Cocaine is a powerful, harmful and addictive drug that is derived from the leaves of the coca shrub.

It usually comes as a white crystalline powder (coke), but is also commonly supplied as ‘freebase’ cocaine (powder cocaine that’s been prepared for smoking) and ‘crack’ (a small rock-like form of cocaine that makes a cracking noise when burnt), which are both usually smoked in a glass tube, plastic bottle or in foil.

Each of these forms has a potent, short-lived impact on both the mind and body

However, both freebase and crack tend to have a stronger effect and be more addictive as they affect the brain much quicker than snorted powder cocaine.

Drug class

Cocaine in all its forms is categorised as a Class A drug in the UK. If caught in possession of the drug by the police, you could be arrested, taken to court and given a prison sentence of up to seven years.

If caught supplying the drug, you could face life in jail and receive an unlimited fine.

In addition, it is illegal and very dangerous to drive whilst high on cocaine (as with all recreational drugs ) or allow other people use cocaine in your house or any other premises.

Effects on the body

People who take cocaine generally report feeling very confident, wide-awake and on top of the world.

However, some people can easily become over-confident, arrogant and aggressive towards others, including their friends. Like all stimulants (or ‘uppers’), cocaine also:

  • Reduces appetite
  • Increases body temperature
  • Makes the heart beat faster
  • Can cause dehydration , especially if used when partying or clubbing

The effects of cocaine tend to only last for around 20-30 minutes (10 minutes for crack or freebase), and once they begin to wear off, users suffer a long ‘comedown’ which can make them feel tired, bad-tempered and depressed.

In addition to the short-term effects, there are also many serious longer-term risks of cocaine use. For example, high doses or frequent use can:

  • Cause anxiety , paranoia and panic attacks.
  • Damage or destroy the cartilage in between your nostrils.
  • Increase the body’s temperature, cause convulsions and heart failure
  • Trigger underlying mental health problems.
  • Lead to chest pains and breathing problems (if smoked in the form of crack or freebase).
  • Damage veins, cause ulcers and increase the risk of HIV and hepatitis infections, if injected (powdered cocaine and crack can also be prepared into an injectable solution).
  • Cause heart attack or stroke, particularly if used by people with high blood pressure or heart-related problems.
  • Increase the risk of death by overdosing, especially if mixed with alcohol and/or other drugs.

Additionally, coke and especially crack cocaine is highly addictive and often leads to cravings, which can be difficult to resist.

Possible effect on diabetes

For people with diabetes, taking cocaine in any of its forms can have a huge impact on blood glucose control and diabetes management.

Cocaine can:

  • Suppress the feeling of hunger and disturb sleep patterns, which can cause hypoglycemia (abnormally low blood sugar levels).
  • Indirectly affect blood glucose levels due to its effect on the brain – e.g. users might not recognise signs of hypoglycemia or mistake such symptoms for the effects of the drug.
  • Cause people to forget or avoid* taking their insulin (cocaine users have a tendency to omit insulin for extended periods of time). This can lead to high blood sugar levels ( hyperglycemia ), dehydration and exhaustion, especially if used in a hot environment, like a club.

*Cocaine users have a tendency to omit insulin doses for extended periods of time, which also puts them at increased risk of diabetic ketoacidosis , a serious condition that usually affects people with type 1 diabetes .

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