Powder cocaine (also called coke), freebase and crack are all forms of cocaine. They’re all powerful stimulants, with short-lived effects – which means that they temporarily speed up the way your mind and body work, but the effects are short-lived. Both ‘freebase’ cocaine (powder cocaine that’s been prepared for smoking) and ‘crack’ cocaine (a ‘rock’ like form of cocaine) can be smoked. This means that they reach the brain very quickly, while snorted powder cocaine gets to the brain more slowly.
All types of cocaine are addictive, but by reaching the brain very quickly freebase or crack tend 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 bourne virsues, such as HIV and Hep C.
Here are the main effects and risks of taking cocaine:
Coke is divided into lines and snorted up the nose. It is not easily smoked, unless specially prepared into ‘freebase’ or 'crack' cocaine. A rock of crack is about the size of a raisin. Like ‘freebase’, it's usually smoked in a pipe, glass tube, plastic bottle or in foil.
Both powder and crack forms of cocaine can be prepared to make a solution of cocaine for injecting. Sharing needles and syringes or other injecting equipment, when injecting, runs the risk of the injector catching or spreading HIV and hepatitis C infection.
There is also the risk that veins may be damaged and of an abscess or blood clot developing.
Taking cocaine makes users feel on top of the world, wide-awake, confident and on top of their game – but some people are over-confident on it and so may take very careless risks. Its effect is much like speed (amphetamines), but is usually stronger and doesn't last as long.
It can also have other effects:
The effects of crack smoking are virtually immediate, peaking for about two minutes and lasting for only 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.
When the effects of any cocaine use start to wear off there can be a very strong temptation to take more, particularly with the long ‘come down’, the crash period sometimes lasting for days afterwards.
There are many serious risks with taking cocaine. Here’s what it could do to you.
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.
Recent police seizures of ‘street’ powder cocaine had an average purity of just 32%. A wrap of cocaine powder can be cut with many things, such as sugar or starch, but benzocaine is most common. Benzocaine is a local anaesthetic which can produce a ‘numbing’ effect similar to cocaine, but without the cocaine ‘high’. The purity of ‘crack’ depends on the purity of the cocaine used originally to produce the ‘crack’. However, recent police seizures had an average purity of 30%.
Cocaine is very addictive and it can be difficult to resist the craving for more. This powerful craving can develop because cocaine can change the way your brain works. Although the powerful psychological dependence that can easily develop is more of a problem than the physical withdrawal symptoms, people who stop using can experience low moods and feel very rough, and this can also tempt them to take more cocaine.