Cocaine hydrochloride is a crystalline white powder produced by adding hydrochloric acid to coca leaf paste. Cocaine is a short acting stimulant that acts on the CNS (central nervous system) speeding up heart rate and breathing. It also targets and overstimulates your brain’s natural reward system, which results in the drug’s pleasurable effects, however over time it can actually change the way your brain works. It can teach you to repeat the behaviour and become highly addictive. Cocaine is extracted and refined from the coca plant (Erythroxylum coca) grown primarily in the Andean region of South America. The leaf extract is processed to produce different forms of cocaine.
Cocaine hydrochloride: a white, crystalline powder with a bitter, numbing taste. Cocaine hydrochloride is often mixed, or ‘cut’, with other substances such as lactose and glucose, to dilute it before being sold.
Crack: Crystals ranging in colour from white or cream to transparent with a pink or yellow hue, it may contain impurities. Crack is often found in the US, UK and other countries but is not commonly found in Australia. As a result, this resource will focus on powdered cocaine only.
Know Your Body & Mind — ‘Set’
Know Your Environment — ‘Setting’
Know Your Drug — Practice Harm Reduction
Most commonly snorted but can also be shelved/plugged (rectal), injected intravenously (IV) or swallowed.
DURATION OF EFFECTS
(Based on snorting cocaine powder)
Total Duration: 45 minutes -1.5 hours
Onset: 5-10 minutes
Peak: 20-40 minutes
Coming Down: 10-30 minutes
After Effects: 1-4 hours
Half life: Even though the apparent effects of the drug wear off after 1 hour, the drug is still active in your system for up to 2 hours after you have taken it. Remember this if using other substances or redosing.
Roadside Police: Cocaine is tested for in roadside drug tests and is detectable in saliva tests for 24 to 72 hours since you last slept (not last dose).It is illegal to drive under the influence of any illicit drugs, including cocaine and any driver may be subject to a roadside behavioural impairment test.
Workplace: Urine: 3+ days after Hair: Up to 90 days Blood: 1-3 days
Drug Checking: Lab-quality testing with a spectrophotometer is the best way to test and has been trialled in Australia, however it is not available as a health service yet. DIY reagent testing is an option. Scott and other reagents produce reactions with cocaine. See photos of testing results here > verbinding.110110
Effects vary from person to person. Check out our table below that has listed the potential physical, psychological and emotional effects.
Taking drugs is never without risk. In an unregulated market it’s impossible to know the purity or dose of any drug. ‘Dose’ depends on the form a drug is in (liquid, powder, pill, crystal) and how you have it (snort, eat, inject).
Threshold: 5 – 10 mg
Light: 10 – 30 mg
Common: 30 – 60 mg
Strong: 60 – 90 mg
Heavy: 90+ mg
- Start with a very small amount to gauge strength and assess your sensitivity.
- Give it plenty of time to work – it may take longer than you expect for the effects to come on
- Due to the potency of cocaine, it is often used in small doses or ‘bumps’ rather than in one large amount, such as a line.
- Consider carefully before re dosing as it is easy to take too much – it can be more-ish.
- Try to set a limit of how much you want to use and what time you plan to stop to avoid taking too much.
- Cocaine can not be smoked unless it has been converted to freebase or crack cocaine. Cocaine in its powder state requires a high melting point in order to vaporise it. When you try to smoke powdered cocaine, the drug is mostly destroyed before it even enters your lungs.
- Decreased appetite
- Increased energy
- Decreased fatigue
- Dilated pupils
- Increased heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- Increased body temperature and sweating
- Constricted blood vessels
- Heart Attack
Seizures, Tremors, Difficulty Breathing, Vomiting, Fast Heart Rate, High Body Temperature, Nausea
- Elevated mood
- Increased confidence
Anxiety or Panic
- Reduced social inhibitions
- Increased focus and concentration
- Clearer thinking
- Increased alertness
- ‘Fight or flight’ response
- Excited Delirium
- Tactile Hallucinations
Paranoia, Hallucinations, Confusion
- Use in a comfortable environment with people you trust
- Remember to eat well then wait 20-30 minutes before use.
