OUR investigations editor spoke to police, charities and council workers about the rise in cocaine deaths.

We’ve combined their advice to help keep users safe.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Cocaine is a stimulant drug that can make users feel more alert, energetic and confident. Users may also experience an increase in heart rate and body temperature.
  • Signs and symptoms of a cocaine overdose include a change in behaviour, confusion, irregular heart rhythm, high blood pressure. Serious side effects can result in heart attack or stroke.
  • Cocaine can cause ‘comedowns’ which may lead to changes in mood and behaviour so try to avoid using drugs when feeling low. Users can feel depressed, anxious and experience panic attacks. If you are concerned about somebody’s behaviour following cocaine use, and they are experiencing distress, hallucinations or feel very low, seek help immediately
  • Mixing cocaine with alcohol or other drugs should be avoided as it can increase risk of toxicity in the body and may result in unpredictable effects. Stimulants can dampen the sedative effects of certain drugs and can increase risk of overdose when the stimulant wears off. Sedative drugs should not be taken to try and combat the side-effects of cocaine.
  • Try not to use drugs alone, but ensure that someone knows where you are and check up on friends regularly if you know they have taken any drug. Stay with the person if they are currently experiencing effects from drug use and follow the instructions below of what to do if concerned.

What do to if somebody has overdosed on drugs/alcohol or is experiencing side effects from drug use:

  • If you notice an individual is unconscious or struggling to breath and not responding: Phone 999 for an ambulance immediately.
  • Follow their instructions, informing emergency services of any drugs the individual might have taken such as opioids, prescribed medication, alcohol or stimulants.
  • Stay with the individual and ensure they are okay – sometimes people may fall into an overdose hours later after appearing fine.

What charities had to say about cocaine death and misuse: 


Ann Marie Clark, With You Director of Services, North and East, said:

“We know that cocaine use has increased exponentially in the last decade with both crack and powder becoming increasingly available and affordable, yet many people are unaware of the potential harms.

“We need much better education, starting in schools — and throughout the population —including harm-reduction advice on how to use drugs in the safest way possible and what support is out there.

“There has also been a big rise in intravenous drug use among cocaine users.

"It is more widely available, there is a much more stable supply of high-purity cocaine, and more people are using it as the price has come down.

“There is also no substitute, such as methadone, for crack and cocaine as there is for heroin.

"The rate of drug-related deaths remains at crisis levels and each death sends ripples through families and communities, with the impact continuing to be felt years down the line.

“It's important to remember that problematic drug use is often a reaction to people’s surroundings. Issues such as rising homelessness, poor mental health and a lack of economic opportunities in some areas can all lead to people using drugs.

"This, together with a preconception that people need to enter the deep waters of a crisis before reaching out for help makes for a perfect storm, with people who use cocaine rarely considering themselves in this category.

“But, anyone who’s concerned about their drug use should access support. There’s no shame in asking for a helping hand.”


Ted Haughey, executive operations director with Humankind, said the number of people dying from the use of drugs nationally is a genuine public health emergency.

He said: "Many of these deaths are preventable and there are services, such as those offered by Humankind, available to help people who need support.

“The number of people dying in the North East and North West is particularly shocking as rates in these regions far exceed the national average.

“Nationally, we are also seeing a concerning trend in the number of women who are dying having consumed cocaine or crack.

If someone is using cocaine or crack, we would always encourage them to contact one of our free and confidential services and our teams can provide a range of support to help them.

"Details of services can be found at www.humankindcharity.org.uk.

"There are also steps that people who use drugs can take to minimise the risks they face including not drinking alcohol at the same time, staying well hydrated, using in the company of someone that you trust to keep an eye on you and starting with a smaller quantity and waiting a few hours before redosing.

"Using alcohol and cocaine at the same time has additional risks, due to the formation of cocaethylene which can be particularly harmful."