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Drugs Explained


Cocaine is a stimulant drug. They speed up messages travelling between the brain and body.

Cocaine comes from the leaves of the coca bush (Erythroxylum coca), native to South America. The leaf extract is processed to produce three different forms of cocaine:

Cocaine hydrochloride: is a fine white powder with a bitter, numbing taste. Cocaine hydrochloride is often mixed, or ‘cut’, with other substances such as lidocaine, talcum powder or sugar to dilute it before being sold.

Freebase: is a white powder that is purer than cocaine hydrochloride.

Crack is crystals ranging from white or cream to transparent with a pink or yellow hue. It may contain impurities.

What may you experience

Cocaine’s effects appear almost immediately after a single dose and disappear within a few minutes to an hour. Small amounts of cocaine usually make the user feel euphoric, energetic, talkative, mentally alert, and hypersensitive to sight, sound, and touch. The drug can also temporarily decrease the need for food and sleep. Some users find that cocaine helps them perform simple physical and intellectual tasks more quickly, although others experience the opposite effect.

The duration of cocaine’s euphoric effects depend upon the route of administration. The faster the drug is absorbed, the more intense the resulting high, but also the shorter its duration. Snorting cocaine produces a relatively slow onset of the high, but it may last from 15 to 30 minutes. In contrast, the high from smoking is more immediate but may last only 5 to 10 minutes.

Short Term Effects

Short-term physiological effects of cocaine use include:

Long Term Effects

Large amounts of cocaine may intensify the user’s high but can also lead to:

Severe medical complications can occur with cocaine use.

Some of the most frequent are:

In rare instances, sudden death can occur on the first use of cocaine or unexpectedly thereafter. Cocaine-related deaths are often a result of cardiac arrest or seizures. (see “National Overdose Deaths: Number of Deaths from Cocaine“).

Many cocaine users also use alcohol, and this combination can be particularly dangerous.

The two substances react to produce cocaethylene, which may potentiate the toxic effects of cocaine and alcohol on the heart.

The combination of cocaine and heroin is also very dangerous. Users combine these drugs because the stimulating effects of cocaine are offset by the sedating effects of heroin; however, this can lead to taking a high dose of heroin without initially realizing it. Because cocaine’s effects wear off sooner, this can lead to a heroin overdose, in which the user’s respiration dangerously slows down or stops, possibly fatally.

Get Help

  • If your use of cocaine is affecting your health, family, relationships, work, school, financial or other life situations, you can find help and support.

    If symptoms are unmanageable call 000 or present at an Emergency Department.

The Law