Cocaine is a powerfully addictive stimulant drug made from the leaves of the coca plant native to South America.


Cocaine is a powerful stimulant, with short-lived effects meaning that it temporarily increases the speed of the way your mind and body work. This can make it difficult to resist the craving for more.

Freebase cocaine (cocaine prepared for smoking) and crack cocaine (a rock form of cocaine) can be smoked. This method of use means they reach the brain very quickly. Snorted cocaine gets to the brain more slowly. Injecting any form of cocaine reaches the brain quickly, but has serious additional risks including the spread of blood borne viruses, such as HIV and Hep C and damages veins.

Although the effects are short lived, all forms of cocaine are highly addictive. Freebase or crack cocaine is more addictive than snorted powder cocaine due to it having a stronger effect.

There is a risk of overdosing with cocaine when taken in combination with other drugs and alcohol.

How cocaine makes you feel

  • Increased energy levels and feeling wide awake
  • Over confidence that can lead to risk taking
  • As the effects wear off, you can experience a long ‘comedown’, feeling depressed and unwell, which can occur for days after taking the drug

The law

  • ‘Coke’, ‘freebase’ and ‘crack’ are all Class A drugs – that means they’re illegal to have, give away or sell
  • Possession can get you up to seven years in prison
  • Supplying someone else, including your friends, can get you life and an unlimited fine

Short-term effects

  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature
  • Contracted blood vessels
  • Increased rate of breathing
  • Dilated pupils
  • Disturbed sleep patterns
  • Nausea
  • Hyperstimulation
  • Bizarre, erratic, sometimes violent behaviour
  • Hallucinations, hyperexcitability, irritability
  • Tactile hallucination, e.g. the illusion of bugs burrowing under the skin
  • Intense euphoria
  • Anxiety and paranoia
  • Depression
  • Intense drug craving
  • Panic and psychosis
  • Convulsions, seizures and sudden death from high doses (even one time)
  • Cocaine causes heart, kidney, brain and lung damage.

Long-term effects

  • Permanent damage to blood vessels of the heart and brain
  • High blood pressure, leading to heart attacks, strokes, and death
  • Liver, kidney and lung damage
  • Destruction of tissues in nose if sniffed
  • Respiratory failure if smoked
  • Infectious diseases and abscesses if injected
  • Malnutrition, weight loss
  • Severe tooth decay
  • Auditory and tactile hallucinations
  • Sexual problems, reproductive damage and infertility (for both men and women)
  • Disorientation, apathy, confused exhaustion
  • Irritability and mood disturbances
  • Increased frequency of risky behaviour
  • Delirium or psychosis
  • Severe depression
  • Tolerance and addiction (even after just one use)