Alere is now Abbott



Cocaine is a powerful stimulant that is found in the leaves of the Erythroxylum coca (coca leaves) a tropical shrub that is grown widely on the Andean ridge in South America. Cocaine is extracted from the leaves of the coca plant in the salt form cocaine hydrochloride, a white powder.

The powder is mixed with cutting agents before sale. Cocaine powder is taken by snorting or it can be dissolved in water and injected. Crack cocaine is produced by a method that removes the salt content leaving the base form of the chemical. For maximum effect crack cocaine is smoked using a short stemmed pipe.

All forms of cocaine act as powerful mind-altering stimulants. Smoking of crack cocaine speeds up the time it takes the drug to reach the brain so increasing the intensity of euphoria. The effects of cocaine are short lived. Using cocaine with alcohol can substantially increase the risk of side effects.

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.



Both powder and crack forms of cocaine can be prepared to make a solution of cocaine for injecting. Preparing crack cocaine in this way converts the free base back to the salt form.



Crack cocaine is more commonly smoked as it vapourises at a much lower temperature than cocaine hydrochloride and the effects are greater.



Cocaine powder is divided into lines and snorted up the nose. It is not suited to smoking.

  • Quick acting
  • Small amounts make the user feel euphoric, energetic, talkative, and mentally alert
  • Temporarily reduces the need for food and sleep
  • Some users find they are over-confident on it and so may take careless risks
  • Others users report feelings of restlessness, irritability, anxiety, panic, and paranoia
  • Large amounts of cocaine may intensify the user's high but can also lead to bizarre, erratic, and violent behaviour
  • Disturbances in heart rhythm
  • Heart attacks
  • Strokes
  • Seizures
  • Headaches
  • Coma
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea

Repeated snorting of cocaine:

  • Runny nose
  • Loss of sense of smell
  • Nosebleeds
  • Irritation of the nasal septum
  • Collapse of the nasal septum
  • Problems with swallowing
  • Hoarseness


  • Overdosing
  • Damage to veins and arteries
  • Ulceration and gangrene
  • Contracting a blood borne virus (if needle sharing)
Cocaine powder


Molecular structure of cocaine

Street Names

snow white, toot, snow, rocks, freebase, crack, coke, charlie, C, big C, blow, base, rail, snort, line, coca

Legal Status

Class A Substance

Possession of the drug can lead to up to seven years in jail, an unlimited fine or both. Supplying the drug can lead to up to life imprisonment, an unlimited fine or both.

For more information about drug classifications and the associated penalties visit the Home Office website.