What is cocaine?

Cocaine is a white crystalline powder that acts as a stimulant. The active substance of cocaine is cocaine hydrochloride (cocaine HCl). It is obtained from leaves from the coca plant. Other names for cocaine include coke, charlie, blow, snow, nose candy, flake and white.

Cocaine hydrochloride can be made into freebase cocaine when, for example, sodium bicarbonate or ammonia are added. This substance becomes cooked coke (freebase), crack, rock, pure coke or simply white.


Cocaine is a stimulating substance.

The effect of a drug is determined by properties of the drug itself, but also by the set and setting of the user. Here we describe the effects that cocaine generally has.

When using cocaine, users generally feel more energetic, more confident and ‘on top of the world’. You can talk more easily and connect with others more quickly. Cocaine increases alertness, mood and it causes a pleasant euphoria. At low doses it can be erotically stimulating. In women and small people, the effects and side effects may be stronger.

The effects of crack/basecoke are similar to those of coke but a lot more intense, intense and shorter. When it wears off, the craving for the next dose is very strong. This makes the risk of loss of control and addiction very high.

Positive effects

  • Easier talking and social contact
  • Cheerful, happy feeling
  • Increase in concentration
  • Increase in self-confidence
  • Alertness
  • Sexually stimulating
  • Energetic feeling


Side effects (neutral or negative)

  • Anxiety, paranoia and delusions
  • Increase in blood pressure and heart rate
  • Dilated pupils
  • Muscle cramps and muscle aches
  • Sweating
  • Dizzy
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Teeth grinding
  • Headaches
  • Aggressiveness

Check out this short animation from the BBC documentary ‘How Drugs Work’ (in English) about the effects of cocaine in your brain.

Dosage and method of use

Coke is almost always snorted. However, it can also be injected.

Cocaine is also sometimes smoked in a cigarette. This is called a “plofje’’ in Dutch. This is not effective however. Because cocaine does not heat well, only a small portion of the coke is absorbed into the body. Base coke or crack can be smoked however. This is usually done with a base pipe.

Cocaine is also absorbed into the body when chewing coca leaves. This is hardly ever done in the Netherlands.

There is no safe dose, but you can limit the risks by not using too much and not too often. From 1 gram of cocaine 10 to 20 lines are usually made. Many users find that a quarter of a gram is enough for one evening.

Oral dose
Low 25 – 75 mg
Medium 75 – 150 mg
High 150+ mg

Cocaine is often cut with other substances. It is possible that these are harmful substances. You can have your cocaine tested. The staff at the testing service can tell you more about the various adulterants and the associated risks.


The duration of action of cocaine depends on how you use it:

  • Snorting: up to about 30 minutes;
  • Injecting: a few minutes;
  • Smoking (crack): a few minutes


You can go beyond your own limits under the influence of cocaine because it lowers the need for sleep and how tired you feel. You then tap into your reserves and can be overtired and depressed for days after using. The longer you have used, the longer these feelings can last.

Cocaine speeds up the heart rate and increases blood pressure. People with high blood pressure and/or heart problems are discouraged to experiment with stimulants.

Users indicate that using cocaine can lead to cravings (a strong desire to take more). This is even more the case when injecting or smoking cocaine or base coke.

Caution! Cocaine is often adulterated. The coke may be adulterated with substances that carry additional risks. The adulterant levamisole is used in veterinary medicine as an anthelmintic (deworming drug). Regular snorting of coke adulterated with levamisole can lead to a (dangerous) deficiency of white blood cells, reducing resistance to disease. In 2021, one-third of cocaine samples submitted to the testing service contained levamisole. The adulterant phenacetin is a painkiller which no longer is being prescribed. This drug can cause kidney damage. Coke is also regularly adulterated with caffeine. Make sure your cocaine is tested!

