What is Cocaine

Cocaine is a powerfully addictive stimulant drug.

Although health care providers can use it for valid medical purposes, such as local anesthesia for some surgeries, cocaine is an illegal drug. As a street drug, cocaine looks like a fine, white, crystal powder. Street dealers often mix it with things like cornstarch, talcum powder, or flour to increase profits. They may also mix it with other drugs such as the stimulant amphetamine.

Popular nicknames for cocaine include:

  • Blow
  • Coke
  • Crack
  • Rock
  • Snow

How do people use cocaine?

People snort cocaine powder through the nose, or they rub it into their gums. Others dissolve the powder in water and inject it into the bloodstream. Some people inject a combination of cocaine and heroin, called a Speedball.

Another popular method of use is to smoke cocaine that has been processed to make a rock crystal (also called "freebase cocaine"). 

Short-Term Effects

Short-term health effects of cocaine include:

  • extreme happiness and energy
  • mental alertness
  • hypersensitivity to sight, sound, and touch
  • irritability
  • paranoia—extreme and unreasonable distrust of others

What are the other health effects of cocaine use?

Other health effects of cocaine use include:

  • constricted blood vessels
  • dilated pupils
  • nausea
  • raised body temperature and blood pressure
  • faster heartbeat
  • tremors and muscle twitches
  • restlessness

Long-Term Effects

Some long-term health effects of cocaine depend on the method of use and include the following:

  • snorting: loss of sense of smell, nosebleeds, frequent runny nose, and problems with swallowing.
  • consuming by mouth: severe bowel decay from reduced blood flow.
  • needle injection: higher risk for contracting HIV, hepatitis C, and other bloodborne diseases. However, even people involved with non-needle cocaine use place themselves at a risk for HIV because cocaine impairs judgment, which can lead to risky sexual behavior with infected partners 

Other long-term effects of cocaine use include being malnourished, because cocaine decreases appetite.

Can a person overdose on cocaine?

Yes, a person can overdose on cocaine. An overdose occurs when the person uses too much of a drug and has a toxic reaction that results in serious, harmful symptoms or death.

Death from overdose can occur on the first use of cocaine or unexpectedly thereafter. Many people who use cocaine also drink alcohol at the same time. This is particularly risky and can further the risk of overdose. Even more dangerous is mixing cocaine with heroin.

Some of the most frequent and severe heath related consequences leading to overdose involve the heart and blood vessels: irregular heart rhythm and heart attacks, and the nervous system: seizures and stroke.

Get EMERGENCY HELP if you think someone may be at risk for an overdose

"DrugFacts: Cocaine." NIH National Institute on Drug Abuse