Alcohol & Drugs
A picture of Cocaine

What’s the deal with cocaine?

Cocaine is classified as a stimulant. Drugs that fall under this category have similar effects on the body. Cocaine speeds up the rate of which messages are sent between the brain and the body. As a substance, cocaine is derived from the leaves of the coca bush (Erythroxylum coca). Leaf extract is processed into 3 distinctively different forms of cocaine:

Cocaine hydrochloride: is a white powdery substance with a bitter after taste. Cocaine hydrochloride is cut with over the counter substances like lactose or glucose, reducing the drug’s potency

Freebase: a white powdery substance with less impurity than cocaine hydrochloride

Crack: crystalline powder or rocks that range in colour. Clear, white, pink or yellowish in hue crack cocaine may also contain impurities depending on its method of manufacture



How does it work?

Cocaine is most commonly snorted.  It can also be injected, rubbed into a person’s gums or added to food and drinks. Freebase and crack cocaine is generally smoked.

Indigenous people of South America have used the leaves of the cocoa bush as a stimulant or appetite depressant for hundreds of years.

Effects

There is no such thing as a SAFE level of drug use. Substance use carries risk. It’s important to be careful when using any form of drug especially those that may be manufactured illegally.

If injected, the effects of cocaine can be felt almost immediately. Smoking, snorting or swallowing the drug may vary the length of time it takes for the effects to be felt. Stimulants may affect people differently based on:

  • A person’s body weight
  • General state of health
  • Regular use of substance
  • If taken in combination with other drugs including prescription medication
  • The amount that is consumed
  • Quality of the drug (this varies from batch to batch for most illicit drugs)

Grandmaster Flash all the way back in the 80's had a good message about cocaine use:

Short Term Effects

In the short term use of cocaine is likely to result in the following:

  • Increased confidence and motivation
  • Feelings of euphoria
  • Reduced inhibitions
  • Dilated pupils
  • A dry or pasty mouth
  • Increase in heart rate
  • A reduced appetite
  • Excess sweating
  • Increase in libido

If drugs are snorted it may result in nose bleeds, infections of the nasal membrane, perforated septum and long term damage to the nasal cavity and sinus.

Long Term Effects

High doses and frequent heavy use may also lead to cocaine psychosis. This is characterised by paranoid delusions, hallucinations and aggressive, out of character behaviours. These symptoms will usually disappear a few days after cocaine has stopped being used.

Coming Down

Coming down off Cocaine can be pretty hard. It's quite the low, but what goes up must come down.  You'll be feeling all sorts of feelings while coming down, don't go thinking it's all over, your mental health is going through a come down and the feelings pass in time. 

Comedown feelings might include:

  • feeling restless, irritable and anxious
  • paranoia
  • depression
  • radical mood swings
  • lethargy
  • exhaustion
  • increased sleep
  • anger

Your body has probably been through quite a bit as well, so what can you do to look after yourself?

Here are a few tips:

  • Firstly make sure you eat heaps before you use. It really helps. Keep eating too!
  • Make sure your fridge is stocked before you use, so you can easily make food when you are partying as well as coming down. Nutrition is really important.
  • Keep hydrated, drink plenty of water.
  • If you are on any HIV meds or PrEP, put a reminder in your phone so you don't forget to take them. Take a few days worth of meds out with you if you are having a big weekend. Also check out the section below on drug interactions for people living with HIV.
  • Pamper yourself and do the things that make you feel safe and comfy. Hot shower, bath time, hanging out with friends, sleeping and watching trashy TV.
  • Relax with some chilled music, this is a good playlist: LISTEN HERE
  • Or just let yourself feel the rain and relax.

Safety

The safest thing you can do is to not do any drugs, m'kay? But let's be realistic, people use drugs. Some people really enjoy it, but for others it can become really problematic either for their health and wellbeing, their relationships, their jobs, their financial security or all of the above. Not only this, but some people can also develop a dependance and this can lead further problems if it isn't addressed early or easily managed.

If you are going to use drugs, it's best to be safe about it. It's your choice to determine what you put in your body, but whatever you do remember to be safe and responsible - with yourself and with others.

We've got some helpful tips to consider.

  • Set limits for yourself, and stick to them.
  • Don’t let other people pressure you into doing drugs.
  • Try to avoid mixing drugs with other drugs or be informed about the risks.
  • Try to be aware of exactly what you are taking and how much you are taking.
  • Eat before you party and stay hydrated with water.
  • If you are going out for a big night, leave your bank cards at home and set a cash limit for yourself, leaving enough to get home by taxi.
  • Tell some trusted friends what you're planning to do.

