Kyle M. and Dan B. TB 2

What are cocaine?

  • Powder cocaine is a white powder. Street dealers often mix cocaine with other substances like cornstarch, talcum powder, or sugar. They also mix cocaine with active drugs like procaine, a chemical that produces local anesthesia (a local anesthetic that causes you not to feel pain in a specific area of the body) and with other stimulants like amphetamines.
  • Crack is a form of cocaine that has been processed to make a rock crystal that people smoke. The term “crack” refers to the cracking sound the rocks make when they are heated. To make crack, the powder cocaine is mixed with ammonia or baking soda and water and then heated to produce the crystal.

How are they abused?

People snort cocaine when it is powder form and it is smoke when it is in crack form. With repeated use, stimulants can disrupt how the brain’s dopamine system works, reducing a person’s ability to feel any pleasure at all. People may try to make up for it by taking more and more of the drug to feel the same pleasure. After the "high" of the cocaine wears off, many people experience a "crash" and feel tired or sad for days. They also experience a strong craving to take cocaine again to try to feel better.

How does it affect the brain?

Cocain change the way nerve cells communicate. Nerve cells, called neurons, send messages to each other by releasing chemicals called neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters attach to molecules on neurons called receptors.There are many neurotransmitters, but dopamine is the main one that makes people feel good when they do something they enjoy. It is then recycled back into the cell that released it, thus shutting off the signal. Cocaine prevents the dopamine from being recycled, causing a buildup of the neurotransmitter in the brain. It is this flood of dopamine that causes cocaine’s high. The drug can cause a feeling of intense pleasure and increased energy.

What are other effects of Cocaine?

The surge of dopamine in the brain affects the body in a variety of ways:

  • Constricted blood vessels and dilated pupils
  • Higher body temperature
  • Higher blood pressure and faster heartbeat
  • Feeling sick to the stomach
  • Restlessness
  • Decreased appetite and, over time, a loss of weight
  • Inability to sleep
  • Increased risk of heart attack or stroke due to high blood pressure
  • Increased risk of HIV because of impaired judgment leading to risky sexual behavior
  • Strange, unpredictable behavior, panic attacks, or paranoid psychosis (losing touch with reality)

Can you get addicted?

Yes, repeated use can lead to addiction.

Because a cocaine high usually doesn't last very long, people take it again and again to try to keep feeling good. Once addicted, people who are trying to quit taking cocaine might:

  • Act nervous and restless
  • Feel very sad and tired
  • Have bad dreams
  • Not trust people and things around them
  • Feel a strong need to take cocaine

Can you die from use?

Yes. In 2014, more than 5,400 people died from a cocaine overdose. Males are much more likely to die in this way than are females. During the year, 3,900 males overdosed on cocaine, as compared with 1,500 females who died as a result of a cocaine overdose. Cocaine can be deadly when taken in large doses or when mixed with other drugs or alcohol. Cocaine-related deaths are often a result of the heart stopping (cardiac arrest) followed by stopped breathing. Abusing cocaine with alcohol or other drugs increases these dangers, including the risk of overdose. In rare instances, sudden death can occur on the first use of cocaine or soon after.

How many teens abuse this drug?

Approximately 1.60% 8th graders use powder cocaine, and only 1.00% of 8th graders use crack cocaine. Approximately 2.70% of 10th grades use powder cocaine, and 1.10% use crack cocaine. Approximately 4.00% of 12th graders use powder, and 1.70% use crack

what classification does your drug belong in?

Cocaine is classified as a stimulant.

What should you do if someone needs help

If you or a friend are in crisis and need to speak with someone now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (they cover a lot of issues not just suicide and will help put you in touch with someone close by). If you need information on treatment and where you can find it, you can call the Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator at 1-800-662-HELP or visit For more information on how to help a friend or loved one, visit Have a Drug Problem, Need Help? page.