Cocaine is a drug derived from the leaves of the coca plant, which is found mainly in Peru and Bolivia. It is a stimulant because it speeds up the functions of the central nervous system – the messages going to and from the brain. It comes as a crystal white powder and has the scientific name cocaine hydrochloride.

Cocaine can be injected, snorted, or even converted to a freebase form and smoked. It is sometimes known as C, Coke, Flake, Nose Candy, Snow, Dust, White, White Lady, Toot, Crack, Rock, or Freebase. It is inhaled snorted) through the nose, or injected. It can also be converted to an alkaloid form through a process known as freebasing, which allows it to be smoked. Cocaine hydrochloride cannot otherwise be smoked, because the drug is destroyed at high temperatures.

Crack is a very pure form of freebase cocaine sold as crystals or rocks. Crack is smoked in pipes or in cigarettes, mixed with tobacco or marijuana. Crack has rarely been seen in New Zealand.

Cocaine might be mixed, or “cut”, with other substances such as sugar, baking soda and talcum powder to increase profits. This increases the risk of harmful or unpleasant effects.

Many people have had the following effects shortly after taking cocaine: physiological arousal, including increased body temperature and heart rate; exhilaration; anxiety; feelings of well-being; decreased hunger; panic; poor concentration and judgment; indifference to pain and fatigue; feelings of great physical strength and mental capacity; enlarged pupils; sexual arousal; unpredictable and/or violent behaviour. The effects of cocaine peak after 15 to 30 minutes, and then diminish.

Using greater quantities of cocaine repeatedly over several hours can lead to extreme agitation, anxiety, paranoia, hallucinations, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, tremors, unpredictable violent/aggressive behaviour; loss of: concentration, co-ordination, interest in sex, ambition and motivation; heart pain, heart attack, paranoid psychosis, increased body temperature, rapid, irregular and shallow breathing.

People who have used cocaine over longer periods tend to take it in stronger quantities – binges interrupted by crashes. A user might try to end the binge by taking a depressant drug such as alcohol, benzodiazepines (benzos), or heroin. The binge is followed by the crash – intense depression, lethargy and hunger.
The unpleasant effects of cocaine increase with more frequent, long-term use. Most symptoms will go once cocaine use ceases.