Cocaine and the night time economy

It’s now 2021 and the night time scene is starting to come alive again. The world has mostly been in lockdown, and as the doors are starting to open up again, the world of Cocaine and partying is bouncing back.

People have been locked down for a long time, people want to go out and enjoy themselves once again.

Chances are you have seen users of cocaine in your local pub. Taking frequent trips to the bathroom, maybe 2 or 3 mates at a time, the overexcited person wiping their nose as they re-emerge, pupils large and chatty as hell. It could be Saturday afternoon whilst watching the football, it could even be a weeknight, not just the weekend. Taking a gram of coke out with you is becoming as normal as taking your face mask. Cocaine has gone from the city bankers in London to the rural pubs in sleepy villages. Cocaine is as easy to have delivered as a take-away meal is!

Due to its relatively cheap prices now, it has become the drug of choice for a lot of people. You can not put a cocaine user in any stereotype. Cocaine has become classless: teachers, police, NHS staff, your local butcher – literally anyone and everyone is using cocaine now.

Cocaine and alcohol often goes hand-in-hand. It’s not strange to see people in even the most rural of village pubs popping off to the bathroom to do a cheeky line off the toilet, or pulling a bag out and dipping a key in.

So were going to see an explosion of people getting back together with their friends, people who want to enjoy themselves not only with alcohol, but with their favourite stimulant, Cocaine.

But this is nothing new, Cocaine has been used for years, Cocaine use is not just a 21st century fad...

Cocaine, Crack & Cocaethylene

So, what is the difference between cocaine and crack? And what is Cocaethylene?

Let’s understand. Cocaine first. Cocaine, “Coke” is the rich man’s drug! Or at least, it’s said to be!

Where does Cocaine come from?

Cocaine comes from the Coca plant which is mostly grown in Colombia, Bolivia, and Peru. The coca leaves are then processed into Coca paste, (paco, basuco, oxi) which is then processed into Cocaine Powder. If you’re lucky, this is the powder that you and your mates are sniffing in the local pub.

Coca paste is a crude extract of the coca leaf which contains 40% to 91% cocaine sulphate, along with coca alkaloids and varying quantities of benzoic acid (skin cream), methanol (wood alcohol), and kerosene (lamp oil). It is then processed into Cocaine powder using corrosive chemicals and solvents such as acetone (nail polish remover).

What is Cocaine powder?

“Cocaine” is a white powder, Cocaine Hydrochloride. It is usually sold by the gram, prices ranging from £60 - £90.

Depending on where you live, Cocaine is called many different things. It could be Coke, Blow, Sniff, Charlie, White or Dust. You may even walk up to your mates and ask “Is it snowing tonight? To which the reply will probably be “hell yeah”.

Cocaine is most commonly snorted or sniffed up the nose. Most users will use a rolled-up banknote or straw.

The History of Cocaine

Coca has been used for thousands of years, originally used by the Incas as a stimulant to help their breathing in the thin air. More recently, or about 400 years ago, Coca leaves were chewed as part of religious ceremonies by native Peruvians.

Jump forward a few hundred years and we get to the works of Psychologist, Sigmund Freud. Freud was a user of Cocaine and promoted the “magical benefits” to his friends and medical colleagues. Freud’s original research was in the anaesthetic properties of Cocaine in minor surgery. Freuds friend, Carl Koller, having heard of Freuds talk on Cocaine, then experimented on animals’ eyes with success. 

In the 19th Century, Cocaine was commonplace. The year was 1885 and Coca-Cola, the drink we can all buy still, was named after the two medicinal ingredients, extracts of coca leaves and kola nuts! To this date, we don’t know exactly how much cocaine was originally in Coca-Cola, but we do know that in 1902 the amount of cocaine present in Coca-Cola was about 1/400 of a grain of cocaine per pure ounce of syrup. (10,000th of a gram). It wasn’t until 1929 that Coca-cola became cocaine free.

From the 1800’s to the 1900’s Coca was advised by pharmacist for relieving vomiting in pregnancy and also to relieve toothache. Benzocaine (a modified version of cocaine with no euphoric properties) is still used today within dentistry.

Cocaine in modern day society

Let us fast forward to today the 21st Century. Cocaine has a booming part to play in the nighttime economy, not only in the UK but all over Europe and the world. The following is an extract from Night Lives: |Reducing Drug related harm in the Nighttime Economy is a report published looking at the harms of drug use in the club scene.

The UK’s night time economy is failing to protect its most valuable asset: the people who go out and enjoy it. Night Lives: Reducing Drug-Related Harm in the Night Time Economy, a joint report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform, Durham University, The Loop and Volteface, advocates for the adoption of a set of bold yet practical initiatives across our towns and cities to address this failure. Aimed at stakeholders including the night time industry, local authorities, police forces and public health, Night Lives offers new ideas for reducing drug-related harm in the UK’s night time economy (NTE).


Cocaine is a short-term Central Nervous System (CNS) Stimulant. Cocaine will give you feelings of energy, make you feel alert with a greater confidence and improved mental capacity.

Cocaine is fast-acting and the feelings will be felt instantaneously, although the initial high will only last for approximately 30 mins.

Common side effects include:

• dry mouth,

• increased heart rate,

• loss of appetite

• and a feeling of anxiety.

The crash from Cocaine can be very intense and also cause major medical complications and ultimately death. The comedown may include a feeling of tiredness (fatigue) and a deep mental depressive low.


Due to the fast acting and short high the risks to increase and re-dose are very high. Larger doses, prolonged use and re-dose will increase the feelings of Anxiety, Paranoia, and Hallucinations. These negative effects will decrease once you stop using Cocaine.

