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Last year in New Zealand, white powder sold as cocaine was actually found to contain fentanyl and caused overdoses.
If you are using cocaine, test it first using fentanyl strips or at a drug checking clinic.
Key things to know
In New Zealand, cocaine is often mixed with caffeine or creatine.▼ More info
Avoid using a lot of cocaine in one go as it increases the chance of overdose and makes the comedown worse.▼ More info
Take less if it’s your first time.▼ More info
If snorting, use clean straws and surfaces and rinse out your nose with a saline rinse.▼ More info
Use drug checking services to make sure it isn’t a different drug. If you can’t get to drug checking services, use a reagent test.▼ More info
What to expect
How does cocaine make you feel?
Like other stimulants, cocaine can speed up your body functions and can cause euphoria, excessive energy, and a racing heart. Depending on how you use cocaine (i.e.. orally or snorting), the effects can start from just a few minutes and can last from about 10 to 90 minutes. People who use cocaine report that the after-effects can last for up to 4 hours.
How it makes you feel depends on how much you take, how often you take it, whether it is mixed with other fillers (like creatine or caffeine) and your individual body. Remember, a low dose for one person can be a high dose for another as people’s bodies process drugs differently.
Keep in mind that, when mixed with alcohol or other drugs, cocaine can have different effects to those listed below.
A Reddit user discusses their experience of chasing a cocaine high:
“The first blow of some coke was amazing, then you just spend the rest of the night trying to maintain, and by the end of the night you're blowing a rail every 15 minutes trying to keep that high, but it just gets less and less each time.”
Talkative (or talking very quickly)
Sense of increased concentration or productivity
Anxious or nervous
Feeling like you need to poo
Increased heart rate
Hot or sweaty
Increased social confidence
Increased teeth grinding (causing pain in jaw and face)
Panic or panic attacks
Becoming confused or disoriented
Engaging in risky behaviour
Agitated or aggressive
Severe nausea or vomiting
Feeling very hot or sweating excessively
Very High Dose
Severe panic attacks
Engaging in dangerous behaviour
Very fast or irregular heartrate
High fever or feeling extremely hot and sweaty
How can you be safer when using cocaine?
Cocaine can affect everyone differently at different doses, depending on their experience with the drug, how much they use, and how often they use it. Regardless of how experienced you are with using cocaine it is always a good idea to think about the ways you can be safer
Get your cocaine tested. In New Zealand, most cocaine is not ‘pure’ and is mixed with fillers like caffeine, creatine, and l-glutamine. It can also be mixed with other drugs like amphetamines. Overseas, more dangerous drugs like fentanyl (and its analogues) have been mixed into cocaine . It is impossible to tell what is in your cocaine just by looking at it, so it is a good idea to take it to a drug checking clinic to make sure you know what you are taking. You can also test cocaine with reagent tests that you can buy from places like Cosmic Corner and the Hemp Store, but these tests aren’t able to tell you what your cocaine is mixed with. For more information on reagent tests, see our 'What are reagent tests?' article.
Start with a lower dose. Cocaine can affect everyone differently, so it is important not to base what you are using off what the people around you are taking. It is always a good idea to start with a low dose (especially if you aren’t experienced in using cocaine) and wait for the full effects before you use more. If you are taking cocaine orally, swallowing it, mixing it in a drink or rubbing it on your gums, it will take longer to feel the effects, so it is especially important to wait before using more. You can learn more about common doses of cocaine on websites like tripsit.
Take care if you are snorting cocaine. Snorting is a common way of using cocaine, however it is important to remember that it delivers the drug faster to your blood stream. This means that the effects can come on quicker but are shorter-lasting. Snorting any drug can cause damage to your nasal passage, especially if it is done regularly. Some binders or fillers mixed in with cocaine can also cause problems for your nasal passage. Try taking long breaks between snorting to decrease the risk of damaging your nose. You can also reduce the damage by doing a nasal saline wash after snorting. For a guide on how to do this, see our 'How to do a sinus flush' article. It is also important to use a clean snorting tool (like a paper straw) and surface every time you use.
