The Global Initiative For Drug Policy Reform



Cocaine is extracted from the Coca leaf, which has been used by indigenous populations in South America for hundreds of years. Cocaine is grown in the Andes of South America, mostly in Coloumbia and Peru, and it is a source of massive revenue for drug cartels in Mexico. Cocaine is the drug with the most violence associated with its production and trafficking. Cocaine is sometimes put into freebase form, known as “crack,” which is cheaper and a more intense high.


Cocaine is controlled by the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which means that it is illegal under international law for any country to legalise the commercial sale of cocaine. In most countries it is under the highest level of control. In the UK it is a Class A drug. In many countries, “crack cocaine,” has higher penalties than powdered cocaine, which is generally used by the more affluent.

Medical Use:

At the start of the 20th century, cocaine was widely prescribed by doctors and psychiatrists as a local anaesthetic and as a “pep-pill.” At the time the harmfulness and addictive nature of cocaine was not known. It is still occasionally used as a local anaesthetic.



Recreational Use:

Cocaine has been popular in America for decades, but it is increasing in popularity in Europe, where it is generally quite cheap. Pure cocaine increases confidence, reduces anxiety and sociability. Street cocaine is low in purity, on average around 27%, and has been decreasing in price in recent years, despite tremendous amounts of money being spent on trying to seize it. Crack cocaine tends to be associated with poverty stricken usage by ethnic minorities, whereas powder cocaine is used by the more affluent.


Cocaine has been rated by the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs (ISCD) as one of the world’s most harmful drugs. It increases the user’s heart rate, and can cause cardiac problems. It is often cut with amphetamines and caffeine, which are also bad for the heart. It damages the mucous membrane of the nose, and can cause a collapse in the wall between the two nostrils. It can also be extremely psychologically addictive, and regular users have been known to suffer from ‘cocaine psychosis’ and psychotic episodes, as well as paranoia and anxiety.