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Cocaine Category: Stimulants

Also called: snow, C, charlie, coke, rock, dust, white.

How it’s used

Cocaine is a strong but short acting stimulant drug (‘upper’) which comes in a white powder. It can be used by dividing it into lines and snorting it up the nose with a tooter/snorter or straw. It can also be smoked or made into a solution to inject.

Short-term effects

Long-term effects

Other dangers

If you are pregnant

If you are pregnant, stop using cocaine now. Cocaine causes high blood pressure so you increase your risk of miscarriage, premature birth or placental abruption (afterbirth coming away from the womb). It can reduce the oxygen your baby gets through the placenta. Your baby may be smaller at birth, have birth abnormalities and a higher risk of cot death.


Cocaine is very psychologically addictive so you find it hard to live without it. Your tolerance increases over time so you have to keep taking more to get the same buzz.


You may feel tired, panicky, exhausted and unable to sleep, which can cause you extreme emotional and physical distress. This distress can lead to symptoms such as diarrhoea, vomiting, the shakes, insomnia and sweating. You may have long-term effects such as anorexia and depression. Once you stop using, you will have an intense craving for more.

How long does it stay in your system?

Cocaine shows up in a urine test for 2-4 days. (The length of time depends on the test used, the amount you take, if you have other medical conditions and your own metabolism. Please use this figure as a guide only)

What help is available? 

It is always safer not to use, but if you do, follow harm reduction information. See our cocaine campaign for more information. 

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Find a local service that can help

The HSE and Union of Students in Ireland (USI) ask students to think about drug safety measures when using club drugs
Harm reduction messages from the #SaferStudentNights campaign.
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