Related terms: white, wash, toot, stones, snow, rocks, percy, pebbles, freebase, crack, coke, ching, charlie, chang, c.
It can give a powerful high that can leave you feeling really down.
Powder cocaine (also called coke), freebase and crack are all forms of cocaine. They’re all powerful stimulants, with short-lived effects – which means that they temporarily speed up the way your mind and body work, but the effects are short-lived. Both ‘freebase’ cocaine (powder cocaine that’s been prepared for smoking) and ‘crack’ cocaine (a ‘rock’ like form of cocaine) can be smoked. This means that they reach the brain very quickly, while snorted powder cocaine gets to the brain more slowly.
All types of cocaine are addictive, but by reaching the brain very quickly freebase or crack tend to have a much stronger effect and be more addictive than snorted powder cocaine. Injecting any form of cocaine will also reach the brain more quickly but this has serious additional risks, including damaging veins and spreading blood borne viruses, such as HIV and Hep C.
Here are the main effects and risks of taking cocaine:
- It can make you feel on top of the world, very confident, alert and awake, but some people can get over-confident, arrogant and aggressive and end up taking very careless risks.
- It raises the body’s temperature, makes the heart beat faster and reduces your appetite.
- When the effects start to wear off, people experience a long ‘comedown’, when they feel depressed and run down. This crash can happen for days afterwards.
What does cocaine look like?
‘Coke’ is a white powder. ‘Crack’ is a form of cocaine made into small lumps or rocks that makes a cracking noise when burnt. ‘Freebase’ cocaine is specially prepared ‘coke’ and is a crystal-like powder; it is less common than ‘coke’ and ‘crack’.
On average, a gram of coke powder generally costs £42. A crack rock costs between £10 and £20. Crack is sometimes sold cheaper by the slice or as a ‘clubbing rock’ for about £10.
How do people take cocaine?
Coke is divided into lines and snorted up the nose. It is not easily smoked, unless specially prepared into ‘freebase’ or ‘crack’ cocaine. A rock of crack is about the size of a raisin. Like ‘freebase’, it’s usually smoked in a pipe, glass tube, plastic bottle or in foil.
Both powder and crack forms of cocaine can be prepared to make a solution of cocaine for injecting. Sharing needles and syringes or other injecting equipment, when injecting, runs the risk of the injector catching or spreading HIV and hepatitis C infection.
There is also the risk that veins may be damaged and of an abscess or blood clot developing.
Taking cocaine makes users feel on top of the world, wide-awake, confident and on top of their game – but some people are over-confident on it and so may take very careless risks. Its effect is much like speed (amphetamines), but is usually stronger and doesn’t last as long.
It can also have other effects:
- Raising the body’s temperature
- Making the heart beat faster
- Reducing feelings of hunger
- After a big night on cocaine, it’s not unusual for people to feel like they’ve got the flu.
The effects of crack smoking are virtually immediate, peaking for about two minutes and lasting for only about 10 minutes.
When snorting coke it takes longer to peak but the effects still don’t last that long, only around 20-30 minutes.
When the effects of any cocaine use start to wear off there can be a very strong temptation to take more, particularly with the long ‘come down’, the crash period sometimes lasting for days afterwards.
What are the risks?
There are many serious risks with taking cocaine. Here’s what it could do to you.
- Cocaine users have died from overdoses. High doses can raise the body’s temperature, cause convulsions, a heart attack and heart failure. Risk of overdosing increases if cocaine is mixed with other drugs or alcohol.
- Over time, snorting cocaine will seriously damage the cartilage in your nose that separates the nostrils; and it is not unknown for heavy users to lose their cartilage and end up with just one really big nostril and a misshapen nose.
- Cocaine is highly risky for anybody with high blood pressure or a heart condition. Even perfectly healthy, young people can have a fit or heart attack after taking too much.
- Using cocaine a lot makes people feel depressed and run down. It can lead to serious problems with anxiety, paranoia and panic attacks.
- Cocaine can bring previous mental health problems to the surface. If a relative has had mental health problems, there might be an increased risk for you.
- Taking cocaine when you’re pregnant can damage your baby. It may cause miscarriage, premature labour and low birth weight.
- Regularly smoking crack can cause breathing problems and pains in the chest.
- Frequent users find they begin to crave more – so it can become an expensive habit to keep.
- Injecting drugs can damage veins and cause ulcers and gangrene. Sharing needles or other injecting equipment can spread HIV and hepatitis infections.
- It’s easier to overdose if you’re injecting cocaine.
- ‘Speedballing’, injecting a mixture of cocaine and heroin, can have fatal results.
- Heavy crack users may take heroin to try to dull their cravings, so they may get hooked on heroin as well.
- A form of heroin, called white heroin, is easily mistaken for cocaine and people have died or been hospitalisation after snorting white heroin, which they thought was cocaine. Heroin is active in smaller doses than cocaine, so if you mistake it for cocaine, you are more likely to overdose, experience respiratory failure (this is what it’s called when your breathing stops) and possibly die.
Cocaine and alcohol
Using cocaine with alcohol (or other drugs) can substantially increase risk of side-effects. Alcohol and cocaine together can be particularly dangerous, as they mix together in the body to produce a toxic chemical, called cocaethylene.
What is cocaine cut with?
Recent police seizures of ‘street’ powder cocaine had an average purity of just 32%. A wrap of cocaine powder can be cut with many things, such as sugar or starch, but benzocaine is most common. Benzocaine is a local anaesthetic which can produce a ‘numbing’ effect similar to cocaine, but without the cocaine ‘high’.
The purity of ‘crack’ depends on the purity of the cocaine used originally to produce the ‘crack’. However, recent police seizures had an average purity of 30%.
Can you get addicted to cocaine?
Cocaine is very addictive and it can be difficult to resist the craving for more. This powerful craving can develop because cocaine can change the way your brain works.
Although the powerful psychological dependence that can easily develop is more of a problem than the physical withdrawal symptoms, people who stop using can experience low moods and feel very rough, and this can also tempt them to take more cocaine.
Cocaine and 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 jail.
- Supplying someone else, including your friends, can get you life and an unlimited fine.
What if you’re caught?
- If the Police catch you with cocaine, they’ll always take some action. This could include a formal caution, arrest and prosecution.
- A conviction for a drug-related offence could have a serious impact. It can stop you visiting certain countries – for example the United States – and limit the types of jobs you can apply for.
Did you know?
- Like drinking and driving, driving when high is illegal – and you can still be unfit to drive the day after using cocaine. You can get a heavy fine, be disqualified from driving or even go to prison.
- Allowing other people to use cocaine in your house or any other premises is illegal. If the police catch using cocaine in a club they can prosecute the landlord, club owner or person holding the party.