Cocaine

Synonyms

The most common synonyms are:

  • Angie, Applejacks, Aspirin, Bad rock, Big c, Blow, Charlie, Coke, Crack, Flake, Freebase, Hard, Henry, Joy dust, Kangaroo, Lady, Snow, Nose candy, Rock, Stardust, Toot

When mixed with:

  • cannabis or tobacco in a joint: Bazooka
  • heroin: dynamite, Speedball
  • marijuana: Cocoa puffs
Classification

Stimulant:

  • Refers to a substance that stimulates mental function and increases the brain's overall activity and alertness.
Mechanism of action
  • Alkaloid that blocks the reuptake of monoamines (noradrenaline, epinephrine, dopamine and serotonin) in the central nervous system:
    • 0.7% of those 15 years and older
    • 2.7% of those aged 15 to 24 years
    • 0.3% of those aged 25 years and older
Routes of administration
  • Ingested (chewing coca leaves), snorted, smoked or injected. Although seldom used, there are other routes of administration (genital, rectal, transcutaneous, subcutaneous, intramuscular).

Visual description

FormAppearanceMethod of administration
Salt (cocaine hydrochloride)white powder
  • snorted
  • injected once diluted
Cocaine base (paste)opaque, white, yellow or brown crystals
  • smoked
Cocaine base (freebase and crack = cocaine derivatives)small white or yellow rocks
  • mainly smoked
  • injected once diluted (not as common)
  • Crack: pieces that are ready for use
  • Freebase: cocaine salt transformed into cocaine base by the user

Effects sought out by the user

Effects may vary based on the route of administration and the dose:

  • Decreased fatigue, increased alertness and productivity
  • Enhanced sensory perception (touch, sound, sight, sexual perceptions)
  • Euphoria (high) that varies in intensity (tonic to orgasmic) and short-lived
  • Good spirits
  • Improved ability to communicate
  • Increased energy and self-confidence (feelings of invincibility)
  • Increased sex drive
  • Reduced appetite

Common toxic effects

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Dilated pupils
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Insomnia
  • Rapid breathing
  • Reduced appetite
  • Repetitive behaviour or movements
  • Runny nose
  • Sweating
  • Tachycardia
  • Thirst

Overdose effects

  • Abnormal increase in body temperature
  • Bleeding
  • Convulsions
  • Death
  • Heart attack
  • Hypertension/hypertensive crisis
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Kidney damage
  • Muscle toxicity
  • Psychosis
  • Respiratory depression
  • Thrombosis

Effects associated with chronic use

The effects observed with usual doses will be more pronounced. The following effects may also occur:

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Chapped nostrils (if snorted)
  • Headache
  • Heart problems
  • Nose bleeds (if snorted)
  • Psychosis
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Track marks (if injected)
  • Tremors

Tolerance (need to increase the dose to feel the same effect)

Yes, doses must be increased to maintain the same effects (on average, euphoria lasts 45 seconds).

Addiction

Yes, physical and psychological, after a few weeks/months of chronic use. Dependence is greater when the drug is injected or smoked.

Withdrawal

Yes. A depressive effect occurs a few minutes after the last hit. Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Convulsions
  • Diarrhea
  • Dysphoria (depression, unease, irritability)
  • Excessive sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Impulsivity
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle pain
  • Nausea
  • Paranoia
  • Poor concentration
  • Suicidal/homicidal thoughts

Onset and duration of action

Route of
administration
Onset of
action
Peak
Euphoria with
usual dose
Duration of action
of the high
Ingested
Chewing coca leaves10 to 30 minutes30 to 120 minutes+/-45 to 90 minutes
Snorted
Cocaine2 to 5 minutes10 to 30 minutes++30 to 60 minutes
Smoked
PasteA few secondsLess than 5 minutes+++5 to 15 minutes
FreebaseA few secondsLess than 5 minutes+++5 to 15 minutes
CrackA few secondsLess than 5 minutes+++5 to 15 minutes
Injected
Cocaine hydrochlorideA few secondsLess than 5 minutes+++10 to 20 minutes

Screening

Laboratory tests:

  • Blood: detectable for a few hours after the last use.
  • Urine: detectable for up to 2 to 3 days after the last use.

Intoxication management

  • Antidote available: No
  • Support: symptomatic treatment
  • Users tend to treat their cocaine addiction with alcohol, cannabis, opiates and/or psychotropics (benzodiazepines, hypnotics), which can lead to other addictions.

Other useful information

  • Injecting cocaine: risk of contracting infections and particularly high risk of overdose.
  • Smoking cocaine: the cocaine is inhaled through a pipe, which can damage the mouth through burns. The sores can result in contracting hepatitis B and C.
  • Snorting cocaine: the most popular route of administration. Risk of injury to the mucous membrane lining of the nose. Risk of contracting hepatitis B and C as well as HIV (lower risk).

Many different street drugs are sold under the same name. Furthermore, nothing guarantees the quantity, purity or even the content of a street drug in spite of the fact that it may, in some cases, look like medication.

If you need help or want to learn more:

Partnership for a Drug-Free Canada.

www.canadadrugfree.org

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