Cocaine is a stimulant drug which can make you feel alert. It usually looks like a white powder. Crack cocaine usually looks like a yellow-white crystal.

Also known as:

  • Blow
  • Bump
  • C
  • Coke
  • Charlie
  • Crack
  • Flake
  • Snow
  • Stones
  • Toot
  • Wash
  • White
  • Ching
  • Ice
  • Rock

What does cocaine look like? 

  • White powder
  • Yellow or white crystal (crack cocaine)

How is cocaine taken?

Powdered cocaine:

  • Snorting up the nose 
  • Orally by rubbing it onto the gums
  • Swallowing powder wrapped in a cigarette paper (also called ‘bombing’)
  • Booty bumping, dissolving the drug in water and putting it up the bum (also known as ‘boofing’)

Crack cocaine:

  • Smoking in a glass pipe
  • Injecting it into a vein*

*Injecting is particularly dangerous and increases risks including infection with Blood Borne Viruses (BBVs) like Hepatitis C or HIV.

How can cocaine make me feel?

Cocaine can make you feel:

  • Confident
  • Alert
  • Sick or nauseous 
  • Wide awake
  • Paranoid or restless 
  • Excited
  • Aggressive
  • Chatty 

Cocaine can also:

  • Increase or cause irregular heart rate and breathing
  • Increase your body temperature 
  • Cause numbness in the parts of the body where it’s taken (nose, injection sites etc)
  • Mask an injury, due to its numbing effect
  • Increase your sex drive

How will cocaine make me feel?

It depends on several factors, including your age, weight and metabolism, what you have already taken, the purity of the drug, and the dose.

Generally speaking, the effects start from five to 30 minutes after using and last around 30 minutes for powdered cocaine, or around 10 minutes for crack cocaine. 

Because cocaine creates a short-lived ‘rush’, there is often a strong desire to keep taking more. 

What happens to my body if I use cocaine frequently?

Using cocaine frequently can cause:

  • Damage to the heart muscle
  • Vein damage 
  • Poor circulation
  • Permanent damage to, and loss of, cartilage and structure in the nose (if snorted)
  • Dental problems (if rubbed on the gums)
  • Poor mental health, paranoia and depression
  • Rectal bleeding (bleeding from the bum)

How to reduce harm while using cocaine

We recognise that some ways of using drugs carry less risk than others, and by providing information which supports people to make informed decisions, we can help people to minimise harm.

Before you start, check:

  • Is now the right time? How you’re feeling when you use cocaine can impact the effects you may experience, so consider checking in with yourself and thinking about whether now is a good time for you.

  • Do I know what I’m taking? Researching what you’re planning to take, what the effects can be and how to reduce harm can help to keep you safe. 

  • Have I contacted a friend or family member? In case you need help while you’re taking cocaine, consider telling someone your plans.

While you're using:

Start low, go slow

Strength can vary between batches, even if you take the drug regularly, starting with a small amount and waiting at least two hours before your next dose can help to reduce the risk of overdose.

Go at your own pace

Everyone responds differently to drugs - trying to keep up with others puts you at greater risk of overdosing. 

Plan and measure doses

If you’re going out, only take what you plan to use with you as this makes it easier to set boundaries and stay in control. It’s easier to lose track of time when using drugs, so taking a screenshot of the time or setting a timer each time you have a dose can help you space out your doses.

Try not to use on your own

It's best not to use cocaine if you’re on your own or if you’re in a position where there is nobody you could call for help. A buddy system - where one person takes their dose first and waits until the peak effects have worn off before the other person uses - makes it more likely that someone can help if anyone overdoses.

Find a safe space

Where you are when you take cocaine can impact the effects you may experience, so try and find a space where you feel safe, comfortable, with people you trust.

Try not to mix

Try to take cocaine on its own, as mixing with other drugs or alcohol can increase your risk of overdose. Using cocaine and alcohol together is very dangerous, as it creates a toxic substance in the body called cocaethylene. Mixing and injecting cocaine with heroin (called ‘speedballing’) is also very dangerous.

Opt for methods that carry less risk 

Smoking crack cocaine carries less risk than injecting it.

Use your own equipment

Using your own equipment, including straws and pipes, can help to prevent the spread of blood-borne viruses (BBVS) like hep B, hep C and HIV.  You can get clean equipment from any substance misuse service and many pharmacies.

The recovery position

The recovery position helps to prevent someone unconscious from choking on vomit. If someone is unconscious, putting them in the recovery position, getting help if needed, and staying with them will help to reduce the risk of harm.

After using cocaine:

There’s a good chance you’ll experience a ‘comedown’ when the effects of cocaine wear off. Comedowns don’t last forever, but they can affect your mood, motivation, energy levels, and your mental health. Some people find comedowns very challenging, and it can sometimes take a few days to fully recover. 

  • Looking after and being kind to yourself is important - get plenty of sleep and rest, and try to avoid taking any other drugs to give your body time to recover

  • Refuelling will help your recovery - this includes drinking plenty of water and eating something nutritious which is soft on your stomach and not too rich

  • If you think you may be at risk of blood-borne viruses (BBVs) like Hep B, Hep C and HIV, you can access free testing from any drug and alcohol service, your GP, or a sexual health centre. You can catch a BBV even if you don’t inject a drug - through unprotected sex or sharing equipment

And always remember - if you’re feeling low and feel you can’t talk to a friend or family member, contact us for help through our webchat or find your local service.

What do I do if I think someone has overdosed on cocaine?

If someone passes out or falls asleep and you can’t wake them up after using amphetamine, put them in the recovery position and get help fast by calling 999, telling emergency services what you know.

Symptoms of cocaine overdose include:

  • Panic, anxiety, or paranoia 
  • A fast heart rate
  • A high temperature
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Chest pain
  • Tremors, seizures or unconsciousness

If you suspect someone has overdosed, it’s always best to administer naloxone. Naloxone reverses the effects of opioid drugs like heroin, morphine and fentanyl. Drugs bought illicitly can contain a mixture of substances, including opioids, so use naloxone if you have it. If someone hasn’t overdosed on opioids, naloxone won’t harm them. 

You can get a naloxone kit and training on how to use it from your local WithYou service

More information about naloxone, including how to use it.

Cocaine withdrawal signs, symptoms, and what to do

If your body develops a tolerance to cocaine, you may feel you need to take more to get the same effects. 

You can become dependent on cocaine, and regular use can lead to physical withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop or cut back.

Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Feeling anxious or depressed
  • Being tired 
  • Issues with sleep
  • Feeling paranoid
  • Struggling to concentrate
  • Having cravings to keep taking cocaine

It’s important not to stop suddenly as this can be dangerous. If you’re dependent on amphetamine, we can help you cut down safely, as stopping suddenly can lead to withdrawal complications. 

Find a local service

The law around cocaine

Cocaine is a Class A drug, which means it's illegal to be found carrying or using it. The legal term for this is possession. The maximum sentence for possession of a Class A drug is up to seven years in prison, a fine or both. 

It’s also illegal to give away or sell cocaine. This is known as supply, and is a more serious offence than possession. It can be considered supply if you give your friend some or share some with them, and this could get you time in prison, an unlimited fine or both.

Looking for support?

If you’re concerned about your cocaine use, or if you’re worried about someone you know, we’re WithYou. We provide free, confidential and non-judgemental support and advice. Please don’t hesitate to reach out: