Please note: The information given on this page is not medical advice and should not be relied on in this way. Individuals wanting medical advice on this issue should consult a health professional.
Cocaine is a stimulant drug, which means that it speeds up the messages travelling between the brain and the rest of the body.
Cocaine comes from the leaves of the coca bush (Erythroxylum coca), which is native to South America. The leaf extract is processed to produce 3 different forms of cocaine:
C, coke, nose candy, snow, white lady, toot, Charlie, blow, white dust or stardust.
How is it used?
Cocaine hydrochloride is most commonly snorted. It can also be injected, rubbed into the gums, added to drinks or food.1
Freebase and crack cocaine are usually smoked.1
Indigenous people of South America have traditionally chewed the leaves of the coca bush, or brewed them as a tea, for use as a stimulant or appetite suppressant.3
There is no safe level of drug use. Use of any drug always carries some risk. It's important to be careful when taking any type of drug.
Cocaine affects everyone differently, based on:
The following effects may be experienced:
If a large amount or a strong batch is taken, it could also cause an overdose. If any of the following effects are experienced an ambulance should be called straight away by dialling triple zero (000). Ambulance officers don't need to involve the police.
High doses and frequent heavy use can also cause 'cocaine psychosis', characterised by paranoid delusions, hallucinations and out of character aggressive behaviour. These symptoms usually disappear a few days after the person stops using cocaine.4
Injecting cocaine and sharing needles may also cause:
In the days after cocaine use, the following may be experienced:
Regular use of cocaine may eventually cause:
Snorting cocaine regularly can also cause:
Giving up cocaine after using it for a long time is challenging because the body has to get used to functioning without it.
It's therefore important to talk to your GP or another health professional before trying to give up.
Phases of withdrawal
Withdrawal symptoms usually start around 1–2 days after last use and can last for approximately 10 weeks – days 4 to 7 will be the worst.
Withdrawal usually happens in 3 phases:
Reducing the risks
1. Clark, C., & Roeg, S. (2000). What goes up must come down Responding to cocaine use: Cocaine training package for alcohol and other drug workers. Fitzroy: State Government of Victoria
2. Brands B; Sproule B; & Marshman J. (Eds.). (1998). Drugs & drug abuse (3rd ed.). Ontario: Addiction Research Foundation.
3. Weiss, R., Mirin, S., & Bartel, R. (1994). Cocaine (2nd ed.). Washington: Psychiatric Press Inc.
4. Julien, R., Advokat, C., & Comaty, J. (eds.). (2011). A primer of drug action (12th ed.). New York: Worth Publishing.
5. Campbell, A. (2001). The Australian illicit drug guide. Melbourne: Black Inc.
6. Norentin, B., Ballesteros, J., Callado, L. & Meana, J. (2014). Recent cocaine use is a significant risk factor for sudden cardiovascular death in 15-49 year old subjects: a forensic case-control study [PDF:12KB].
7. Gawin, F., & Kleber, H. (1986). Abstinence symptomatology and psychiatric diagnosis in cocaine abusers. Archive of General Psychiatry, 43(2), 107–113.
8. Kaye, S., & Darke, S. (2004). Non-fatal cocaine overdose among injecting and non-injecting cocaine users in Sydney, Australia, Addiction 99(10), 1315–1322.
Last updated: 5 May 2016