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Mixing Cocaine With Alcohol

cocaine and alcohol effects

Cocaine is Dangerous – Adding Alcohol Can Be Deadly

Due to the socially stimulating nature of both cocaine and alcohol, the two drugs often go hand in hand. The National Institute on Drug Abuse has determined that 16.8% of people over 26 years old have used cocaine in their lifetime. Compare this to the 86.3% of people over 18 that have consumed alcohol in the last month and there is bound to be some overlap of people who have used both substances in conjunction.

To understand why these drugs are so often used together, it’s important to know how they affect their user. 

Cocaine Effects

The typical cocaine user can expect to experience the following effects:

  • An intense, energetic, and talkative high
  • Increased mental alertness
  • Increased risk-taking
  • Insomnia, anxiety, and paranoia
  • Cravings for more as the drug wears off

Cocaine users feel its effects almost immediately after ingesting. It starts by providing the user with a rush of energy by flooding the brain with dopamine. Dopamine is a natural chemical messenger in the body that plays a big role in the brain’s ability to feel pleasure. Because of this chemical reaction, users often feel as though the drug helps them with productivity or their creative process. Regardless of the use of alcohol, users should seek treatment for cocaine addiction as soon as possible.

Side-effects of Alcohol

The typical alcohol user can expect to experience the following effects:

  • Slowed reaction time and reflexes
  • Loss of motor function
  • Reduced inhibitions
  • Slowed breathing rate and speech
  • Confusion, anxiety, and restlessness

The body absorbs alcohol relatively quickly and induces the feelings mentioned above as well as euphoria and “numbness.” Alcohol is quick to absorb through the membranes of cells in the body and brain, so once it is in the bloodstream it spreads quickly. Around 20% of alcohol is absorbed through the stomach. Most of the remaining alcohol is absorbed through the small intestine.

A small amount of alcohol is also eliminated through the lungs, kidneys, and skin but it is mostly eliminated by the liver. Since the liver can only metabolize the equivalent of one drink at a time, the body may remain saturated with the alcohol that has not yet left the body.

Did you notice anything about the effects of these two drugs? Cocaine is what’s known as a stimulant while alcohol is what’s known as a depressant. People who already have issues with cocaine use may mix the drug with alcohol to reduce cocaine’s negative effects. Introducing a depressant, like alcohol, can lessen the anxiety-inducing effects of cocaine while also softening the effects of the cocaine “come down.”

On the other side of the issue, people who engage in heavy alcohol consumption may use cocaine to gain an energetic boost and avoid passing out. Because of their social nature and their reputation as “party drugs”, there are many situations and reasons why cocaine and alcohol may be used together. It is important to know that these two drugs can form a cocktail that may prove deadly for its user.

The Dangers of Mixing Cocaine With Alcohol

When used on their own, both cocaine and alcohol can have devastating long-term and short-term consequences and can cause considerable damage to the brain and body. This can mean risking overdose in the short term and causing chronic health issues in the long term. When used together, the health dangers may increase.

Cocaine and alcohol are toxic substances that are harmful to the tissues of the body. They are removed from the bloodstream and metabolized in the liver to eliminate them from the body.

This process produces a byproduct called cocaethylene. It is assumed that cocaethylene develops in the liver as a result of the metabolism of cocaine being altered by the presence of alcohol. Researchers believe that cocaethylene is produced in the liver about 2 hours after the individual has used the two drugs. Researchers suggest that about 20% of the cocaine being metabolized by the liver is disrupted by alcohol, producing cocaethylene.

When the liver attempts to eliminate this byproduct, the alcohol in the system slows down the process, leaving about 20% of the cocaethylene remaining in the system. With frequent, prolonged use of both substances, cocaethylene can begin to build up in the body, causing major strain on the essential organ systems of the body, in particular the cardiovascular system and the liver itself. 

Cocaethylene causes a temporary increase in the euphoric effects of both cocaine and alcohol. That being said, it also amplifies the negative effects of both drugs. The mix can cause tremendous strain on the cardiovascular system leading to increased blood pressure and labored breathing. It may also increase the body temperature of its user, causing intense sweating and eventual dehydration.

