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Cocaine

charlie, snow, coke
cocaine hydrochloride

 

history

Cocaine was first used in 1855, and it soon became a popular stimulant. Small amounts were even used in Coca-Cola until 1904.

 

appearance

A white powder which comes from the leaves of an Andean Coca shrub. Cocaine hydrochloride, also known as charlie, snow or coke, is a white crystalline powder typically 45 - 50% pure, with the balance usually made up of sugar.

 

method of use

Snorted or injected.

 

effects

Powdered cocaine is a stimulant similar to amphetamine which raises the blood pressure, heart-rate and body temperature whilst suppressing sleep and appetite.

The user may feel more euphoric, confident and serene than they would with amphetamine, but the effects are much shorter lived at up to 40 minutes and it is much more expensive. It is usually sniffed but may be injected when the effects will be more intense.

The more cocaine used, however it's taken, the more panicky, paranoid or aggressive the user may feel, especially when coming down. Heavy and sustained use might give rise to psychosis which can include hearing voices and feelings of persecution.

Stopping taking the drug should make these symptoms fade away but it will take some time.

 

health risks

Sniffing can easily corrode and damage the nostrils.

In pregnant women cocaine can cause premature birth, stillbirth or spontaneous abortion.

Cocaine should also be avoided by anyone with heart or respiratory problems, or present or past psychological problems.

Continued use can lead to paranoia, hallucinations and psychosis (loss of contact with reality).

High doses can cause overdose, regardless of how the drug is taken. If injecting, normally the user has no idea what chemicals or purity they might inject from a street deal - it is common for unknown irritants that are injected to cause severe problems such as collapsed veins, abscesses, and the threat of gangrene or even amputation.

Because cocaine is an anaesthetic, these problems are harder to notice in early stages.

Mixing Cocaine with Alcohol is far more dangerous than taking either drug on it’s own, and puts the heart and liver under prolonged stress.

Avoiding injecting cocaine will by-pass many of the serious health risks. However, because of the risk of HIV infection, if cocaine is injected, injecting equipment must NEVER be shared with anyone. The only guarantee of safety from hepatitis or HIV infection is a new disposable syringe and needle for each person concerned. There is a needle exchange at BDP, where new works are given free and any chemist will sell clean works cheaply. Pharmacy exchange schemes exist in Bristol (list available at BDP).

Safer Injecting

 

dependency

Tolerance does occur and users can develop psychological dependence. Users need to keep taking larger amounts to get the same effect.

 

the law

Cocaine, and all variants including crack, are class A drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

Published in Alcohol & Drugs