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If you take cocaine regularly or are thinking about trying it for the first time, it is important to have a harm reduction strategy in place. Whilst we would never advocate someone taking or trying cocaine, we understand that it does happen.

Delamere provide rehab for those that want to get clean and stay clean from cocaine. We experience first-hand (on an almost daily basis) the damage that this drug causes, not only to the individual taking it but to their family and loved ones also.

Cocaine is an extremely volatile and powerful class A stimulant drug. It is also very addictive and easy to overdose on, even if it is your first time taking the drug.

Taking cocaine without knowing the full facts and associated risks, already vastly increases your chances of overdose or developing a deadly addiction.

If you are adamant on taking cocaine, please try to follow a harm reduction strategy such as the one suggested below.

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Preventing cocaine overdose – harm reduction

Your number one priority in a cocaine harm reduction strategy should be preventing overdose.

Around two thirds of all drug related deaths recorded are caused by drug misuse 1). Whilst the only true way of preventing cocaine overdose is to not take cocaine at all, there are strategies that you can follow to reduce the risk:

  • Never take cocaine alone – In the event of an accidental overdose there will be no one to call emergency services or help you. This will most likely result in you dying from the overdose.
  • Never mix cocaine with alcohol, medications or other drugs – Mixing cocaine with other substances vastly increases your chances of overdose
  • Know what you are taking – Know the source the cocaine came from, its purity levels and if it is cut with any other substances
  • Avoid cocaine binges

Preventing cocaine damage to your nose and lungs

Repeatedly snorting cocaine erodes the delicate tissues within your nose. In severe causes it can eat away a hole in your nasal septum (the middle part of your nose that separates your nostrils) (2)

Continuing to snort cocaine even when you find it painful or are experiencing nose bleeds can lead to your septum collapsing completely.

To reduce cocaine related damage to your nose, some recommend inserting the straw further up the nose, alternating nostrils, diluting the cocaine, or using another method of administration such as swallowing.

Smoking cocaine erodes your lungs and can cause long term damage and lung disease that cannot be reversed.

If your nose becomes damaged through cocaine use, or you are continually coughing/having breathing difficulties and you are still unable to stop using, this strongly indicates that you have an addiction.

man snorting cocaine with a rolled up bank note

Never share your cocaine paraphernalia or use someone else’s

Cocaine paraphernalia are the tools/equipment which you use to personally take cocaine. Sharing your straws, needles or pipe with another user puts you and them at risk of cross contamination. This is how blood borne viruses are spread.

Sharing drug paraphernalia, even straws and pipes puts you at risk of contracting HIV, Hepatitis B and C and other infectious diseases such as herpes.

If you use needles ensure you use a sterile needle every single time. Clean needles and other drug related paraphernalia can be obtained from your local needle exchange or drug and alcohol team.

Avoid binging on cocaine

Cocaine’s effects are relatively short lived, during the comedown many users experience intense cravings for more cocaine, this can lead to binging.

Binging on cocaine puts you at high risk of overdose, physical and mental damage and developing a cocaine addiction. Some cocaine users can binge on cocaine for days before finally stopping.

To avoid binging on cocaine resist the urge to use when the drugs wear off. Get some rest, try and eat, drink plenty of fluids and try to avoid using too frequently.

Avoid using cocaine to prevent the withdrawal comedown

When cocaines’ effects wear off you will experience what is referred to as a ‘comedown”. Trying to avoid this is only putting off the inevitable. The more cocaine you use in one sitting, the bigger the crash that follows.

Common symptoms of a cocaine comedown include:

  • Physical and mental exhaustion
  • Anxiety
  • Very low mood

You can help reduce the severity of these symptoms by resting, eating and drinking plenty of fluids. Taking more cocaine to avoid the comedown will only increase the severity of the symptoms when you do eventually stop taking cocaine

Seek professional help for mental health issues and unresolved trauma

Some individuals use cocaine as a way of combating depression or as an escape from unresolved trauma. By seeking appropriate health for any issues that may be underpinning your cocaine use you are less likely to feel the need to abuse the drug.

The other aspect of using cocaine when you suffer from a mental health illness or have unresolved trauma or abuse, is that symptoms relating to these conditions will be amplified when you do stop taking cocaine. Yes, cocaine may offer some temporary relief, but it does nothing to address personal problems. In fact it will only make them much worse 3)

Using cocaine when you suffer from a mental health illness makes you more prone to developing adverse effects such as paranoia, psychosis, addiction, severe depression and anxiety. You are also far more likely to experience suicidal thoughts, and, under cocaine’s influence, act on these thoughts.

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Take care of yourself

This means taking care of yourself both physically and mentally. Poor health increases chances of a cocaine overdose or suffering a cocaine induced stroke, seizure or heart attack.

Cocaine use causes sleep disturbance and reduced appetite. If you are not careful this can lead to a depletion in vital nutrients, leading to anorexia, insomnia, mental health issues and organ damage.

Ensuring you are eating, sleeping and looking after yourself in between using cocaine will go some way to safeguarding you against cocaine related physical and mental damage. It is also less likely to start affecting other areas of your life such as your work and personal relationships


  1. Deaths related to drug poisoning in England and Wales 2018
  2. Pekala KR, Clavenna MJ, Shockley R, Weiss VL, Turner JH. Chronic invasive fungal sinusitis associated with intranasal drug use. Laryngoscope. 2015;125(12):2656-9. doi:10.1002/lary.25429
  3. Morton WA. Cocaine and Psychiatric Symptoms.Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry.1999;1(4):109-113.