Be aware of the temptation to ‘binge’ cocaine. Cocaine has quite a short ‘half-life’ which means the effects of this drug wear off quickly. This can leave people feeling like they want to ‘bump’ more cocaine soon after, so that it lasts longer. This can increase your chances of overdosing as the amount of cocaine in your blood increases quickly. It can also make the cocaine ‘crash’ much worse when the effects of the drug eventually wear off. It is a good idea to plan out how much cocaine you want to take, and when (by setting a timer on your phone) to reduce the chances of constantly redosing and taking too much in one session.
For more information on how to be safer when using drugs and alcohol, see Safer using.
To order self-help workbooks and other free resources for safer use, see Resources.
If you've taken too much
What happens if you have too much cocaine?
The unpleasant effects of cocaine can range from feeling a little bit unwell to experiencing a potentially life-threatening overdose. There is no specific amount of cocaine that will cause an overdose. It depends on things like how often you use and your individual body.
As with many drugs, regular use of cocaine can cause people to develop a tolerance to it, meaning that they have to use more to feel the same effects. However, it is important to note that with cocaine, some people experience ‘sensitization’ from using cocaine often. This means that they may suddenly find that the effects of their usual dose are much stronger, which can increase the likelihood of overdosing.
Cocaine overdoses can be particularly dangerous as they cause your body temperature to rise very high. This can cause seizures, irreversible brain damage and in some cases, death. If you are using cocaine and start to feel very hot, sweaty, or dizzy, it is important to seek medical attention.
For more information on what you can do to decrease you risk of overdosing, see Safer using.
You might: sweat more than usual, grind your teeth, feel like you really need to poo, feel nauseous, feel jittery, anxious, irritable or restless, have impaired judgement, have a reduced appetite, have an increased heart rate or be unable to sleep.
- Focus on breathing - try taking slow, deep breaths.
- If you are able, call and talk to somebody you trust and ask them to help keep you calm.
- Do not take more cocaine, alcohol, or other drugs, as these can make you feel worse.
- Move to somewhere quiet - try to sit, lay down and do something relaxing.
- Drink water to stay hydrated.
If you have a rapid or irregular heartbeat, have a fever, feel very anxious, have severe nausea or vomiting, have tremors, have mild chest pain, have a panic attack, feel agitated or aggressive, feel dizzy, become confused or disoriented, call a doctor or Healthline (0800 611 116): You won't get in trouble if you tell them you've used drugs. They can talk you through the next steps.
If you have severe chest pain, difficulty breathing, experience sudden weakness, numbness, or paralysis on one side or loss of vision*, have a very fast heartbeat, have delirium or psychosis, act violently or dangerously, have a very high fever, become unresponsive or lose consciousness, these are signs of an overdose. You or the people around you should act quickly. Call 111.
*Symptoms of intercranial haemorrhage - which can be caused by cocaine intoxication
A reddit user talks about experiencing a bad trip on cocaine:
“My heart rate was rapid, my body felt strange, and I felt confused and like something was horribly wrong. I can’t describe the level of fear, panic and all around just strangeness like everything was off, something felt wrong but couldn’t place what and it lasted for a few hours.”
If you experience unexpected or concerning effects from cocaine, you can notify High Alert to help keep others safe.
What do comedowns from cocaine feel like, and how can you feel better?
Cocaine comedowns are sometimes called ‘crashes’ and are fairly common. The effects of cocaine can last between 10-90 minutes, after which people can start to feel the effects of the crash. How long the effects of a cocaine comedown last can depend on how much you have taken, which type you have taken and how often you use. However, people who are ‘bingeing’ (repeatedly redosing in one session) are likely to experience a worse comedown.
