This is a ridiculously common trope in cop shows and movies. I've seen movies where either a cop or a druglord was able to rattle off purity statistics after just a taste. The good guys bust into a room and find a bunch of drug bricks. They stab a hole in one and then dab a bit of the white substance on their tongue declaring, "Oh, this is the good stuff! X% pure!"

Is this possible? Can any of the following attributes be discovered purely through taste?

  • Type of drug
  • Quality of drug (presumably this is a mixed bag of potency and mixture?)
  • Place of origin
  • 3
    I can recall TV shows where they taste the drug to establish if it is likely cocaine, but I don't recall any where they have made a purity claim. Do you have any you can reference? (Another question: If it was highly pure cocaine, and they weren't regular users, would a pinch not get them more than a little bit high?)
    – Oddthinking
    Aug 25, 2014 at 16:07
  • 5
    Another valid question: Do cops actually do this? straightdope.com/columns/read/2089/…
    – Oddthinking
    Aug 25, 2014 at 16:10
  • @Oddthinking: If I rephrase the question to ask, "type or quality of drugs" would that work better? (But yes, I have seen examples of people tasting for quality. I don't have the references handy but I'll try to look up specifics examples later.)
    – MrHen
    Aug 25, 2014 at 16:17
  • 2
    I can't recall any instance of "X% pure!" however I do have a notion of characters making more subjective claims on the substance's quality after a taste.
    – Brian S
    Aug 25, 2014 at 18:15
  • 2
    @ChrisW: I think it's a good and notable claim, as are many others here from fictional stories. See the relevant discussion on meta, and I know we have other questions asked about fictional-devices-posing-as-reality. The only other example I remember at the moment is the one I asked here.
    – Flimzy
    Aug 26, 2014 at 8:35

1 Answer 1


According to Pharmacology and Abuse of Cocaine, Amphetamines, Ecstasy and Related Designed Drugs, at page 39:

The taste test. Cocaine has a bitter taste and the added cut will tend to alter that taste. A milk sugar cut will sweeten the cocaine although dextrose has a tendency to sweeten the substance more than lactose. Procaine will be bitter to the taste but will tend to numb the gums and tongue quicker and longer than cocaine. Sodium chloride has an after taste and Epsom salts are bitter in taste and sandy in texture.

So tasting provides some information as to the degree cocaine has been cut (diluted) with other substances.

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