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 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 alone (Kinney, 2009). Combining cocaine use with alcohol can cause death from overdose at cocaine levels which are only one tenth of those known to be fatal with cocaine alone (Perrine, 1996).
Alcohol and Cocaine: Key Facts
Here are a few alcohol and cocaine facts that you should know:
- Because cocaine and alcohol are so dissimilar, no one can accurately predict the high or heightened state of drunkenness that a person will have when they mix these two.
- Many cocaine users never use the drug unless they are drinking alcohol as well, which is very dangerous. Due to cocaine’s ability to blunt the perception of inebriation, its use can lead to excessive drinking and alcohol poisoning.
- Concurrent alcohol and cocaine use can lead to an increase in violence.
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.
- Increased incidence of risky sexual behavior than there is 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
Cocaine and alcohol combined do something that no other drug does with booze: they produce a new and life-threatening substance.
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 in the presence of cocaine alone.
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, as cocaine sharpens their senses. This can be deadly because a user will tend to drink more when unable to feel the consequences of doing so. Alcohol poisoning 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 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 pertinent 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 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, teens showed an extremely high interest in cocaine when it was glamorized in the entertainment industry as the hot drug of choice, 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 use. This can lead to episodes of extended drinking that can poison the bloodstream or leave the teen unaware of his ability to function at that time.
That, of course, means that many teens who take cocaine and alcohol at the same time will try to drink and drive because cocaine leaves them feeling sharper mentally than if they had simply consumed alcohol all night. Cocaine masks the impairment that alcohol produces, especially in smaller teen bodies.
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:
If you are addicted to alcohol and cocaine, there is hope and help. To discuss a winning plan to be free of addiction to these two substances, call 1-888-744-0069 to interact with a professional treatment advisor about your options.
- (2013, April 1). Retrieved January 19, 2016, from http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/cocaine
- Julien, R.M., et al. (2011). A Primer of Drug Action. Twelfth Edition. New York, NY: Worth Publishers.
- Kinney, J. (2009). Loosening the Grip: A Handbook of Alcohol Information. Ninth Edition. New York, NY: McGraw Hill Higher Education.
- Perrine, D.M. (1996). The Chemistry of Mind-Altering Drugs. Washington, D.C.: American Chemical Society.
- Pennings, E., Leccese, A., & Wolff, F. (2002). Effects of concurrent use of alcohol and cocaine. Addiction, 97(7), 773-783.
- Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5. (5th ed.). (2013). Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association.
- Wilson, L., Jeromin, J., Garvey, L., & Dorbandt, A. (2001). Cocaine, Ethanol, and Cocaethylene Cardiotoxity in an Animal Model of Cocaine and Ethanol Abuse. Acad Emergency Med Academic Emergency Medicine, 8(3), 211-222.
- Overdose Death Rates. (2015, December 10). Retrieved January 19, 2016, from http://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates
- Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2015). Behavioral health trends in the United States: Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health(HHS Publication No. SMA 15-4927, NSDUH Series H-50). Retrieved from http://www.samhsa.gov/data/
- Alcohol Poisoning Deaths. (2015, January 6). Retrieved January 19, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/media/dpk/2015/dpk-vs-alcohol-poisoning.html