Cocaine is a powerful stimulant that is used legally as a local anesthetic for some eye, ear, and throat surgeries. Cocaine is also called coke, C, snow, flake, or blow. It may contain other substances, such as cornstarch, talcum powder, or sugar. It may also contain other drugs, such as another local anesthetic called procaine or a stimulant such as amphetamine.
Two common forms of cocaine are:
- The white crystalline powdered form. This type can be sniffed through the nose (snorted) or dissolved in water and taken through a vein (intravenously, or IV). It can also be taken by mouth or rubbed onto the gums.
- The freebase form, which has had impurities removed with solvents. This type is smoked. Crack is a smokable, freebase cocaine made from powdered cocaine hydrochloride. It is also called chips, chunks, or rocks. The name crack came about because of the crackling sound that it makes when it is smoked.
Small amounts of cocaine make a person feel euphoric, energetic, talkative, and mentally alert. It also decreases appetite and the need for sleep. When large amounts of cocaine are taken, the high is more intense. But large doses can cause strange or violent behaviour in which the person may have tremors or muscle twitches or become paranoid.
After using cocaine, the person feels irritable, tired, and depressed. This is called a coke crash. When a person takes the drug at higher and higher doses (a binge), it can cause increasing irritability, restlessness, and paranoia that can result in a serious loss of touch with reality.
Cocaine is a very addictive drug, and some people easily lose control over its use.
Use of cocaine can lead to serious health problems, including:
- Changes in heart rhythm and heart attack.
- Headache, seizure, and stroke.
- Loss of smell, persistent runny nose, nosebleeds, hoarseness, and destruction of the nasal separation (nasal septum) when the drug is snorted.
- Bowel tissue death.
- Damage to the kidneys.
- Serious infections, HIV, hepatitis, or allergic reactions when injected into a vein.
- Weight loss and poor nutrition from loss of appetite.
Occasionally, sudden death can occur, even with the first use of cocaine. Sudden death from cocaine use may occur because of a heart attack or seizure in which breathing stops. Sudden death is more likely to occur when cocaine is used along with alcohol.
The effects of cocaine last about 1 to 2 hours. Cocaine can be detected in a urine drug screen up to 6 days after it has been taken.
Signs of use
- Possession of drug paraphernalia, such as syringes, spoons with smoke stains, small pieces of glass, and razor blades
- Persistent runny nose and nosebleeds, which may point to the snorting of cocaine
- "Track marks" where it has been injected into veins
- Long periods of time without sleeping or eating
- Personality changes
Primary Medical Reviewer Patrice Burgess, MD, FAAFP - Family Medicine
Brian O'Brien, MD, FRCPC - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine
Christine R. Maldonado, PhD - Behavioral Health
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Peter Monti, PhD - Alcohol and Addiction
Michael F. Bierer, MD - Internal Medicine
Current as ofOctober 9, 2017
Current as of: October 9, 2017
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Patrice Burgess, MD, FAAFP - Family Medicine & Brian O'Brien, MD, FRCPC - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine & Christine R. Maldonado, PhD - Behavioral Health & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Peter Monti, PhD - Alcohol and Addiction & Michael F. Bierer, MD - Internal Medicine