Drug & Alcohol Recovery and Education Centre

"Turning Lives Around"

Drug Information

Coke, Freebase, Crack, Charlie, C, Rock


Cocaine is a stimulant drug which affects the central nervous system by speeding up the activity of certain chemicals in the brain, producing a feeling of increased alertness and reduced fatigue.

Where Cocaine Comes From:

Cocaine is manufactured from the coca plant, which grows naturally in Peru and Bolivia. For centuries, the Peruvian Indians chewed coca leaves to lessen fatigue caused by high altitude living. In 1859, a technique was discovered to extract cocaine hydrochloride from the coca leaves, which was used as an effective local anaesthetic. Cocaine hydrochloride was also used in many commercial products and was an ingredient in Coca-Cola until 1903. In the 1920s, cocaine was banned in most Western countries, except for medical use.

How Cocaine is Used:

Is usually snorted or swallowed, but can be injected or smoked in the form of crack or freebase. Smoking crack or freebase is uncommon in Australia.

Health Effects of Using Cocaine:

The effects of cocaine will vary from person to person depending on characteristics of the:

  • Individual (user) – Mood, physical size, health, gender, previous experience with cocaine, expectations of the drug, personality, whether the person has had food and whether other drugs have been taken
  • Drug – The amount used, its purity, and whether it is smoked, swallowed, snorted or injected
  • Setting (environment) – Whether the person is using with friends, on his/her own, in a social setting or at home, at work or before driving

Short-term effects

  • Increased breathing and pulse-rates
  • Increased blood pressure
  • High body temperature
  • Increased alertness
  • Reduced appetite
  • Feeling of wellbeing
  • Enlarged pupils
  • Anxiety, irritability and suspiciousness
  • Exaggerated feelings of confidence and energy
  • Inability to sleep

Long-term effects

  • Tolerance and dependence
  • Aggressive or violent behaviour
  • Loss of appetite, weight loss and malnutrition
  • Irritability or emotional disturbances
  • Restlessness
  • Paranoia
  • Periods of psychosis
  • Auditory hallucinations
  • Convulsions
  • Reduced resistance to infection.

There are also dangerous effects associated with the method of use. Snorting can damage the fragile mucous membrane in the nasal passages. It produces burns and sores on the membranes that line the interior of the nose.

Injecting cocaine can result in blocked blood vessels that can cause major damage to the body’s organs, inflamed blood vessels and abscesses, blood poisoning, bacterial infections which may damage the heart valves, vein collapse, infection at injection site, bruising or more serious injuries if users inject into an artery or tissue.


Overdose can cause:

  • Increased heart-rate
  • Seizures
  • Hyperventilation
  • Heart failure
  • Respiratory failure
  • Burst blood vessels in the brain
  • Death

Cocaine and Other Drugs:

Cocaine users may use other drugs such as minor tranquillisers, cannabis, alcohol, or heroin to cope with some of the undesirable effects of cocaine and a dependence on several drugs may develop. For example, users may find themselves needing cocaine to get them going in the day and tranquillisers each night to go to sleep. This kind of dependence can lead to a variety of very serious physical and psychological problems.

Using more than one drug on any one occasion (poly-drug use) increases the risk of complications and serious side effects. An example is the use of cocaine and then another drug, such as amphetamines, while the cocaine is still active in the body. As street cocaine is rarely pure, the users cannot be certain which other drugs have been added to the cocaine. This can result in unplanned poly-drug use and serious side-effects.

Cocaine and Mental Health Problems:

Cocaine use can cause anxiety, depression, paranoia and psychosis in those people who have a vulnerability to mental health problems.

Watershed acknowledges the traditional custodians of country and their continuing connection to land, culture and community. We pay our respects to elders past, present and future.

Watershed holds accreditation with the Australian Council on Health Care Standards (ACHS).

Formerly: Wollongong Crisis Centre

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