Powder cocaine (also called coke), and crack (powder cocaine that’s been prepared for smoking) are both forms of cocaine. They’re powerful stimulants, with short-lived effects – which that means that they temporarily speed up the way your mind and body work, but the effects are short-lived. Powder cocaine is usually snorted whilst crack cocaine can be smoked. All types of cocaine are addictive, but by reaching the brain very quickly crack tends to have a much stronger effect and be more addictive than snorted powder cocaine. Injecting any form of cocaine will also reach the brain more quickly but this has serious additional risks, including damaging veins and spreading blood borne virsues, such as HIV and Hep C.
Cocaine users have died from overdoses. High doses can raise the body’s temperature, cause convulsions and heart failure. Risk of overdosing increases if cocaine is mixed with other drugs or alcohol.
Over time, snorting cocaine will seriously damage the cartilage in your nose that separates the nostrils; and it is not unknown for heavy users to lose their cartilage and end up with just one really big nostril and a mis-shapen nose.
Cocaine is highly risky for anybody with high blood pressure or a heart condition. Even perfectly healthy, young people can have a fit or heart attack after taking too much.
Using cocaine a lot makes people feel depressed and run down. It can lead to serious problems with anxiety, paranoia and panic attacks.
Cocaine can bring previously undiagnosed mental health problems to the surface, or aggravate previously existing mental health problems.
Taking cocaine when you’re pregnant can damage your baby. It may cause miscarriage, premature labour and low birth weight.
Regularly smoking crack can cause breathing problems and pains in the chest.
Frequent users find they begin to crave more – so it can become an expensive habit to keep.
Injecting drugs can damage veins and cause ulcers and gangrene. Sharing needles or other injecting equipment can spread HIV and hepatitis infections.
It’s easier to overdose if you’re injecting cocaine.
Heavy crack users may take heroin to try to dull their cravings, so they may get hooked on heroin as well.
‘Speedballing’, injecting a mixture of cocaine and heroin, can have fatal results.
Using cocaine with alcohol (or other drugs) can substantially increase risk of side-effects. Alcohol and cocaine together can be particularly dangerous, as they mix together in the body to produce a toxic chemical, called cocaethylene.