Concurrent Alcohol and Cocaine Abuse
Concurrent Alcohol and Cocaine Abuse
Cocaine is a profoundly addictive stimulant drug that produces euphoria, increased energy, and talkativeness. It is most often snorted or dissolved in water and injected into a vein. Due to the short duration of pleasurable effects, many users will binge on cocaine (repeatedly use the stimulant each time the effects begin to wear off). This pattern of binging leaves the user vulnerable to developing an addiction to cocaine.
Many drug users combine alcohol and cocaine, for a number of different reasons:
- To decrease the feeling of drunkenness.
- To intensify the cocaine high.
- To ease the unwanted symptoms of coming down from cocaine.
Cocaine might seem like a great partner to alcohol, but it actually can produce more than a few dangers to the user when it is combined with alcohol. It has been reported that the risk of sudden death is 20 times greater for use of cocaine and alcohol together than it is for cocaine use alone (Kinney, 2009). Combining cocaine with alcohol can cause death from overdose at cocaine levels which are only one tenth of those known to be fatal with cocaine use alone (Perrine, 1996).
Signs and Symptoms
Because so many cocaine users drink alcohol to excess as well, it is not difficult to pinpoint signs of concurrent alcohol and cocaine abuse. Here are a few indicators that you or someone you love has been engaged in alcohol and cocaine abuse:
- Increased tendency towards violence. Many people arrested for violent crimes report having mixed alcohol and cocaine in the hours before their violent behavior.
- More incidents of risky sexual behavior than there are with either drug alone (Kinney).
- Irritability and anxiety.
- Dilated pupils.
- Increased body temperature and heart rate.
- Abdominal pain and nausea.
- Decreased appetite.
- Chest pain.
Using cocaine can cause sudden death, whether someone has been a long-term user or only recently begun using it. It is unpredictable, and there is no safe way to use cocaine.
If the use of cocaine along with alcohol continues long-term, it can have these effects:
- Loss of sense of smell.
- Chronically runny nose.
- Perforated nasal septum.
- HIV or hepatitis in intravenous users.
- Problems swallowing.
- Traumatic injuries due to violence.
- Legal problems to support abuse.
Combined Effects and the Production of Cocaethylene
Most users believe that cocaine can stretch out the good feeling that alcohol gives them. What they often don’t know is that cocaine and alcohol combined do something that no other drug does with booze: they produce a new and life-threatening substance.
That substance is called cocaethylene, which is produced by the liver in the presence of cocaine and alcohol. Cocaethylene is a metabolite which is much more toxic than cocaine alone (Julien et al., 2011). As indicated above, this combination can result in death much more quickly than cocaine does when taken in isolation.
In addition to the production of cocaethylene, some drinkers believe that they can imbibe over longer periods of time because they do not feel the effects of alcohol, since cocaine sharpens their senses. This can be deadly, because a user will tend to drink more when they are unable to feel the consequences of doing so. Alcohol poisoning or overdose and subsequent death can easily result.
Treatment for Co-Occurring Alcohol and Cocaine Addiction
While they are different drugs, cocaine and alcohol addiction are treated at the same time. Treatment centers integrate treatment of co-occurring or dual diagnosis substance abuse disorders along with any mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar depressive disorder. These recovery facilities make sure to treat the entire scope of your addiction along with the whole person. It’s very important that you receive appropriate treatment for your addiction to alcohol and cocaine in order to prevent relapse.
Many rehab facilities will provide you with:
- An intake evaluation.
- Individual therapy.
- Group counseling.
- Aftercare planning.
Your therapist will identify and address the underlying reasons for drinking to excess and using cocaine. He or she will help you rectify your maladaptive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, while teaching you healthy coping mechanisms to be used in times of stress or cravings to use these substances. Your treatment team will devise a personalized aftercare plan for you to follow once you complete your initial recovery program. Common elements of aftercare include 12-Step programs, therapy, sober living homes, or non 12-Step support groups.
Fortunately, cocaine use has dropped since reaching its peak in the late 1990s, but it is still a major health concern in the United States.
Below are a few troubling statistics for alcohol and cocaine abuse:
- Over 38 million people aged 18 years and older engage in binge drinking about 4 times each month, and an average of 6 people die each day from alcohol poisoning, per the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
- The CDC also reports that the average number of drinks consumed during a binge drinking session is 8.
- According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the amount of cocaine-related deaths increased by 42% between 2001 and 2014.
- Nearly half a million adults reported cocaine use in 2014, per the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality (CBHSQ).
Teen Drinking and Cocaine Abuse
A few decades ago—when it was glamorized in the entertainment industry as the hot drug of choice—teens showed an extremely high level of interest in cocaine, but rates of use among teens are dropping. Despite dropping rates, nearly 40,000 adolescents were cocaine users in 2014, according to the CBHSQ.
However, because it is acknowledged as a drug that can allow a person to drink more alcohol without feeling its effects, teens can be particularly vulnerable to concurrent cocaine use. This can lead to episodes of extended drinking that can poison the bloodstream or leave the teen unaware of his or her ability to function at that time.
This, of course, means that many teens who take cocaine and alcohol at the same time will try to drink and drive, since cocaine leaves people feeling sharper mentally than they would if they had simply consumed alcohol all night. Cocaine masks the impairment that alcohol produces, especially in smaller teen bodies.
Learn more about teen alcohol and drug misuse.
Resources, Articles and More Information
Because of its popularity, cocaine has drawn much research interest over the past couple of decades. For instance, The National Institute of Drug Abuse has a wealth of articles and info. on its site. You can also check out the following DrugAbuse.com articles:
- The Effects of Cocaine Use
- Cocaine History and Statistics
- Cocaine Overdose
- The Effects of Alcohol on the Body
If you are addicted to alcohol and cocaine, there is hope for recovery and help available. To discuss a winning plan to be free from addiction to these two substances, call for free to interact with a professional treatment advisor about your addiction treatment options.