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Concurrent Alcohol and Crack Abuse

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Concurrent Alcohol and Crack Abuse

In the mid 1980s, crack cocaine use exploded across the United States. In 1974, 5 million people had tried cocaine. By 1985, more than 22 million people had tried cocaine, with more than half of them reporting having used it in the past year (Ehieumua, 2014). Although it does not gain as much publicity as it did in the 1980s, crack cocaine still plagues many cities, families and individuals because of its highly addictive properties (Ehieumua, 2014).

Crack is produced by processing cocaine to remove its hydrochloride (a process known as “freebasing”). This produces a form of the drug that creates a more intense but shorter “high” for the user. Crack’s brief, euphoric rush is followed by an uncomfortable, intense “low” that encourages immediate repeated, compulsive use.

Crack is usually sold in plastic bags or small vials made of glass (Mahan, 1996). Many factors contribute to crack’s popularity, including its low cost, ease of use, and its capacity to be smoked rather than injected or snorted.

The combination of crack with alcohol is all too common—users often drink alcohol before choosing to use crack to enhance the “high,” but this combination can induce a range of side effects and may even be fatal (Grant & Harford, 1990).

Signs and Symptoms of Crack and Alcohol Abuse

Crack speeds up the body’s metabolism, which means that it sends the signals alcohol produces more quickly to the brain when the two substances are used together. This can lead to a higher high, but it also can negate the feeling of being drunk. Some alcoholics that use crack can drink to complete excess and not feel its effects, resulting in blood poisoning.


Here are several signs of concurrent alcohol and crack abuse:

  • Much greater alertness than in the typical drunk person.
  • Greater sense of well-being and abilities.
  • Increased talkativeness.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Mood swings and irritability.
  • Extreme paranoia.

Combined Effects

Mixing crack and alcohol speeds up the heart rate to an incredible and dangerous level. The chances of overdosing or inducing fatal effects rises rapidly when the two are taken together (Wilson, et al., 2001).

Concurrent crack and alcohol use has the potential to result in a number of negative and even deadly health effects. One particular concern unique to cocaine and alcohol is cocaethylene. When a person mixes alcohol and crack, their body produces cocaethylene. Cocaethylene, when formed in the presence of cocaine and ethanol, may alter the subjective intoxication experienced from either substance alone. Furthermore, this chemical is slower to metabolize than either cocaine or alcohol and becomes extremely toxic as it builds up in the body tissues. This can result in harmful cardiovascular effects, such as myocardial depression. Cocaethylene significantly heightens the risk of sudden death.

The combined use of alcohol and crack can also cause:

  • Increased heart rate.
  • Muscle injury.
  • Violent thoughts and behaviors.

Treatment for Co-Occurring Addictions

Fortunately, much has been learned about crack over the past several decades. Outstanding rehab programs have been created to help users kick alcohol and crack addiction. Crack can be so addictive that a person is unable to quit it alone; professional help is called for in almost all cases.

Treatment for a co-occurring crack and alcohol addiction may include prescribed medications to address side effects and withdrawal, as well as therapy to help people understand the underlying psychological issues that led to addiction.

Look for a rehab center that offers a program focusing on alcohol and crack addiction. The best-trained rehab counselors will help you deal with the most common withdrawal symptoms associated with crack addiction:

group therapy

  • Agitation.
  • Depression.
  • Fatigue.
  • Anxiety.
  • Anger.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • “The shakes.”
  • Muscle pain.
  • Disturbed sleep.

In many cases, addiction develops as a result of mental health disorders or past trauma, and it may be important to find a treatment facility that offers mental health services. Centers which specialize in the treatment of addiction alongside mental health disorders are referred to as “dual diagnosis” treatment centers.

Teen Drinking and Crack Abuse

Although use of crack cocaine among teens has been declining in recent years, 31% of 12th graders reported that crack would be “fairly easy” or “very easy” to get if they wanted (Johnston, et al., 2011).

Teen drinking and crack abuse are particularly problematic because a teen’s body is less able to absorb the powerful effect of crack. Blood poisoning and sudden death due to elevated heart rates are more common in less developed bodies with less mature brains.

Resources, Articles, and More Information

For additional information, see the following articles:

For professional help to free you from your dangerous crack and alcohol addiction, call American Addiction Centers (AAC) free at to discuss your addiction treatment options. Many users do overcome these intense addictions, and you can too.

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