What happens when I take cocaine or crack?
Understanding the short and long term effects of cocaine
Remember: All drugs, including the misuse of prescribed medication, can pose serious health risks, up to and including possible death.
Cocaine is a white crystal-like powder without a smell. Cocaine is normally sniffed up the nose and absorbed into the bloodstream through the nasal membranes. It may also be injected. Cocaine is usually "cut" (mixed) with other substances. Cocaine can also be processed into a smokeable form called crack cocaine (small yellow or white rocks of freebase cocaine) this is usually smoked in a glass pipe or in a cannabis joint.
What are the effects of cocaine?
Cocaine is a stimulant which means it can alter your mood, making you feel excited or upset. It may make you take more risks than usual, feel more aggressive, be less hungry and feel alert and energetic.
When someone first takes cocaine the effects will make them feel high, but the more cocaine is used the less effect it has on the person taking it. The effects of crack smoking are immediate, peaking (coming up) for about two minutes and lasting for about 10 minutes. When snorting coke it takes longer to peak but the effects still don’t last that long, only around 20-30 minutes.
The short term effects of cocaine
- You may feel more awake, energetic, happier and confident for about 30 minutes
- Your heart and pulse rate speed up
- Your pupils can dilate (get bigger), your mouth become dry, you can sweat more and lose your appetite
- Larger amounts of coke can make you feel anxious or panicked
- Your sex drive can also increase and cocaine can cause aggression
- Snorting cocaine can cause a stuffy or runny nose
Long term effects of cocaine
- It may cause aggression and violence, psychosis, paranoia, restlessness and confusion.
- It may cause anxiety disorders, memory problems, hallucinations and depression
- Snorting can cause rupture of the membrane in the nose causing bloody noses and damaging nose tissue
- Cocaine may also harm the health and development of babies born to women who use cocaine during pregnancy
- It can cause loss of sex drive, weight loss and kidney damage
- Injecting can damage veins and lead to gangrene.
- Cocaine raises the heart rate and constricts the arteries, this may cause a heart attack.
- It increases blood pressure and may cause the blood vessels in the brain to burst causing a stroke.
When you use unclean needles, injecting cocaine puts the user at risk of contracting HIV, bacterial infections, Hepatitis B and other diseases. If you do decide to inject cocaine, it's really important that you inject as safely as possible. Read Merchant Quay's guide to safer injecting.
How to help a comedown from cocaine
When the effects of coke start to wear off, people experience a long ‘comedown’, when they feel depressed and run down. This crash can happen for days afterwards. During a comedown you can feel tired, panicky and in extreme emotional or physical distress. A comedown can also cause diarrhoea, vomiting, the shakes, insomnia and sweating. If you have drank alcohol and taken cocaine your comedown may be worse as it causes you to be extremely dehydrated.
To help with a comedown :
- Drink plenty of water, do not drink more alcohol or take more drugs
- Although you may not feel hungry try to eat, balanced meals will help to restore your energy levels
- Exercise can also help to sweat toxins from your system in the following days
Feeling depressed or anxious after taking cocaine
If you have taken cocaine and are feeling anxious or depressed remember that these are normal side effects which should pass in time. Talk to someone if you are feeling anxious or depressed, if you do not feel that you can be honest to friends or family members about taking drugs remember that there are other supports out there that can help.
- Drug and Alcohol Helpline - Freephone 1800 459 459
What does the law say about Cocaine?
Under Misuse of Drugs Act, it is illegal to produce, possess or supply the drug. It is also illegal to allow premises to be used for producing or supplying cocaine. For more information on drugs and the law click here.
Reducing harm when taking drugs
If you choose to take drugs, remember:
- Start with a very small test dose and wait at least two hours before taking more.
- Stay with your friends and do not leave anybody who is intoxicated on their own.
- Avoid mixing drugs and alcohol. Every time you mix drugs, including alcohol and prescription medication, you increase the risks.
- Always hydrate with water but don’t drink over a pint an hour.
- If you are dancing, remember to take breaks from dancing and give yourself time to cool down.
- Don't be afraid to get help if you or a friend become unwell or feel suicidal after using drugs. Call 112 or 999.
Supports and Services
- Drugs.ie: Online information and support for drug and alcohol use. Includes a national directory of drug and alcohol services
- HSE Drugs, Alcohol, HIV and Sexual Health Helpline: Freephone 1800 459 459.
- The Club Drug Clinic offers advice, support and detoxification for GHB (Liquid Ecstasy, G) and other chemsex and club drugs is an integrated person centred specialist addiction service: Tel 016488600
- Rialto Community Drug Team
- Find a local service through the National Directory for Drug and Alcohol Services at Drugs.ie