- Feel irritable, anxious or low, or have mood swings
- Feel nauseous, or very hungry
- Have cravings to use more cocaine
- Feel mild tightness in your chest
- Have a sore face, jaw, or teeth, or have body aches
- Have a runny nose
- Feel ‘foggy’ or like your thinking is slower than usual
- Feel shaky or having mild tremors
- Have a sore, burning nose (if you have snorted cocaine)
- Have difficulty concentrating
- Feel apathetic or unmotivated
- Have difficulty sleeping
- Get plenty of rest and sleep.
- Remember to eat and drink plenty of water.
- Get moving to release feel-good brain chemicals.
- Reach out and talk with friends and whānau for support.
- Relax and do things that you enjoy to take your mind off not feeling well.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol and other drugs.
- Practise mindfulness and deep breathing, and try writing down your thoughts and feelings.
If any of these symptoms intensify or don't go away then call a doctor or Healthline 0800 611 116. They can talk you through the next steps.
If your symptoms worsen or you are with somebody who:
- Experiences suicidal thoughts
- Acts violently or dangerously
- Becomes severely dehydrated (from vomiting)
- Has severe chest pain
- Has seizures
- Loses consciousness
Call 111. These are signs that something more serious is going on. You or the people around you should act quickly.
One Reddit user talks about their experience of coming down from cocaine:
“The next day is fine but for me it’s the night of when the bag is done. I never want to get more to keep it going like some friends do, at that point I just feel so shitty I’m ready to face the sleepless night.”
Another Reddit user offered some advice about dealing with a cocaine crash after repetitive snorting:
“What I [do] is rinse out my nose with some saline (really flush it out) and just rest for a while. You may not be able to sleep but rest is still important.”
What are the long-term effects of using cocaine?
Regular, long-term cocaine use can have effects on your body, brain, and mental health. The affects you experience from long term cocaine use can vary depending on how much you use, how often you use, and how you use. It is also important to remember that there is no set amount of cocaine or amount of time using that will cause these issues. The effects can be different for every person and can depend on things like your individual genetics, your body and its overall health, your lifestyle, and your mental health.
Cocaine can cause damage to your gastrointestinal tract, which can lead to ulcers and tears. It can also affect your heart, including increasing your risk of heart failure and stroke. Research has also shown that it can cause irreversible damage to your lungs, liver, and kidneys. People who use cocaine regularly can experience a loss of appetite, which can eventually result in them becoming underweight and malnourished.
Long-term cocaine use can also affect your brain and cause neurological problems. People using cocaine regularly can have a higher risk of experiencing seizures or developing Parkinson’s disease. It can also cause bleeding on the brain, which can be life-threatening if it isn’t treated. Research shows that regular cocaine use can affect your cognitive abilities including things like memory, attention, decision making and motor skills
Regular cocaine use can also affect your mental health. Some research suggests it can reduce the amount of the feel-good chemical dopamine in your brain over time. This can result in mood changes, dysphoria, and for some people, clinical depression. Cocaine use can also contribute to more severe mental illness. You may be at higher risk of this if you have a genetic predisposition (mental illness runs in your family).
The way you use cocaine can also have an impact on the long-term effects. Snorting cocaine often can result in loss of smell, damage to the nasal passage and other areas of the face or persistent runny doses and nasal discomfort . Similarly, smoking crack cocaine regularly can cause damage to the lungs and worsening symptoms of asthma. As with injecting any drug, regular injection of cocaine can increase your risk of infection and scarring. If you aren’t using clean, sterile injecting equipment every time, you can also contract blood-borne diseases like Hepatitis C and HIV.
For more information about how to be safer with different ways of taking drugs, see Safer using.
Regular cocaine use during pregnancy can affect the development of the baby. Research has shown that it can make the baby more likely to die before birth. It can also affect the neurological development of the baby, cause low birth weight and make them more likely to be born prematurely. More research is needed to understand all the possible effects cocaine use during pregnancy can have on the baby and its development.
How do you manage withdrawal from cocaine?
See the 'Making changes' page for more information on how to Manage withdrawal from drugs and alcohol.
How unpleasant your withdrawal symptoms from cocaine are depends on how long you have used for, how much you use, and your individual body. Withdrawal symptoms from cocaine can sometimes be worse if you often mix it with alcohol or other drugs.
