Since patients with cocaine overdose were reported to develop rhabdomyolysis involving skeletal muscle damage leading to elevated levels of serum creatine kinase (CK), we determined whether cocaine can directly act on isolated rat skeletal muscles and increase the leakage of CK. In the fast-twitch muscle such as the extensor digitorum longus (EDL), following exposure to normal physiological solution for 1, 2, 3, and 4 hr, the mean leakage of CK was 0.6, 0.7, 0.9, and 1.2 units/mg of muscle respectively. On exposure of EDL to 0.1, 0.5, and 1.0 mM cocaine, there was no significant change in CK leakage. In the slow-twitch muscle such as the soleus, following exposure to normal physiological solution for 1, 2, 3, and 4 hr, the mean leakage of CK was 1.5, 2.2, 2.7, and 3.1 units/mg, which was significantly greater (P < 0.001) than in EDL at each time interval. On exposure of soleus to 0.1 mM cocaine, the CK leakage did not increase significantly, but on exposure to 0.5 mM cocaine, it significantly increased to 2.4, 3.4, 4.4, and 5.7 units/mg, and on exposure to 1.0 mM cocaine, it further increased to 2.7, 4.9, 6.5, and 7.6 units/mg. The CK activity of fresh muscle homogenate was 115.5 units/mg in EDL and 51.9 units/mg in soleus. These results indicate that cocaine can directly act on skeletal muscle and increase the leakage of CK especially from slow-twitch muscle like soleus, but not from fast-twitch muscle like EDL.