Do your friends keep going to the toilets and coming back a) arrogant, and b) with a runny nose? It’s likely they’re on cocaine. But what is it? What’s the difference between cocaine and crack? And what does it do to you?

girl snorting coke

Whatever you do, don't sneeze...

What is cocaine?

Cocaine is a stimulant drug that comes from the South American plant ‘Coca’. Taking it gives you a powerful – but short-lived – high, where your body is flooded with the happy hormone dopamine. Cocaine usually come as a white powder.

What is crack cocaine?

Crack is cocaine in a crystallised form. It’s more addictive than standard cocaine because the high is more intense and reaches the brain quicker. Crack cocaine is made by heating cocaine with bicarbonate of soda. These crystals are often called ‘rocks’.

How do you take cocaine?

Cocaine powder is usually chopped into small lines and snorted using a rolled-up bank note.

Crack cocaine is usually smoked with a pipe on foil, or rolled-up in a ‘crack spliff’.

Some people inject cocaine and crack, but this is SO very risky.

Why do people take cocaine?

  • It bombards you with happiness chemicals, making you feel euphoric
  • You’re WIDE AWAKE and, if you weren’t so happy, you could probably complete 10 million Sudokus as it hones your concentration
  • It gives you so much confidence. You’re convinced that you’re, in fact, utterly amazing at everything
  • Hunger, what’s that? Your appetite disappears
  • It gets you reaching for the condoms (or maybe just a box of tissues) i.e. you’re horny as hell

What are the bad side effects of cocaine?

Cocaine has some pretty serious side effects; the main ones being it’s ridiculously addictive and erodes your nose.

Cocaine has a number of other physical effects that aren’t much fun at all, including:

  • A racing heart and high blood pressure – sometimes people have seizures, strokes and even heart attacks
  • Getting hot and sweaty
  • Breathing really fast
  • Large dilated pupils
  • Snorting it can give you nose bleeds

Taking too much cocaine in one sitting can:

  • Make you really paranoid
  • Give you scary hallucinations
  • Make you irritable and aggressive
  • Generally just make you really confused

How long do the effects of coke last?

If you snort a line, the high lasts between 20 to 30 minutes. If you smoke crack, the high peaks for about two minutes and lasts for about 10 minutes overall.

Because the coke high is so short, there’s a temptation to reach for more as soon as the high ends. But coke is notoriously expensive, so you could spend a LOT doing this. Also, your body builds up a resistance quickly, so you have to take more and more every time.

What’s the comedown like?

It comes on very quickly, as the effects of the drug are so short-lived. The natural reaction to this is “GIVE ME MORE COKE NOW, PLEASE”, which can be a tough urge to fight. After a coke binge, you can feel sad for a few days afterwards. You can also feel like you’ve got a bad cold or flu.

Is cocaine addictive?

Yes, very. It’s psychologically addictive because the high is strong and so short-lived you have to take more every time to get the same effect.

Crack is even more addictive because the high is shorter and people take more to avoid the ‘crash’.

Will cocaine make my nose drop off?

Snorting cocaine can erode your nostrils so you end up with one giant one, where your two normal ones used to be. Read more on our coke and your nose article.

Is crack purer than standard cocaine?

Not necessarily, though this is a common misconception. In recent police seizures, both crack and cocaine tested contained only about 30% cocaine. God knows what makes up the other 70%.

Should I mix cocaine with alcohol?

Nope. Mixing cocaine with alcohol is dangerous because together they make something called ‘cocaethylene’ in your liver. This can make your heart beat irregular, cause a heart attack, fits, and even sudden death. Drinking alcohol even 12 hours after taking coke can do this.

Can you overdose on cocaine?

Yes. People have died from overdoses on cocaine. It can cause heart failure and sudden death.

How can I reduce the risks if I take cocaine?

  • Do it with people you trust. Avoid using cocaine alone and never do it behind locked doors, so help can get to you if something goes wrong.
  • Don’t inject. It makes an overdose more likely and makes it so much more addictive, too. Plus, if the cocaine isn’t pure, you can be injecting potentially fatal nasties right into your blood stream.
  • Decide how much you’re going to take and DON’T go over what you decide. This will help your bank balance, and your likelihood of getting hardcore-addicted.
  • Don’t take cocaine if you have high blood pressure or a heart condition.
  • Coke can make you horny, so don’t forget your condoms folks.

What if I get caught with cocaine?

The maximum sentence for possessing cocaine is seven years imprisonment and a fine because it’s a Class A drug. For more information about being caught with cocaine, read our ‘If caught with drugs article’ here.

Is taking cocaine unethical?

Umm, yes. In fact, cocaine is probably the worst drug you can take if you care even slightly about other humans. It’s estimated that for every gram of cocaine snorted in the UK, someone has paid for it with their life. Drugs wars in Columbia and Mexico result in thousands of innocent people being murdered, kidnapped, trafficked and tortured.

You can read more about cocaine and human rights in our article here.

Next Steps

  • Release offers free and confidential advice on everything to do with drugs and drugs law. 0845 4500 215
  • FRANK offers friendly, confidential advice on all things drugs-related. Call now on 0300 123 6600
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
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Updated on 29-Sep-2015

Photo of snorting coke by Shutterstock