Cocaine - advice for staying safe and cutting down

If you or someone you know is using cocaine and wants to make changes, we're here to help.

Cocaine is one of the most used recreational drugs in the UK. It’s important to know how to stay safe, and how to take steps to cut down or quit.

It can be difficult to address your drug use, but it’s also the first step towards positive change. There’s no shame in seeking help, and there's lots of support and advice available.

Understanding cocaine

Cocaine comes in two types:

  • as a fine white powder. Usually, people snort powder cocaine as small lines, but it can also be injected or wrapped in cigarette paper and swallowed.
  • as yellowish-white crystals that look more like rocks. This type is called crack cocaine. People usually take crack by smoking it.

The advice on this page is about cocaine as a powder, not about crack cocaine. You can get advice and information about crack from DrugWise. 

Cocaine is a stimulant drug that can make you feel excited and full of energy. Powder cocaine effects start after about 15-20 minutes, and usually last for around an hour. How long the effects last also depends on how much you take.

If you use cocaine regularly, your body will build up a tolerance and you will need to take more each time to have the same effects. These higher doses increase the risk of seizures, heart failure, lung disease, and strokes. 

Cocaine use can also lead to insomnia, anxiety, and an unpleasant comedown.

If you’re worried about your drug use, our quick quiz can help you find out what steps to take.

Keeping yourself safe

The best way to keep yourself safe is to avoid drugs completely. But if you are using cocaine, there are some simple steps you can take to lower the risks.

  • Try not to use drugs alone. It’s best to be with people you trust, who will get help if you need it.
  • Try not to mix cocaine and alcohol, or any other drugs. Lots of people don't use cocaine while sober, but decide to when they are drunk. This can make it more likely to binge and take too much.
  • Drugs and alcohol together can put extra strain on your heart and liver. You might also make poor decisions and take risks you wouldn't usually take, which could be dangerous.
  • Start with a very small amount and see how you feel. Not all cocaine has the same purity and strength, so it can be hard to judge the dose. Try and stick to small lines to avoid taking too much.
  • Don’t use or share banknotes to snort cocaine. They can be dirty and can spread blood-borne viruses. If you’re using a straw or a tube, don’t share it with other people. Ideally, use a clean surface for cutting up lines.
  • Make sure you drink enough water. Drinking water keeps you hydrated, and makes you less likely to mix cocaine and alcohol.
  • Know the signs of an overdose: your heart going too fast, a very high temperature, feeling sick and vomiting, chest pains, seizures, or panic and anxiety. If you think you or someone else is having an overdose, call 999 straight away.

Cutting down or quitting

If you're thinking of addressing your cocaine use, don't be afraid to reach out for help. 

There are also some steps you can take yourself to help you cut down or quit:

  • Look out for any ‘triggers’ that make you want to do cocaine. It might be when you drink, or when you’re with certain people, for example.
  • If you can figure out your triggers, you can start to make a plan. You might want to cut some triggers out completely or avoid combinations that give you cravings. Changing your habits or breaking off contact with certain friends can be difficult, but it often helps in the long term.
  • If you usually do cocaine after drinking, you might want to cut down on alcohol as well. Some people don't use cocaine while they're sober, but are more likely to take risks while they're drinking. You can find advice on cutting down your drinking here
  • Take a limited amount of cash out with you, and leave your bank card at home. This means you’re less likely to spend money on cocaine. Ask your friends to help you stick to your money limit.
  • Work out how much money you spend on cocaine a month. The cost might shock you. Make a list of all the other things you could do with that money.
  • Some people find it useful to make a list of all the reasons they don’t want to take cocaine. ‘I’ll have a better relationship with my friends and family’, for example. Use the list to help you stay focused.

You can find lots more tips to help you cut down or stop taking drugs here

If you have a dependency, please speak to a professional before stopping using cocaine suddenly. You might get withdrawal symptoms, so it’s important to manage them carefully.

Getting support

If you want to take steps to address your drug use, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. You’re not alone and there's nothing to be ashamed of. There is lots of help and support available. Speak to you doctor about how you’re feeling and speak to supportive family and friends if you can.

You can also use our online chat service to speak to someone and get advice straight away.

If you’re looking for more support to cut down or quit, you can contact one of our services. We will work with you to come up with a treatment plan to meet your goals, as well as giving you any extra support you need along the way. They’re free and confidential, and everyone is welcome. You can search our list of services on our 'find a service' page.

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