- Have mood swings
- Feel anxious, tired, irritable or low
- Feel mild tightness in your chest
- Have vivid or unpleasant dreams
- Have cravings to use more cocaine
- Feel ‘foggy’ or like your thinking is slower than usual
- Feel shaky or have mild tremors
- Have difficulty concentrating
- Feel apathetic or unmotivated
- Have difficulty sleeping or sleeping more than usual
You can try:
- Consider counselling, or support groups if feelings of anxiety and depression are getting worse
- Lean on a support network of friends, family, and professionals
- Stick to a routine: waking up, eating well, keeping active and rewarding yourself with things that bring you joy
- Practice mindfulness by writing down your feelings, doing breathing exercises or meditating
If your symptoms don't improve or get worse, or you have panic attacks, heart palpitations, vomiting or tremors, call a Doctor or Healthline (0800 611 116)
If you are still not feeling well, think about:
- Talking to your doctor about other medicines to help you get through withdrawal.
- Talking to your doctor about rehab or withdrawal clinics in your area. Visit Health Point to see what services are available in your area.
Suicidal thoughts, acting violently or dangerously, psychosis, dehydration from vomiting, severe chest pain, seizures, losing consciousness or attempting suicide are signs that something more serious is going on. You or the people around you should act quickly. Call 111.
A Reddit user talks about their experience of stopping regular cocaine use:
“[The] last time I used was Tuesday, today I woke up with a terrible muscle ache, haven’t been able to dream that well also, been having crazy vivid dreams about doing coke or smoking crack.”
For more information on getting support for drug and alcohol use, see Finding support.
Working and driving
How can cocaine affect your daily activities?
Cocaine is a stimulant drug, so it can make you feel like you have better concentration or are able to do things more quickly. However, the research shows that for most people, cocaine is more likely to cause general impairment in your ability to work or do normal daily activities. The effects of cocaine are quite short lived and can last from 10-90 minutes. As the effects of cocaine wear off, people may feel more tired than usual, which may also make it hard to work or do everyday tasks. If you mix cocaine with alcohol or other drugs, it may also increase the impairment you experience.
Cocaine can cause people to experience physical jitters or tremors, increased heartrate, and increased risk of seizures, which makes it dangerous to drive, operate heavy machinery or do things that require fine movement. Cocaine can also change the way you behave. It can impair your judgement, make you erratic, paranoid, or act violently, which can make it hard to engage in social situations. However, for some people, cocaine makes them feel more talkative and sociable or reduces their social anxiety. How cocaine will affect your ability to interact with others and the world around you can also depend on the situation you are in (i.e. at work versus at a party).
Will cocaine show up on a drug test?
Whether it is from your employer, a family member, or the NZ government, you may have to take a drug test at some point in your life. It is important to understand what drug tests can pick up on, and what could happen if you fail a drug test.
Many different types of drug tests can test for cocaine. How long it can be detected for depends on how much you have used. Cocaine is likely to be detectable for 12-48 hours in saliva, 2-4 days in urine and 12-48 hours in blood. For chronic (regular and/or heavy) users of cocaine, it may be detectable for much longer. Like other drugs, cocaine is likely to be detectable in hair for up to 90 days.
There are not as many medicines or foods that can trigger a false-positive on a cocaine drug test as some other drugs. Coca leaf tea or ‘mate de coca’ can trigger a false-positive test result for cocaine. However, in New Zealand the coca leaf is also illegal (see the law section for more information).
Is cocaine illegal?
In New Zealand, cocaine is a Class A controlled drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act. The coca leaves that cocaine is made from are also illegal in New Zealand. They are Class C controlled drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act. This means that it is illegal to use, buy, sell, make, import, or possess cocaine or coca leaves.
You can also get in trouble with the law if you are found to be impaired while driving, and a blood test finds evidence of cocaine in your system.
To find out more about the law around legal and controlled drugs, including cocaine, see Drugs and the law.