What can cocaine feel like?

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. 

Pleasant Effects 

Unpleasant Effects 

Euphoria

Excitedness

Hyperactivity

Social confidence

Talkative (or talking very quickly)

Sense of increased concentration or productivity

Anxious or nervous

Jitters

Impaired judgement

Teeth grinding

Restless

Irritable

Feeling like you need to poo

Nausea

Reduced appetite

Increased heart rate

Hot or sweaty

Pleasant Effects 

Unpleasant Effects 

Increased euphoria

Increased excitedness

Increased hyperactivity

Increased social confidence

Increasingly anxious

Increased teeth grinding causing pain in jaw and face

Panic or panic attacks

Becoming confused or disoriented

Dizziness

Engaging in risky behaviour

Agitated or aggressive

Severe nausea or vomiting

Feeling very hot or sweating excessively

Tremors

Pleasant Effects 

Unpleasant Effects 

 

Severe panic attacks

Severe tremors

Psychosis

Severe vomiting

Chest pain

Engaging in dangerous behaviour

Delirium

Acting violently

Very fast or irregular heartrate

High fever or feeling extremely hot and sweaty

Seizures

Becoming unresponsive

Losing consciousness

 

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.”

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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. It’s a good idea to take a smaller dose if you are snorting these drugs as the effects are stronger and you can have a higher risk of overdosing. 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. 

 

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What can a bad experience on cocaine feel like?

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.

If You…

Then… 

Sweat more than usual

Grind your teeth

Feel like you really need to poo

Feel nauseous

Feel jittery

Feel anxious

Feel Irritable or restless

Have impaired judgement

Have a reduced appetite

Experience an increased heart rate

Are unable to sleep

Try these things at home: 

  • 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.  

Experience a rapid or irregular heartbeat

Experience a fever or feel hot or very sweaty

Feel very anxious

Experience severe nausea

Experience severe tremors

Vomit

Have mild chest pain

Feel panicked or have panic attacks

Feel agitated or aggressive

Feel dizzy

Become confused or disoriented

Call a doctor or Healthline (0800 611 116):  

They can talk you through the next steps.  

 

Feel severely agitated

Have severe chest pain

Have difficulty breathing

Experience sudden weakness, numbness, or paralysis on one side or loss of vision*

Experience a very rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)

Experience delirium

Experience psychosis

Act violently or dangerously

Have seizures

Experience a very high fever (hyperthermia)

Become unresponsive

Lose consciousness

Call 111  

These are signs of an overdose. You or the people around you should act quickly.  

*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.

 

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How can cocaine affect your work or 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).

When it comes to work, different jobs require different skills. Have a think about what you might need to perform well at your job, and what steps you might need to take to make sure you are not impaired if you are using cocaine.

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If you take cocaine, will it 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).

If you fail a drug test this may affect your employment, government support, court cases, or official licenses or registrations. At work, you may face legal consequences, especially if you have put the safety of others at risk.  

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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.

If You

Then… 

Experience mood swings

Experience low mood

Feel anxious

Feel nauseous

Feel irritable

Have cravings to use more cocaine

Feel mild tightness in your chest

Have a sore face, jaw, or teeth

Have a runny nose

Feel ‘foggy’ or like your thinking is slower than usual

Feel shaky or having mild tremors

Feel very hungry

Have aches and pains

Have a sore, burning nose (if you have snorted cocaine)

Have difficulty concentrating

Feel apathetic or unmotivated

Have difficulty sleeping

Feel physically or mentally tired

Try these things at home:  

  • 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  
  • Practice mindfulness, deep breathing and try writing your thoughts and feelings down  

Have chest pains that come and go

Experience mild heart palpitations

Have severe nausea or vomiting

Experience increased low mood

Experience severe anxiety

Feel panicked or have panic attacks

Have intense cravings to use more cocaine

Feel agitated or aggressive

Have increased aches and pains in your body

Experience insomnia

Experience increased or persistent tremors

Call a Doctoror Healthline (0800 611 116

They can talk you through the next steps.  

 

Experience suicidal thoughts

Act violently or dangerously

Become severely dehydrated (from vomiting)

Have severe chest pain

Have seizures

Lose consciousness

Attempt suicide

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.”

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What happens if I use cocaine often?

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.

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Thinking of taking a break from regular use?

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.

If You

Then… 

Experience mood swings

Experience lasting tiredness

Experience low mood

Feel anxious

Feel nauseous

Feel irritable

Have vivid or unpleasant dreams

Have cravings to use more cocaine

Feel mild tightness in your chest

Feel ‘foggy’ or like your thinking is slower than usual

Have difficulty doing physical tasks (psychomotor retardation)

Feel shaky or have mild tremors

Feel very hungry

Have aches and pains

Have difficulty concentrating

Feel apathetic or unmotivated

Have difficulty sleeping

Are sleeping more than usual

Try these things at home:  

  • 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  

Experience mild heart palpitations

Have severe nausea or vomiting

Experience increased low mood

Experience short term memory loss

Experience severe anxiety

Feel panicked or have panic attacks

Have intense cravings to use more cocaine

Feel agitated or aggressive

Have increased aches and pains in your body

Experience insomnia

Experience increased or persistent tremors

Call a Doctoror 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. 

 

Experience suicidal thoughts

Act violently or dangerously

Experience psychosis

Become severely dehydrated (from vomiting)

Have severe chest pain

Have seizures

Lose consciousness

Attempt suicide

Call 111  

These are signs that something more serious is going on. You or the people around you should act quickly.  

 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.

 

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Wondering what the laws are around using cocaine?

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.

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