"What is it?"

Cocaine is a substance that is extracted from the leaves of the South American coca bush, mainly grown in the Andean regions of Bolivia, Colombia and Peru.

It is extracted as a coarse salt which after further refining is sold as a fine, white, crystalline powder, often called "coke" or "snow".

During the 1960's a smokeable form called "crack or "freebase" was developed, which looks like brownish lumps of sugar. It makes a crackling sound when smoked.

The purity of cocaine varies and it can be diluted with other substances such as talcum powder, sugar or other drugs.

Cocaine is smoked, sniffed or injected.

It was once a ingredient along with caffeine (from the kola nut) in Coca-Cola. It was removed from Coca-Cola when the consequences of cocaine use became known.

According to the United Nation’s 2014 World Drug Report, Australia is the fourth-biggest user of cocaine in the world. Our recent statistics record that just over 8% of the population have tried it.

Alcohol use is much more of a problem with Australian teenagers than cocaine. 1.7% of 12-17 year olds who take cocaine have only used it once or twice whereas 28% have had a full serve of alcohol. (See poster)

Coca leaves

cocaine powder

Common Names

crack Big C, Blow, Bombita, Bernies, "C", Charles, Charlie, Coke, Crack, Dream, Dust, Flake, Fly, Gold-dust, Heaven, Her, Ice, Nose Candy, Poison, Schoolboy,
Snow, Stardust, Sugar, White Lady.

Short Term Effects

Cocaine has an immediate effect on the body regardless of the way it is used. People use it because it improves their mood, making them feel more alert.

It stops them feeling hungry, so girls use it to lose weight.

It makes people feel excited as it acts like a natural adrenalin "rush".

The "rush" is short-lived, because cocaine is quickly changed by the liver. This causes the user to try again and with frequent use, the user needs larger and larger amounts to still get the same effect. This is what causes addiction.

snort cocaine

Cocaine causes the pulse to race and results in high blood pressure. It constricts the blood vessels which limits the amount of oxygen to the nerve endings, producing immediate numbness. However, this can cause the long term effects of cell damage and eventual rotting.

Long Term Effects

injecting cocaine

Most people recognize that crack cocaine is nasty, toxic, incredibly addictive and deadly dangerous.

Yet, many still keep experimenting with it, not truly appreciating how quickly crack can exert power over them and draw them into addiction. It will eventually have long term effects.

  • Rotting of nasal septum
  • Reduced flow of blood in the brain causing long term deterioration in brain metabolism
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Possible psychosis
  • Circulatory disorders - the surge of extra blood into a system where the blood vessels have been narrowed, causes pressure to the artery walls, resulting in possible rupture of blood vessels in the brain or cardiac arrest
  • Heart disease
  • Epilespy
  • Diabetes
  • Miscarriage of infant or premature birth in pregnant women.
  • Domestic violence and unhappiness for the family
  • Death
smoke cocaine


Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2014). National Drug Strategy Household Survey detailed report 2013. Canberra: AIHW.

White, V., & Bariola, E. (2012). Australian secondary school students’ use of tobacco, alcohol, and over-the-counter and illicit substances in 2011. Melbourne: The Cancer Council, Victoria.




Scott, T & Grice, T: The Great Brain Robbery; Allen & Unwin, 1997; pages 78-81

Last updated: Tuesday, 21 June, 2016