most common substance found in the urine of those hospitalized for using bath salts, is estimated to be more than ten times more potent than cocaine by weight.

Effects Of Using Bath Salts

When absorbed into your body, bath salts can cause a wide range of effects and side effects including:

  • a euphoric stimulant high
  • erratic behavior
  • hallucinations
  • delusions
  • headaches
  • sudden increase in blood pressure and heart rate
  • heart palpitations and chest pains
  • nausea
  • sleep problems
  • severe paranoia
  • panic attacks
  • excited delirium

Long-Term Risks Of Using Bath Salts

Despite bath salts becoming known for causing bad trips and extended, sleepless periods of hallucinations, paranoia, panic, and delirium, bath salts are still addictive and dependence forming. And they can also cause long-term health effects including:

  • kidney and liver failure
  • increased risk of suicide
  • long-term mental illness
  • self-mutilation
  • sudden death from heart attack, stroke, seizures, or respiratory collapse

Treating Bath Salt Addiction

While the precise effects and risks of stimulant drugs like cocaine, methamphetamine, amphetamines, and bath salts can vary, all of these drugs are associated with severe physical and mental harm when abused.

Fortunately, services offered by Ohio Recovery Center can help, including:

To learn more, please contact our professional staff today.

  1. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) — Synthetic Cathinone Sold as Crack Cocaine in Baltimore https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/2018-07/BUL-045-18.pdf
  2. Michigan Department of Community Health — “Bath Salts” Frequently Asked Questions https://www.michigan.gov/-/media/Project/Websites/mdhhs/Folder2/Folder54/Folder1/Folder154/BathSaltsGeneral_Public_Fact_Sheet_April2012.pdf?rev=595f947203e649b58b4d5ad298325247
  3. National Institute On Drug Abuse (NIDA) — Cocaine DrugFacts https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/cocaine
  4. Western Journal of Emergency Medicine — Bath Salts: The Ivory Wave of Trouble https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3298230/

Written by Ohio Recovery Center Editorial Team

© 2024 Ohio Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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