What Happens If You Mix Cocaine with Alcohol?
Last Updated: November 02, 2022
Alcohol is often used alongside other illicit substances, leading some people to wonder what happens when you mix alcohol and cocaine. Cocaine mixed with alcohol can lead to dangerous, even life-threatening consequences due to the formation of a toxic chemical called cocaethylene. Thus, it is critical to avoid using alcohol and cocaine together.
What Is Cocaethylene?
When used together, cocaine and alcohol are metabolized within the body to produce a chemical called cocaethylene. Cocaethylene has a similar structure to cocaine but has a longer duration of action within the brain and is more toxic than cocaine alone. Cocaethylene is proposed to alter dopamine function within the brain, enhancing feelings of euphoria associated with combined cocaine and alcohol use.
The build-up of this toxic chemical is responsible for some of the dangerous side effects that occur when mixing cocaine and alcohol, including liver damage and cardiovascular and neurovascular damage.
Effects of Mixing Cocaine with Alcohol
Cocaine and alcohol have contrasting effects on the body. Cocaine, a stimulant, increases brain activity while alcohol, a depressant, decrease brain activity. When used together, cocaine and alcohol produce a high characterized by a heightened and prolonged euphoria compared to each drug on its own.
This intensified response may be due to enhanced levels of the chemical dopamine within the central nervous system. The combination of cocaine and alcohol may also limit alcohol’s sedative effects and decrease withdrawal symptoms when coming down from a cocaine high.
Side effects of cocaine and alcohol use include increased risk of:
- High blood pressure
- Abnormal heart rhythm and heart attack
- Brain damage and stroke
- Risky, impulsive behavior
- Reduced cognitive function and memory problems
- Motor control problems
- Breathing difficulties
Cocaine and alcohol handovers can occur even after short term substance use. Hangover symptoms include muscle aches, headache, fatigue and nausea. Some people may use alcohol to ease cocaine hangover symptoms or use cocaine to ease alcohol hangover symptoms.
After prolonged or repeated substance use, the body can develop a physical dependence on alcohol and cocaine. Once the body has formed a dependence, unpleasant and potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms occur when drug use is stopped. While withdrawal from alcohol or cocaine alone is challenging, withdrawal symptoms can be even more severe when both substances are mixed.
Withdrawal symptoms of cocaethylene include:
- Extreme fatigue
- Difficulty concentrating
- High blood pressure
Is Mixing Cocaine With Alcohol Dangerous?
Interactions between cocaine and alcohol during metabolism result in the production of cocaethylene. Thus, due to its higher potency and more prolonged effects, cocaethylene buildup leads to severe side effects such as liver, heart and nervous system damage.
The use of both alcohol and cocaine also exacerbates severe psychological side effects such as impulsive and aggressive behavior. These psychological side effects raise the risk of dangerous behavior, violent acts and suicide in individuals mixing both drugs. Cocaine and alcohol use alone is associated with impaired judgment and memory problems. When used together, this cognitive impairment is worsened, increasing the likelihood of excessive drug use, addiction and overdose.
Cocaine And Alcohol Overdose
Cocaethylene toxicity, together with enhanced impulsivity, increases the risk of cocaine and alcohol overdose. Without rapid treatment, overdose from cocaine or alcohol can be fatal. Thus, it is critical to seek emergency medical help immediately if someone is suffering from a suspected cocaine or alcohol overdose.
Overdose symptoms include:
- Irregular heartbeat
- Difficulty breathing
- Excessive sweating
- Dilated pupils
- Loss of consciousness
- Heart attack
Cocaine And Alcohol Addiction Treatment
Due to the dangers associated with mixing cocaine and alcohol, it is essential to seek professional alcohol and cocaine addiction treatment promptly. Recognizing the signs of cocaine and alcohol abuse in loved ones is a critical step in helping them seek treatment and recovery.
Signs of cocaine and alcohol abuse include:
- Being unable to limit or stop cocaine or alcohol use
- Experiencing intense cravings to use cocaine or alcohol
- Suffering from interpersonal problems due to cocaine or alcohol use
- Disregarding responsibilities at home, work or school
- Experiencing legal or financial issues as a result of cocaine or alcohol use
- Developing a physical tolerance to cocaine or alcohol, resulting in higher quantities needed to feel the same effects
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when cocaine or alcohol use is reduced or stopped
Due to the potential severity of cocaethylene detox, individuals seeking treatment for alcohol and cocaine addiction should utilize a professional medical detox program in which trained medical staff monitor and treat withdrawal symptoms. Treatment for cocaine and alcohol addiction may include residential or outpatient rehab, psychotherapy, support groups and aftercare programs. Individuals who use both substances require a plan personalized to recovery from both cocaine and alcohol addiction.
If you’re struggling with addiction to cocaine and alcohol, the proper resources can help you. Contact The Recovery Village Columbus to speak with a representative who can help you explore cocaine and alcohol addiction treatment programs. You deserve a healthier future; call today.
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Drugabuse.gov. “Cocaine.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, July, 2018. Accessed October 2, 2019.
Farooq MU, Bhatt A, Patel M. “Neurotoxic and cardiotoxic effects of cocaine and ethanol.” J Med Toxicol. September 2009. Accessed April 14, 2021.
Andrews P. “Cocaethylene toxicity.” J Addict Dis. 1997. Accessed April 14, 2021.
Dial, Jackie. “The interaction of alcohol and cocaine: A review.” Psychonomic Society, Inc., 1992. Accessed April 14, 2021.
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