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Drugs and Alcohol (young people)

Cocaine

What is cocaine?
Cocaine is a powerful stimulant that comes in the form of powder or crystals (crack). Cocaine in powder form is snorted (inhaled through the nose) so is absorbed slowly into the body. If watered down and injected, cocaine takes effect more quickly. ‘Freebase’ cocaine (also a powder) and ‘crack’ cocaine can be smoked, and so can reach the brain very quickly in high dosage.
 
Young people we talked to said that cocaine is widely available and more affordable than it has been in the past. Mary Ann commented that cocaine ‘used to be a rich man’s drug because it used to be so expensive’ but that ‘it’s a common drug now’. Some of the young people we talked to said that they suspect cocaine that’s available in the UK isn’t pure. They wondered whether their supplies had been cut with another drug. 
 

Mary Ann started using cocaine at aged 15. It became a thing she did every weekend; drinking...

Mary Ann started using cocaine at aged 15. It became a thing she did every weekend; drinking...

Age at interview: 20
Sex: Female
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At the age of fifteen when I met my boyfriend, that’s when I first tried Coke, Cocaine, had my first line of Cocaine at the age of fifteen, no sixteen that’s a lie, sixteen, and since, and then, obviously still drinking every single weekend, every single weekend still just drinking Vodka and just trying to get obviously completely and utterly para, but then as I said got introduced to Cocaine, so that kind of started coming in at the weekends as well. 
 
What are the effects of cocaine?
As a stimulant, cocaine temporarily speeds up the processes of your mind and body. The ‘highs’ associated with cocaine include feeling wide awake and confident but the people we spoke to shared a number of negative experiences. As with all drugs, its effect in each individual person can be hard to predict. The amount and the purity of the substance you are taking and your own emotions at the time you take cocaine, will have an effect on the experience.
 
What are the negative effects of cocaine?
Those who had used cocaine were amazed at how much their behaviour and temperament changed, even after using it for a short period of time. Peter only snorted a line of cocaine once, but said that it wasn’t for him because he didn’t want to snort drugs and become aggressive.
 

At first cocaine made her feel energetic but, after a few days of using it, Leah felt she was turning into a ‘horrible’ person and decided to quit.

At first cocaine made her feel energetic but, after a few days of using it, Leah felt she was turning into a ‘horrible’ person and decided to quit.

Age at interview: 17
Sex: Female
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But you had tried Cocaine also?
 
Yeah when I was about fifteen, I was in school, I tried Cannabis, and Cocaine. I got into Cocaine because me and my friend, she was older than me, she was a couple of years older than me, we went round to this boy’s house and he was a Drug Dealer. And he gave us some, he said, “Just try it, you don’t have to.” And I thought ‘oh wow I want to try it because it looks fun, everyone’s doing it, I want to see the effect of it’ I was just intrigued to know what it was like, so I did it and it didn’t do anything apart from make me really hyper, like really, and, it made me really energetic put it that way. then at the next day we went round there, we had some more, it got to the point where I was having more and more, I only did it for about a week and a half maximum and I did it every day, and within a week and a half I, I was getting told I was changing, I was becoming a horrible person, I could see in myself, she was my best friend at the time, we went to the chip shop, there was a woman that got served before her, no, she got served before me, yeah I was standing in front of my best friend, I turned round and smacked her round the face because she got served before me, when that happened I thought ‘I have just turned on my best friend’ I am shouting at the chip shop man, I became so aggressive that I stopped taking it just didn’t appeal to me anymore.
 
And I think now, at that time I wasn’t really aware that it can be mashed Paracetamol and, packet washing-up powder, everything is in it if, nothing here in England is a hundred percent Cocaine, it’s probably about two percent and the, other, rest of it is all stuff mixed in together, and I think if I knew the effects that, like if I knew like how much, the small percentage of it what it was back then I don’t think I would have done it, but I, it is going to sound silly but I am glad I done it because I can say, “I have done it, I have experienced it, I would not do it again.” I am lucky that I am not addicted to it or anything like that. I wouldn’t ever go near Crack or anything like that, I would never go near that, I am not stupid enough, I know the effects of that, but now I know the effects of Cocaine, what it can do to you and stuff like that I wouldn’t go and touch that stuff again. People have said to me, “Oh do you want to again now?” I wouldn’t do it now because I’ve got a daughter, if I didn’t have her maybe.
 
The highs that come with taking cocaine can be followed by the lows of a ‘come down’ the next day.
 

