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  • Writer's pictureDahlia Foundation


What is cocaine?

Cocaine is a stimulant drug. They speed up messages travelling between the brain and body.

Cocaine comes from the leaves of the coca bush (Erythroxylum coca), native to South America.1 The leaf extract is processed to produce three different forms of cocaine:

  • Cocaine hydrochloride:  a fine white powder with a bitter, numbing taste.2 Cocaine hydrochloride is often mixed, or ‘cut’, with other substances such as lidocaine, talcum powder or sugar to dilute it before being sold.2

  • Freebase: a white powder that is purer than cocaine hydrochloride.3

  • Crack: crystals ranging from white or cream to transparent with a pink or yellow hue. It may contain impurities.3

Other names

C, coke, crack, nose candy, snow, white lady, toot, Charlie, blow, white dust or stardust

Overdose If you take a large amount or have a strong batch, you could overdose. Call an ambulance straight away by dialling triple zero (000) if you or someone else has any of these symptoms (ambulance officers don’t need to involve the police):

  • nausea and vomiting

  • extreme anxiety

  • chest pain

  • panic

  • extreme agitation and paranoia

  • hallucinations

  • tremors

  • breathing irregularities

  • kidney failure

  • seizures

  • stroke

  • heart problems.2,8

High doses and frequent heavy use can also cause ‘cocaine psychosis’, characterised by paranoia, hallucinations, unusual thoughts and out of character/behaviour.4 These symptoms usually disappear a few days or weeks after the person stops using cocaine.4 Injecting cocaine can increase the risk of:

  • overdose

  • tetanus

  • infection

  • vein damage.

Sharing needles increases the risk of:

  • hepatitis B

  • hepatitis C


Coming down In the days after cocaine use, you may feel:

  • irritability and paranoia

  • mood swings

  • feeling uncomfortable

  • exhaustion.4

Long-term effects Regular use of cocaine may eventually cause:

  • dependence

  • lung conditions such as bronchitis

  • anxiety, paranoia and psychosis

  • sexual dysfunction

  • kidney failure

  • stroke

  • seizures

  • hypertension and irregular heartbeat

  • heart disease and death.4, 5

Snorting cocaine regularly can also cause:

  • runny nose and nose bleeds

  • nose infection

  • damage to the tissue separating the nostrils (nasal septum)

  • loss of sense of smell.4

Withdrawal Giving up cocaine after a long time is challenging because the body has to get used to functioning without it. Please seek advice from a health professional. Phases of withdrawal Withdrawal symptoms usually start around 6-12 hours after the last use. Withdrawal usually happens in three phases:

  • Crash – feelings of depression or anxiety, cocaine cravings, extreme tiredness (experienced in the first few days)

  • Withdrawal – cocaine cravings, lack of energy, anxiety, agitation, disturbed sleep,and an inability to feel pleasure (can last for several weeks)

  • Extinction – withdrawal symptoms can occur over several months, gradually subsiding).4

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