Short-term risks

  • Overdose
  • Triggering (drug-induced) psychosis
  • Vasoconstriction (blood vessel constriction)
  • Overheating
  • Epileptic seizure
  • Severe acute confusion (excitement delirium syndrome)

Long-term risks

  • Mental addiction
  • Psychological problems
  • Increased risk of heart arrhythmia, heart attack and brain hemorrhage
  • Overtiredness and insomnia
  • Weight loss
  • Damage to nasal mucosa (only when snorted)
  • Brain damage
  • HIV and hepatitis infection (only when injected)
  • Changes in personality
  • Reduced fertility and damage to unborn child


Addiction is the greatest risk for cocaine users. You’re not addicted immediately after having used cocaine a few times. There are many people who use cocaine in a recreational way. Users can become tolerant to the effects of the cocaine, however. This means that they need to use more and more to achieve the same effect.

When you stop after prolonged use, you can suffer from depression, fatigue, disturbed sleep and appetite for a few days. Many people suffer from depressive moods after they have stopped using. They also often have problems with their sleep patterns and appetite.

It is possible to become psychologically dependent on cocaine. The effect is short and the contrast between the positive feeling and the feeling afterwards can be huge. When you are exhausted and feeling down, your cravings for cocaine can increase rapidly. A cocaine addiction is persistent and troublesome and can inflict a lot of damage both mentally, socially and financially. Many users indicate that they like the effect so much that they cannot stop using until all their cocaine is finished.

When smoking or injecting cocaine the effects of come up a lot faster, they last shorter and are experienced as more intense. This causes an even higher risk of addiction. The addiction is also more problematic than when the cocaine is snorted.

Physically, cocaine is not very addictive. Heavy users can get withdrawal symptoms, however, such as a “crash”, paranoid thoughts, depression, exhaustion, anxiety, itching, changes in mood, irritability, sleeplessness and a desire to use cocaine again.

If you’re wondering whether your cocaine use is becoming a problem, you could ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is it hard to get in a good mood without using?
  • Am I mentally preoccupied with the drug?
  • Has using changed me as a person?
  • Do I have to use more and more to achieve the same effect?
  • Have I been using more lately? Do I take a higher dose, in more different places and on various occasions?
  • Do I use more than I planned beforehand?
  • Do I suffer from withdrawal symptoms when I don’t use, such as sleeping poorly, moodiness, shaking, headaches, dizziness, nausea and sweating?
  • Do I sometimes use to eliminate negative effects from the last use, such as a hangover?
  • Does it take me a long time to recover from using?
  • Do I spend more and more money on it?
  • Do I use it despite the fact that I have important things to do? Do I neglect hobbies and work?
  • Does using lead to more and more problems with people around me, for instance friends and family?
  • Do I use constantly, even though I know it causes damage to both my body and my social life?

The more times you answer these questions with “yes”, the more dangerous your cocaine use has become.


Combining different types of drugs can be risky and unpredictable. When you combine drugs you can have a higher risk of health problems. In the following paragraphs you can read about the effects and the risks of a number of combinations that occur frequently and also a about few that are extra hazardous. Also check our theme combining drugs.

Alcohol and cocaine

You feel the effects of alcohol less after using cocaine. That is why you can continue to drink more and longer. On the other hand, the alcohol can help to soften the effects of the cocaine. You are more relaxed and less tense. This interaction is often experienced as pleasant. But keep in mind that if you drink (and snort) faster and more, the hangover is also considerably bigger. Consider whether the combination actually gives you the effects that you want.

You can associate alcohol with coke use after a while. When you drink alcohol you feel the urge to snort more quickly and when you are snorting you want to continue drinking. When both substances are in your body, the substance cocaethylene is also produced. This is an extra burden and is harmful to your heart and blood vessels. In addition, cocaine also gives you the feeling that you are not or less drunk than you really are. This can be very dangerous, for example in traffic. Therefore, think carefully in advance how much you want to use, so the risks are limited.

Cocaine and cannabis

Sometimes people consider smoking weed after or while using cocaine to calm down or fall asleep more easily. Cannabis can soften the intoxication, especially towards the end. However, this is not recommended for everyone, some people may feel anxious or restless. If you suffer from insomnia after using cocaine, it is advisable to time your use better.

Ecstasy/MDMA and other stimulants like speed and cocaine

Combining MDMA with uppers mainly ensures that you notice less of the MDMA. The desired effects, such as euphoria, are smoothed out. So you feel less of the MDMA. There is a chance that you will then take more MDMA to get a bit more effect. The uppers also remove the vagueness of the MDMA. You feel a little brighter.
The more MDMA you take and if you combine it with other uppers, the bigger the hangover. You feel empty and exhausted.
The combination also causes more brain damage. And a greater load on the heart and blood vessels.

