Cocaine is an alkaloid. “Alkaloids (plant bases) occur characteristically in plants and are frequently distinguished by their remarkable physiological activity”1.  Alkaloids are the most diverse range of secondary metabolites.  There are over 5000 compounds known from simple coprine from hemlock, to neurotoxin batrachotoxin from the skin of a Colombian frog and the complex alkaloid physostigmine that was used in trials of Ordeal in West Africa. 

Cocaine has both painkilling properties, similar to novacaine, and stimulant properties like adrenalin. The painkilling effects work by blocking the transmission of pain impulses from the nerves to the brain, allowing it to be used as a local anaesthetic. At higher dosages it can even block nerve impulses from the brain to the lungs, so that breathing stops resulting in coma. In contrast, its stimulant action serves to increase the heart rate, and the blood pressure it induces the vasoconstriction of coronary arteries, which can lead to cardiovascular complications: cardiac ischemia, myocardial infarction, myocarditis, cardiomyopathy, arrhythmias and aortic dissection2. It also energizes the brain to greater alertness, and intensifies the current mood such as anger, fear, agitation (fight-or-flight) or feelings of well-being, riding high and euphoria.

The intensity of cocaine’s effects are governed by the (1) the form of the drug: natural leaf, cocaine hydrochloride, cocaine paste, or freebase; (2) the route of administration: oral (rubbed on the gums), intranasal, intravenous, smoked; and (3) the dose of the drug.


“A feeling of well being, confidence, energy and omnipotence, and the usually misguided idea that you have a lot of interesting things to say about everything.  It also reduces the desire for sleep and food”.


“Having a lot to say about everything which other people may not want to hear.  It can be mentally and physically addictive.  Frequent use can produce exhaustion, nervousness, convulsions, hypothermia, excitability, weight loss and the collapse of the nasal passage.”


“Coke, Charlie, Bolivian marching powder, charge”.


“£50 to £80 per gramme.”

Legal position: Class A

The misuse of drugs act 1971 Class A Possession: six months plus £5000 fine, up to seven years and unlimited fine.


“Chiefly Colombia, where business is so good that the Medellin cartel once offered to pay off the country’s national debt” 3.
                     The coca plant, Erythroxylon coca

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