Taking cocaine and alcohol to escape her problems just made Mary Ann feel worse. (Played by an actress)

Taking cocaine and alcohol to escape her problems just made Mary Ann feel worse. (Played by an actress)

Age at interview: 20
Sex: Female
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But when I was seventeen, I’ve been in a violent relationship since I was fifteen as well, so kind of I think all that adds to it as well, but then obviously not living at home and having that stability, no obviously I know it’s my own fault but, and then as I was seventeen really bad experience happened in my life and I turned to Cocaine because I was working as a well so I had money, I had no child then, and every single weekend, even during the week I was just going out and, that was my escape route, but then every morning I would just feel so down and depressed and everything would just seem a thousand times worse, but then I’d go out and do it again and that’s all I wanted to do, I didn’t want to deal with anything head on I just wanted to go and just get obliviated that’s what I wanted to do, that was my aim. 

Joe and Alex B said that they didn’t feel any of the ‘highs’ that other people associate with cocaine. Joe tried it twice (mixed with ecstasy) and Alex once and after that they both lost interest in using it.
 

After trying cocaine twice and not experiencing any of the effects associated with it, Joe lost...

After trying cocaine twice and not experiencing any of the effects associated with it, Joe lost...

Age at interview: 24
Sex: Male
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Around that time when I had tried ecstasy and I was in that sort of music scene, I had tried cocaine a couple of times which, I didn’t really feel anything from it at all, it just, it didn’t seem to have any effect to be honest , I never tried it by itself I’d only tried it once I’d had ecstasy but I didn’t notice any sort of immediate effects from it and so I only tried it I think two, maybe three times, never again because I just didn’t see the point and it didn’t seem to have any effect on me.
Mixing cocaine with other drugs
A combination of alcohol and cocaine can be dangerous for your health. Cocaine and alcohol are stimulants that put pressure on the heart, increasing the risk of heart attacks.
 

Chloe experienced chest pains after nights out where she mixed cannabis, cocaine and alcohol.

Chloe experienced chest pains after nights out where she mixed cannabis, cocaine and alcohol.

Age at interview: 20
Sex: Female
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Were you using more than one drug at a time for instance if you were at a party or
 
Yes I was at a party I would be drinking alcohol. For me I call alcohol a drug because it has some worse effects than some drugs. For me a drug is any substance that alters your body’s natural functions. So yeah alcohol, I’d be drinking alcohol. I would smoke a spliff and be on coke. So yeah.
 
How did you feel there? The morning after?
 
Horrible, disgusting, just wanted to shrivel up in a ball. Oh it was the worst feeling, horrible. And I used to get chest pains as well because obviously cocaine is a stimulant so it makes you fast and alcohol and cannabis are depressants so I could sometimes feel like my heart was pushing differently like it was working against something, I could physically feel that.
 
So you were. Were you concerned at that time or?
 
Yeah I was concerned but I just pushed it to the back of my mind.
 
Sam has experimented with all sorts of illegal substances and he once thought it would be funny to mix ecstasy and crack cocaine. To his dismay, the ‘comedown’ from base (crack cocaine) and ecstasy made him feel like he didn’t ‘exist anymore’. He thinks that the ecstasy tablets he took were cut heavily with ketamine.
 

Sam describes how bad he felt after mixing base (crack cocaine) with ecstasy tablets that he suspected had been cut with ketamine. (Played by an actor)

Sam describes how bad he felt after mixing base (crack cocaine) with ecstasy tablets that he suspected had been cut with ketamine. (Played by an actor)

Age at interview: 28
Sex: Male
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I was a drug taker and that but I was getting right off my brain like, I’d eat 3 or 4 tablets like in one go and be like eyes rolling in the back of my head and falling around and that. And I thought it was hilarious, what after I thought it was hilarious. I didn’t think it was hilarious like a day later when I’m lying in bed sweating and trying to be sick and basically feeling that I don’t exist anymore like. Do you know what I mean? And proper horrible or on a ‘base’ come down where you’re sort of like trying to have breakfast and you’re putting the cereal in the fridge and the milk in the cupboard like. Do you know what I mean? Just completely shot through it.
 
This was the come down from ‘base’ and ecstasy and did various things. It depends. Like the comedown depended on what you were taking like, you know. Some of the tablets we were getting were cut heavily like you could tell. People were saying they were cut with ketamine. At that time I didn’t really understand what ketamine was. But now I, from experience now I know they had ketamine in it because ecstasy doesn’t make you hallucinate the way I, we were hallucinating off those pills.
 

Last reviewed July 2018.
Last updated: January 2015.
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