Also called: snow, C, charlie, coke, rock, dust, white.

How it’s used

Cocaine is a strong but short acting stimulant drug (‘upper’) which comes in a white powder. You can divide it into lines and snort up the nose with a rolled up bank note or straw. You can also smoke it or make into a solution to inject.

Short-term effects

•    Effects of cocaine start quickly but only last for up to 30 minutes
•    You may feel more alert, energetic, exhilarated and confident
•    Your heart and pulse rate speed up suddenly
•    Hyperactivity, dilated pupils, dry mouth, sweating and loss of appetite
•    Higher doses can make you feel very anxious and panicky
•    Increased sex drive

Long-term effects

•    Tightness in chest, insomnia, exhaustion and unable to relax
•    Dry mouth, sweating, mood swings and loss of appetite
•    You may become aggressive or even violent
•    You may feel depressed and run down
•    Damage to nose tissue
•    Digestive disorders, dehydration and anorexia
•    Kidney damage
•    If you use it often you may lose your sex drive
•    Injecting may cause abscesses
•    Smoking may cause breathing problems
•    Anxiety, paranoia and hallucinations, if you use a lot
•    Restlessness, nausea, hyperactivity, insomnia and weight loss

Other dangers

•    Overdose can cause epileptic fit, stroke, breathing problems and heart attack
•    Damage to veins if you inject
•    Risk of HIV and hepatitis if you share needles
•    When you mix cocaine with alcohol, they combine to produce cocaethylene, which increases the risks of damage to the heart or heart attack
•    Extremely dangerous if you inject it with heroin, known as a ‘speedball’
•    Increased sex drive can lead to unsafe sex, with the risk of unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or HIV
•    Debt – cocaine is an expensive habit and you may find yourself borrowing money to buy it

If you are pregnant

If you are pregnant, stop using cocaine now. Cocaine causes high blood pressure so you increase your risk of miscarriage, premature birth or placental abruption (afterbirth coming away from the womb). It can reduce the oxygen your baby gets through the placenta. Your baby may be smaller at birth, have birth abnormalities and a higher risk of cot death.


Cocaine is very psychologically addictive so you find it hard to live without it. Your tolerance increases over time so you have to keep taking more to get the same buzz.


You may feel tired, panicky, exhausted and unable to sleep, which can cause you extreme emotional and physical distress. This distress can lead to symptoms such as diarrhoea, vomiting, the shakes, insomnia and sweating. You may have long-term effects such as anorexia and depression. Once you stop using stopped, you will have an intense craving for more.

How long does it stay in your system?

Cocaine shows up in a urine test for 2-4 days.