Unity tips

There is no such thing as a truly safe use of cocaine. However, the risks can be mitigated, so read the Unity tips:

  • Have your cocaine tested! Look for addresses of the testing service at Drugs and testing.
  • Only use when you feel physically and psychologically well.
  • People with a weak heart, weak arteries, high blood pressure, diabetes or epilepsy have extra health risks and are advised not to use cocaine.
  • Do not use to fight fatigue or depression or to eliminate the unpleasant effects of the last use.
  • Prevent infectious diseases. Use your own snorting tube and do not share it with others.
  • Rinse your nose well with luke warm salt water afterwards, for example by using a nasal spray or nasal douche.
  • Use in moderation. Keep track of how much you use.
  • Make an agreement with yourself on the maximum amount you want to use in one evening.
  • Driving is dangerous under the influence of cocaine.
  • Take into account that cocaine is bad for the heart and blood vessels.
  • Make sure your body recovers by eating and resting properly
  • Do not use if you are on medication or suffer from depression, anxiety or psychosis.
  • Do not use when pregnant. Cocaine is harmful to the unborn child.

What are the Unity tips when using an upper?

  • Do not combine with other uppers
  • Do not use with: diabetes, weak heart, high blood pressure, pregnancy, epilepsy and psychological complaints or in combination with medication (especially not MAO inhibitors and asthma medication).
  • Make sure you don’t get too hot while using uppers: rest occasionally, don’t wear warm clothing, headgear, and drink water or soda occasionally.
  • Get enough rest before you plan to use uppers. If you are very tired or suffer from insomnia, do not use uppers!
  • Use in moderation. Keep track of how much you use.
  • Drink plenty of water, but no more than 2 glasses of water per hour, otherwise the risk of water intoxication increases.
  • Uppers can cause dry mouth, which in combination with grinding teeth increases the risk of damage to your teeth. It is important to stimulate your saliva production. You can do this by chewing sugar-free gum. Saliva substitutes or artificial saliva (such as Saliva Orthana, Xialine and Oral Balance) can be purchased without a prescription

What are the Unity tips when using a drug?

  • When taking a drug for the first time, take a small dose to see how your body reacts.
  • Only use for fun, not to combat symptoms such as feeling tired.
  • Do not use if you have (had) psychological problems, or if psychological problems (such as depression) run in your family.
  • Make sure you have a good set (you feel good and are healthy) and setting (have a goog surrounding).
  • Do not combine with other drugs.
  • Do not take part in traffic.
  • Are you, or one of your friends, feeling unwell? Keep an eye on each other, take care of each other and (if there is one) go to the emergency room.
  • Call 112 in case of a life threatening situation.
  • Eat healthy before and after taking drugs. Especially lots of antioxidants and vitamins (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, grapes, sultanas, oranges, kiwi, broccoli). This is perhaps the most important tip! It is sometimes difficult to eat during and after drug use, but try anyway. Eating well clearly reduces the hangover! If you can’t eat solid food, think of juices, drink breakfast, smoothies.


Check out ATTN‘s video on the real history of cocaine in the US:

The law

Cocaine is listed in Schedule I of the Opium Act and it is considered a hard drug. Possession, production and trafficking are punishable.

Detection time

Different factors influence the detection time of a substance in your blood or urine. How often and how much you use, for instance, just as your personal metabolism (how fast a substance is broken down in your body, especially by the liver). Drugs are absorbed in the blood after which they are broken down by the liver and leave the body through the kidneys in your urine. Therefore, drugs are longer traceable in urine than they are in blood.

Cocaine is detectable between three to seven days. It can be detected both in urine and in blood. The more and longer you have used, the longer it is detectable.

Do you want more information about cocaine, do you have any questions or do you want to talk to someone about your cocaine use? Click here for our contact details in your area or e-mail us via

Here’s a short animated video that shows how the risks of cocaine do not only relate to the risks to your own health: