Cocaine: what are the effects?

Effects vary from person to person. They will depend on the size, weight and health of the person taking cocaine, whether they are used to taking the drug, whether other drugs are present in their body, and of course, the amount taken.

There is no safe level of drug use. Use of any drug always carries some risk - even medications can produce unwanted side effects. It is important to be careful when taking any type of drug.

Immediate effects

The effects of cocaine can last anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of hours, depending on how the cocaine is taken. When the immediate ‘rush’ of the cocaine has worn off, the person may experience a ‘crash’.

Low to moderate doses

Some of the effects that may be experienced after taking cocaine include:

  • immediate rush, feelings of euphoria
  • feelings of invincibility
  • a sense of wellbeing
  • increased talkativeness or quiet contemplation and rapture
  • increased confidence and a feeling of invincibility
  • feelings of great physical strength and mental capacity
  • increased libido
  • anxiety, agitation and panic
  • paranoia
  • upredictable violent/aggressive behaviour
  • feeling more awake, reduced need for sleep
  • increased performance on simple tasks
  • enlarged (dilated) pupils
  • dry mouth
  • increased breathing rate
  • increased blood pressure and heart rate (after initial slowing)
  • reduced appetite
  • increased body temperature
  • increased strength and energy
  • indifference to pain and localised pain relief.

Higher doses

A high dose of cocaine can cause a person to overdose. This means that a person has taken more cocaine than their body can cope with. Not knowing the strength or purity of the cocaine increases the risk of overdose. Injecting cocaine increases the risk of overdose due to large amounts of the drug entering the blood stream and quickly travelling to the brain.

Higher doses of cocaine can produce symptoms, including:

  • anxiety
  • sleep disorders
  • paranoia
  • tremors and muscle twitches
  • nausea and vomiting
  • rapid and weak pulse
  • chest pain
  • heart attack
  • kidney failure
  • hypothermia (low body temperature)
  • seizures
  • increased heart rate and body temperature
  • brain haemorrhage
  • stroke and convulsions.

Many of these can lead to coma and death.

High doses and frequent heavy use can also cause a 'cocaine psychosis', characterised by paranoid delusions, hallucinations and bizarre, agressive or violent behaviour. These symptoms usually disappear a few days after the person stops using cocaine.

Coming down

As the effects of cocaine begin to wear off, a person may experience:

  • tension and anxiety
  • radical mood swings
  • depression
  • total exhaustion.

Long-term effects

Long-term effects of cocaine use include:

  • insomnia and exhaustion
  • depression
  • anxiety, paranoia and psychosis
  • eating disorders and weight loss
  • sexual dysfunction
  • hypertension and irregular heart beat
  • sensitivity to light and sound
  • hallucinations
  • cerebral atrophy (wasting of the brain) and impaired thinking.

Some of the long-term effects of cocaine are related to the method of using cocaine.

  • Repeated snorting damages the nasal lining and the structure separating the nostrils (the nasal septum).
  • Smoking crack cocaine can cause breathing difficulties, chronic cough, bronchitis and other respiratory problems.
  • Cocaine is often ‘cut’ with substances that are poisonous when injected. They can cause collapsed veins, abscesses and damage to the heart, liver and brain.
  • If injected into the skin, cocaine can cause severe vasoconstriction, which may prevent blood flowing to the tissue, potentially resulting in severe tissue damage.

For more information, please click on the Australian Drug Foundation's DrugInfo Clearinghouse web site link below.
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Last Reviewed: 29 January 2013
Reproduced with kind permission from the Australian Drug Foundation.


Australian Drug Foundation. Cocaine facts. Last updated 29 Jan 2013. (accessed May 2013)
Australian Drug Foundation (ADF)

Australian Drug Foundation (ADF)

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