Drug-related deaths due to Cocaine and Ecstasy continue to rise and are at their highest since records started. Hospital admissions for cocaine alone have increased by 90% since 2011. The UK’s drug market is evolving at a rapid rate. Pre-lockdown, the UK was seeing an increase in strength and purity. Pre-lockdown we were seeing Pub Cocaine around 80% pure. Since the world locked down, reports from the east midlands have seen pub cocaine fall to about 50% pure, with concerns now around the cutting agents and adulterants being used to give a false high and feeling of euphoria and energy. Many of the adulterants are, or can be, illicit drugs in themselves, from ephedrine to cathinones, which have undetermined effects when mixed with cocaine. Cutting agents are usually inert powders to bulk out and let you feel that you’re getting more for your money, but they can be dangerous in themselves. Sometimes, anaesthetics such as benzocaine and lidocaine are used to give the user that feeling of numbness to the lips, throat, nose, and mouth that convinces them they have a quality product. Both are a synthetic form of cocaine. They were both developed to keep the anaesthetic properties of cocaine but without the euphoric feelings that cocaine produces.

If you have a tattoo, then the numbing cream will probably be benzocaine. Lidocaine is also found in haemorrhoid cream. This will help with the pain, but no-one has ever gotten high off haemorrhoid cream. This is why your gram bag is cut with this, you rub it on your lips, they go numb, your sniff it, your nose goes numb, your gums tingle and you think this shit is good! You think it’s a good coke, you’ve got a good product.

Staying Safe

As with any drug, try to avoid mixing cocaine and any other substance. Interaction of different substances can have unpredictable effects.

The primary additional risks associated with cocaine use in the NTE is mixing with alcohol. Alcohol, combined with cocaine, produces a third, much more deadly drug. This is called Cocaethylene.

Cocaine and Alcohol can be extremely dangerous. Cocaine and alcohol together, metabolise to cause a third drug to be created in the body called Cocaethylene. Cocaethylene will stay in the body for much longer than Cocaine or Alcohol. Cocaethylene also increases the user’s tolerance to alcohol, and leads the user to drink more, placing increased strain on the heart and liver and a greater risk of alcohol poisoning.

Cocaethylene toxicity is the highest cause of death amongst users of cocaine.

What is Cocaethalyene?

Cocaethylene is created when the liver is trying to filter out the toxins of both Cocaine and alcohol. The increased toxicity levels that cocaethylene produces can be life threatening.

To understand the greater increased risks, let’s look at what we call the “half-life” of drugs. The half-life of a drug is an estimate of the time that it takes for the concentration amount in the body to be reduced by exactly half. For example, the half-life of cocaine is anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes after use (dependent upon strength, quality, age, weight and tolerance to cocaine). So, let’s say that a line of coke takes 45 mins for the body to clear half of the drug used. If you are drinking alcohol on top of your line of coke, it will take nearly 4 hours for half of the cocaethylene to be removed from the body, increasing the amount of time you are at risk.

What is Crack Cocaine?

Crack is cocaine hydroxhloride powder cooked with sodium bicarbonate, or baking soda. Crack is the only form of cocaine that can be smoked due to its low vaporisation temperature. Crack is a white/off-white “rock”, a little denser than candle wax. Crack cocaine will vaporise at 90°C, whereas Cocaine hydrochloride will not vaporise until at least 190°C. When cocaine hydrochloride is burnt, it has no effect, none. When crack is smoked, it is absorbed by the body and into the brain within 8 seconds.

So, you get it faster? What are the risks, where’s the harm?

Smoking Crack cocaine increase your risk of paranoia. Crack will massively increase your levels of dopamine (a chemical in the brain that gives very intense feelings of euphoria). That intense high will last about 5 -10 minutes depending on the quality. Your heart will race, it will feel like it’s trying to break out of your chest. Ultimately, the main risk from Crack Cocaine is cardiac arrest! It interferes with the heart’s electrical signals, and your heart will stop. Adding to this risk, is that often, the Crack Cocaine you can buy is no longer freebase and then cooked with bi-carb, Crack now contains many of the adulterants that cocaine powder possess, adding additional risks.

What goes up, must come down

Let’s just remember now, what goes up, must always come down. I will say that again, what goes up MUST come down. This is no joke. The depression will be intense, you need to remember that you have flooded your body with more dopamine than is natural, an amazing buzz at the time, but give it 15 mins then it’s gone. So, now what do you do? Re-dose, take more, increase that dopamine! Increase the crash!

No. What you do if you’re feeling the intense negative come down is not re-dose. Do not drink alcohol. Drink water. Find a calm and safe space. It will pass.

The European Drug Report 2021

The Trends and Developments report presents the EMCDDA’s latest analysis of the drug situation in Europe. Focusing on illicit drug use, related harms and drug supply, the report contains a comprehensive set of national data across these themes and key harm reduction interventions.

The latest data for the past 12 months on Cocaine

The average purity of cocaine at retail level varied from 31 % to 91 % across Europe in 2019, with half the countries reporting an average purity between 53 % and 68 %. The purity of cocaine has been on an upward trend over the past decade, and in 2019 reached a level 57 % higher than the index year of 2009, while the retail price of cocaine has remained stable.

Cocaine was the substance most frequently submitted for testing to drug checking services in 14 European cities between January and June 2020. The average purity of cocaine samples was 60 % (69 % during the same period in 2019), with one in every three samples containing 80 % cocaine or more.