- Be aware of overheating or an elevated heart rate and make sure to cool down & chill out regularly
- Remember to keep your fluids up but don’t drink too much – 1 cup of water (250ml) per hour when resting & up to 500ml per hour when dancing or active
- After 2-3 hours, have a smoothie/powerade to keep your electrolytes up
- Sleep! Or at least lay down and cover your eyes during a 24-hour period. Many of the negative effects of cocaine are caused by sleep deprivation.
- This is the most common way of taking cocaine. Lines or bumps of powdered cocaine are taken into a nostril and enter the bloodstream via the membrane inside your nose.
- Crush the powder so there’s no crystals (sparkles can cause little cuts).
- Snort water before and after to avoid damaging the protective lining in your nose
- Use your own clean straw/spoon for snorting to prevent the risk of infection, ‘Snorter’ warts (HPV), or BBV transmission (e.g. hepatitis C) via microscopic amounts of blood
- Do not use money – it is covered in bacteria.
- Repeated snorting can damage the membranes of the nose leading to possible permanent damage to the septum (the middle bit). It can lead to frequent nosebleeds and runny nose, loss of smell, and problems swallowing
- Switch nostrils regularly and give your nose a break.
- Powdered cocaine can be rubbed onto the inside of the lips, on the gums, or left under the tongue. This will cause localised numbness. Be aware over time this can cause damage to your gums, lips and/or teeth.
- Requires a glass pipe and only works with crack cocaine, a slightly different form of cocaine. Do not try to smoke powdered cocaine.
- Avoid Blood Borne Viruses ‘BBV’s’ (eg. Hepatitis C, HIV) by using new & sterile syringes & equipment.
- Use sterile water to mix up.
- Wash your hands thoroughly before and after, you can also use an alcohol swab to clean your fingertips.
- Alcohol wipes can reduce the risk of skin infections if they are used correctly. For maximum effect, swab once, in one direction on the injection site, and leave to dry naturally.
- Dispose of syringes & equipment responsibly in a yellow disposal bin, all NSPs have bins available.
SHELVING (dry)/ PLUGGING (wet mix)
- Use lubrication to avoid tearing the skin
- Use a condom or latex/vinyl glove to avoid internal scratches
- Wash your hands before and after using
- Find a discreet and safe place to do it
- Dispose of used condom / glove responsibly.
LONG TERM EFFECTS
- Mental Health – Addiction, Anxiety, Depression, Paranoia, Irritability
- Brain and Nervous System – Bleeding within the brain, reduction of blood flow reaching the brain affecting attention, memory and decision making.
- Heart and Cardiovascular System – High risk of stroke, inflammation of the heart muscle, chest pains, heart attacks, heart failure and aortic muscle tears.
- Gastrointestinal Tract (Stomach and Digestive System) – Reduced blood flow in the somach causing tears and ulcerations, Weight Loss, Insomnia
- Face and Skin – Damage to nasal cartilage, acne and premature aging.
- Immune system – problems due to the common presence of Levamisole as a cutter in cocaine
Carrying cocaine and paraphernalia (e.g. injecting/snorting/plugging equipment) puts you at risk of criminal charges including trafficking, even if you don’t deal. Know your local laws e.g. the Drugs Misuse Act 1986 (Qld), the Drugs Poisons and Controlled Substance Act 1981 (Vic).
COMMON ADULTERANTS OF COCAINE
If you don’t have a reagent testing kit then there are still some ways to check your cocaine powder for some adulterant drugs. These examples can give you a little indication however they are not ideal.
Tongue test – place a small amount of cocaine around your gum and lip. Pure cocaine should cause a numb feeling in that area, and should have a bitter taste.
Melting test – melt a small amount of cocaine. Pure cocaine will melt almost immediately. If it takes longer or some parts melt faster or slower than others, your cocaine may be mixed with other substances.