Toxic levels of cocaethylene build-up in the liver have been linked to sudden death as well as the following negative physical consequences:

  • Myocardial infarction (or painful heart attack)
  • Cerebral infarction (damage to brain tissue, leading to stroke or aneurysm)
  • Intracranial hemorrhage (bleeding in the brain)
  • Cardiomyopathy (heart disease)
  • Cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat)

Short-Term Dangers

The mixing of cocaine and alcohol can have immediate, and often dire, effects on the physical state and behavior of its user. It can serve to amplify the inhibition-lowering effect of alcohol and the increased risk-taking effects associated with cocaine use. This can lead to some truly reckless and nearsighted behavior. The consequences of one’s actions become more difficult to foresee and there is a significant increase in violent or aggressive thoughts. One especially dangerous scenario is the potential for a cocaine overdose.

Both cocaine and alcohol can increase impulsive and risky behavior. If you also factor in the memory-altering effects of alcohol, it can lead to the user having little or no recollection of any risky behavior that they engaged in. 

The unpredictable nature of these risky behaviors is alarming for the safety of the user and anyone around them. These behaviors may include unprotected sexual encounters or the sharing of intravenous needles. This can lead to an increased risk of contracting HIV, herpes, hepatitis, and any number of bacterial and viral infections.

Other short-term side effects of combining alcohol and cocaine include:

  • Increased blood pressure
  • Breathing problems
  • Heart palpitations and increased heart rate
  • Cognitive and memory impairment
  • Loss of motor function and coordination

Long-Term Dangers

Both cocaine and alcohol have negative long-term effects on the systems of the body. With repeated cocaine use, the brain begins to adapt to this new synthetic happiness by stopping the production of naturally occurring dopamine. Along with this, the neural circuits involved in stress become increasingly sensitive, leading to increased irritability and negative moods when not taking the drugs.

Long-time users of alcohol also face a whole host of physical and psychological issues. Heavy drinking can be a major contributing factor to liver damage, including fibrosis and alcoholic hepatitis. It can contribute to cardiological issues such as high blood pressure, cardiomyopathy, and an increased chance of heart attack or stroke. Heavy long-term alcohol use has also been linked to many types of cancers including throat, mouth, larynx, liver, colorectal, and esophageal cancer.

With increased regular use, the user starts to develop a tolerance for both cocaine and alcohol. Because of this, the user must take both drugs in binges, using repeatedly and in higher doses. This can lead to increased risk of the short-term effects discussed above as well as intense irritability, restlessness, panic attacks, paranoia, and even full-blown psychosis, in which the user loses touch with reality and experiences auditory hallucinations. With increased doses and higher frequency of use, the risk factors of adverse psychological and physical issues increase.

Cocaine and Alcohol FAQs

How may alcohol and cocaine polysubstance use affect consciousness?

Cocaine is a stimulant that produces artificial physical energy in its users. The stimulant effect of cocaine may counteract the short-term sedative effects of alcohol, leading to increased alcohol consumption. This increases the danger of overconsumption of alcohol or “alcohol poisoning.”

What occurs when the user ingests cocaine and alcohol at the same time?

Cocaine and alcohol act together to increase both the euphoric and detrimental effects of both drugs. When a user ingests both cocaine and alcohol at the same time, the liver produces a chemical called cocaethylene that can build up in the body causing major strain on essential organs and eventual serious complications and even death.

How long do the effects of cocaine and alcohol last?

A typical cocaine high only lasts from 15 to 30 minutes. When alcohol is added to the equation, this doesn’t change the duration of cocaine’s effects but it does intensify the desire to ingest more of the drug, leading to an increased danger of overdose and alcohol poisoning.

If you or a loved one is stuck in a negative cycle of cocaine and alcohol use, Serenity Lane is here to help. We’re proud to offer completely individualized care to help you get your life back.

Call us to speak with a recovery specialist now at 800-543-9905.

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