The word cocaine refers to the drug in a powder form or crystal form. The powder is usually mixed with substances such as corn starch, talcum powder and/or sugar or other drugs such as procaine (a local anesthetic) or amphetamines.
Extracted from coca leaves, cocaine was originally developed as a painkiller. It is most often sniffed, with the powder absorbed into the bloodstream through the nasal tissues. It can also be ingested or rubbed into the gums.
To more rapidly absorb the drug into the body, abusers inject it, but this substantially increases the risk of overdose. Inhaling it as smoke or vapor speeds absorption with less health risk than injection.
Other names for it include:
It comes in a few different forms. The most common is a fine, white powder. It can also be made into a solid rock crystal
Coke is one of the most dangerous drugs known to man. Once a person begins taking the drug, it has proven almost impossible to become free of its grip physically and mentally. Physically it stimulates key receptors (nerve endings that sense changes in the body) within the brain that, in turn, create a euphoria to which users quickly develop a tolerance. Only higher dosages and more frequent use can bring about the same effect.
Today, crack is a worldwide, multibillion-dollar enterprise. Users encompass all ages, occupations and economic levels, even school children as young as eight years old.
Cocaine use can lead to death from respiratory (breathing) failure, stroke, cerebral hemorrhage (bleeding in the brain) or heart attack. Children of cocaine-addicted mothers come into the world as addicts themselves. Many suffer birth defects and many other problems.
Despite its dangers, coke use continues to increase—likely because users find it so difficult to escape from the first steps taken down the long dark road that leads to addiction.
Is it dangerous to mix with other drugs?
Mixing drugs is always risky but some mixtures are more dangerous than others.
Alcohol and cocaine together can be particularly dangerous, for example. Once they mix together in the body they produce a toxic chemical called cocaethylene.
Cocaethylene stays in the body much longer than coke or alcohol alone, and this increases the damage done to the heart and liver.
Physical health risks
- White powder is risky for anyone with high blood pressure or a heart condition, but even healthy young people can have a fit, heart attack or stroke after using the drug.
- The risk of overdose increases if you mix coke with other drugs or alcohol.
- Over time, snorting cocaine damages the cartilage in your nose that separates your nostrils. Heavy users can lose this cartilage and end up with one large nostril and a misshapen nose.
- Taking cocaine when pregnant can damage your baby, cause miscarriage, premature labour and low birth weight.
- Regularly smoking crack can cause breathing problems and pains in the chest.
- Injecting cocaine can damage veins and cause ulcers and gangrene. Sharing needles or other injecting equipment can spread HIV and hepatitis infections too. It’s also easier to overdose from injecting cocaine.
- Speedballing (injecting a mixture of cocaine and heroin) can have fatal results. A form of heroin called white heroin, is easily mistaken for cocaine and people have died or been hospitalis after snorting it thinking it was cocaine.
Mental health risks
Regular use of cocaine can make people feel:
Cocaine can bring previous mental health problems to the surface too, and if a relative has had mental health problems, there might be an increas risk for you.
Social risksFrequent users find they begin to crave more of the drug – so it can become an expensive habit to keep up with.
Environmental risksCocaine doesn’t just damage the people who take it. It wrecks the communities that it’s grown in and leads to deforestation. Find out more about how cocaine wrecks communities.
What is cocaine cut with?
The purity of cocaine goes up and down depending on the market.
A wrap of cocaine powder can be cut with many things, such as sugar or starch, but benzocaine is the most common.
Benzocaine is a local anaesthetic that produces a numbing effect similar to cocaine, but without the cocaine high.
How long the effects last and the drug stays in your system depend on how much you’ve taken, your size, whether you’ve eaten and what other drugs you may have also taken.
How long it lastsThe initial high from cocaine doesn’t last that long, around 20 to 30 minutes – although this depend on the purity of the cocaine and the person’s tolerance. You might still experience some physical effects after the high has gone, such as a faster heart beat.
The effects of smoking crack are even shorter lasting, around 10 minutes, with the peak lasting for about two minutes after smoking it.
After effectsSome people find that cocaine makes them feel down, anxious and paranoid the next day, or longer.
How long will it be detectable?
Cocaine can be detected in a urine test for up to 3 days after snorting it.
How long a drug can detecte for depends on how much is taken and which testing kit is use. This is only a general guide.