Levamisole is used to treat inflammatory conditions and cancer but in a small proportion of people it is extremely harmful, even at low doses. Over the past years, it’s been found in the majority of tested cocaine samples in Australia, Europe and the U.S, so be careful.
Local anaesthetics (e.g. lidocaine)
Local anaesthetics are similar to cocaine and can trick you into thinking that the batch is very pure by increasing the numbing effect on your nose and mouth. Unfortunately they can also increase the toxic effects of cocaine, such as changes in heart rhythm or seizures.
Phenacetin is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug. It’s occasionally added because it makes the powder look shiny and tastes bitter much like cocaine, so the Tongue test can’t help to detect this adulterant. In high doses it can damage your kidneys and increase your risk of cancer.
Caffeine pills are relatively cheap and white, so they’re commonly crushed and mixed into cocaine powder. Caffeine is also a stimulant so it will add strain on your heart and can slightly increase your risk of overstimulation/overdose.
It is not recommended to use cocaine if you have or are at risk of:
- Heart issues
- Thyroid issues
- Pre existing mental health issues
- Being Pregnancy – cocaine can increase the risk of miscarriage, premature labour and stillbirth
Polydrug use has many possible outcomes. What could be fun for one person could be dangerous for another. We recommend you proceed with caution.
- Opioids – Stimulants increase respiration rate allowing a higher dose of opiates. If the stimulant wears off first then the opiate may overcome the patient and cause respiratory arrest.
- GHB – Stimulants increase respiration rate allowing a higher dose of sedatives. If the stimulant wears off first then the G may overcome the patient and cause respiratory arrest. Likewise the G can wear off and leave a dangerous concentration of cocaine behind
- MAOIs – This combination can cause a severe increase in blood pressure that can lead to a stroke
- Stimulants (MDMA, Cocaine, Meth, Speed etc) – This combo can end in heart strain and psychosis. It is not generally worth it as cocaine has a mild blocking effect on dopamine releasers like amphetamine
- Alcohol – Drinking on stimulants is risky because the sedative effects of the alcohol are reduced, and these are what the body uses to gauge intoxication levels. Cocaine is potentiated somewhat by alcohol because of the formation of cocaethylene. Coca-ethylene in the body is more harmful than the individual substances and creates a higher chance of dependency.
- Psychedelics (LSD, Mushrooms, DMT, Mescaline) – Stimulants increase anxiety levels and the risk of thought loops which can lead to negative experiences.
- Cannabis – Can increase anxiety levels and the risk of thought loops which can lead to negative experiences
- 2C-x – The anxiogenic and focusing effects of stimulants increase the chance of unpleasant thought loops. The combination is generally unnecessary because of the stimulating effects of psychedelics. Combination of the stimulating effects may be uncomfortable.
- 2C-T-x – Both provide considerable stimulation. When combined they can result in severe vasoconstriction, tachycardia, hypertension, and in extreme cases heart failure.
Low risk effects
- Nitrous – Can sometimes cause an effect greater than the sum of its parts, and they aren’t likely to cause an adverse or undesirable reaction when used carefully
- SSRIs – May reduce each others’ effectiveness. Cocaine can reduce mental stability and therefore exacerbate conditions which SSRIs are used to treat.
Check out the TripSit drug combinations chart here for info on other combinations.
Call 000 if experiencing adverse effects, feel unwell or concerned in any way
This educational resource has been developed collaboratively by healthcare workers and people who use drugs for their peers and the wider community. The role of Hi-Ground is to provide practical, evidence-based, unbiased information to assist you to make educated choices and to promote harm reduction, community care, and wellbeing.
In an unregulated market it’s impossible to know the purity or dose of any substance. Taking drugs from an unregulated market carries its own risk, and you can educate yourself and practice harm reduction to reduce this risk.
Knowledge is power.
This resource is produced by DanceWize & Hi-Ground