What is cocaine?

Cocaine is a colourless substance, obtained from the coca leaves, which has a brief but powerful stimulant action. It is usually inhaled as powder through a thin straw. The drug can be smoked or injected. The drug is usually cut with other substances such as lactose or local anaesthetics such as lignocaine.

It is also called coke, snow, flake, blow, cola, rock, crack. rails, nose candy, toot, white, co-co puff, white horse, powder, white, blasts, soda, fluff, sniff, and stuff.

What are the effects of cocaine?

Cocaine is one of the most psychologically addictive drugs. Psychological rather than physical addiction to the pleasurable effects occurs, as there is no withdrawal syndrome. The effects of cocaine occur very rapidly and include stimulation, reduction in hunger and thirst, dilation of your pupils and feelings of great energy and alertness. It will raise your blood pressure and increase your body temperature. Repeated sniffing irritates the nose and can cause a breakdown of your nasal cartilage.

When it wears off the user is likely to experience fatigue, depression and confusion. Large doses of the drug can cause anxiety and depression and multiple doses can result in bizarre or violent behaviour. Overdoses can occur with intranasal use but this is rare.

Humans (and test animals) have difficulty in limiting use. Newer synthetic versions of cocaine, ‘crack’ or ‘free-base’ that are smoked rather than inhaled are available but are not yet a problem in Ireland. Crack cocaine, so called because of the noise when a lump or rock is heated, can result in serious compulsive use and may yet become a problem in Ireland as oversupply makes it cheaper to buy. The speed of action of crack cocaine and the intensity of the euphoria make it highly addictive, with an increased risk of fatalities from overdose, stroke, thrombosis and lung damage.

Death can occur because cocaine causes the heart to beat faster while at the same time constricting (narrowing) the blood vessels. This can cause a weak spot in the blood vessel to burst, which can be fatal, especially if it is near the heart or brain. Cocaine can also interfere with the electrical signals sent from the brain to the heart and lungs, which can result in heart failure and seizures. Depression can result in suicide; deaths from massive ingestion of cocaine in burst condoms (used as a method of drug transportation) have resulted.

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