Safer Injecting

If you are injecting, it’s important to use clean injecting equipment and to avoid sharing needles or other injecting equipment. Blood borne viruses such as Hepatitis B, C and HIV can be transmitted through sharing equipment.  So with that being said it’s important to be aware of where blood can end up. Blood may not only remain on or in needles and syringes but also on other equipment and surfaces such as your skin, on your hands or the top of a table. You can’t always see blood so don’t assume that just because you can’t see it that it isn’t there. Make sure you wash your hands and clean the area where you are preparing to inject. Injecting drug use and the sharing of equipment with others put you at increased risk of:

  • Vein damage and permanent scarring
  • Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, Tetanus and HIV transmission
  • Deep vein thrombosis and clots – this may result in the loss of limbs, damage to organs, stroke and possibly even death

Overdose

Large doses or a strong batch of cocaine may result in overdose. Drugs that are manufactured illicitly and sold on the street may vary in strength. They are also likely to be cut or diluted with other substances that are otherwise considered harmful to the body. If you, or someone you know is feeling any of the following effects - call for an ambulance immediately. You do this simply by dialling triple zero (000). Ambulance officers are not obliged to involve the police.

  • An irregular or racing heart beat
  • Convulsions
  • Hypertension and difficult breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Extreme agitation or paranoia
  • Seizure
  • Passed or passing out
  • Symptoms of heart attack and stroke

Mixing with Other Drugs

Cocaine + Alcohol will strengthen the stimulant effect of cocaine and places the heart under extreme stress. This condition has been linked to sudden death.

Cocaine + other stimulants (ecstasy, speed) will put the heart under pressure and will increase the risk of overdose.

Cocaine + prescription anti-depressants can cause serotonin syndrome which requires immediate attention. Symptoms include insomnia, agitation, irregular or increased fast heart beat and muscle spasms.

Living with HIV

All recreational drug use whether it's with a legalised substance or not is likely to interact and maybe even interfere with your ARV's. Those drug interactions are the very thing that can lead to ARV treatment failure. By all means go hard on the weekend - just make sure that you are checking in regularly with an experienced HIV medical practitioner.

Interactions with HIV Medications

We don't know of any negative interactions between cocaine and HIV medication. This does not mean that it is safe. Exercise caution when mixing any form of drugs.

Taking Hormones

For trans, gender diverse or intersex people who are taking some form of hormone therapy, it's important to be aware and informed of how your body processes these treatments.

Currently, there is limited information into the interactions and cross interactions of hormone therapy and recreational drug use but that doesn't mean we'll stop asking for it. Whether your hormones are prescribed by a doctor or you've sourced them yourself from the internet, make it a priority to get regular health checks. Sometimes, a change in dosage or preparation of hormones is needed and a qualified medical practitioner is the person best placed to advise you of this.

If you're not comfortable talking about your gender, gender identity or bodily difference with your doctor, get in touch and we can make recommendations for a service that is best placed to support your needs.

Interactions with Hormones

We don't know of any negative interactions between cocaine and hormones treatments. This does not mean that it is safe. Exercise caution when mixing any form of drugs.

Treatment

Slow down Stevie Nicks! If your cocaine use has begun to have a negative impact on your overall health or your relationships with family and friends, your ability to focus on work or study or perhaps even the bottom line on your bank account - it's time to TouchBase with somebody who can help.

There are a number of treatment options and support services available for you, for your family or friends if they need it.

Whatever your recovery goals are, if it is to control, reduce or stop smokng, reach out for some support.

Counselling & Support

Counselling can be provided individually or in a group situation, and is available to people who use alcohol or other drugs, and to their family members or support people. A support service can offer counselling or direct you to a service appropriate for you. Speak to your doctor, alcohol and other drugs treatment service or local community health service.

Contact QUIT or Find help and support services.

Rehabilitation

Rehabilitation programs take a long term approach to treatment to help you achieve your goals with your alcohol or other drug use. Residential withdrawal is also available from some treatment services.

Find out more about withdrawal.

Complementary therapies

These include treatments such as massage and relaxation therapies, which can be useful to help you manage withdrawal symptoms. 

Peer support 

These programs are provided for people who use alcohol and other drugs, and their family members or support person/s. 

Withdrawal & Rehab

Giving up cocaine after a long period of use is challenging. Your body will need time to get use to living without it. Please seek advice from a health professional. Withdrawal symptoms usually start around 1–2 days after last use and can last for approximately 10 weeks – days 4 to 7 will be the worst.

Withdrawal usually happens in 3 phases:

  1. The Crash – During this phase you are likely to experience varying degrees of agitation, depression and anxiety. Feelings of intense hunger, drug cravings, restless sleep and extreme tiredness within the first few days are also pretty common.
  2. Withdrawal – Cocaine cravings, a lack of energy, generalised anxiety, outbursts of anger and the inability to find pleasure in the tasks you use to enjoy doing are symptoms of withdrawal and may last up to 10 weeks after using.
  3. Extinction – During this phase there is likely to be intermittent and ongoing cravings for cocaine.
Important notice

Please note: The information given on this page is not medical advice and should not be relied upon in that way. Individuals wanting medical advice about Cocaine should consult a health professional.