One of the most widely available psychoactive substances in the world, alcohol presents a unique challenge in managing consumption. It’s role in social interaction encourages people to drink in order to participate in certain activities, which can be difficult if someone is trying to manage a hazardous drinking habit. Long term use is associated with a myriad of health risks, and once chemically dependent on alcohol, the detoxification process is extremely dangerous if attempted alone.
Dangerous short-term side effects of alcohol:
- Increased risk for motor vehicle crashes
- Increased incidence of violence
- Alcohol poisoning if too much is consumed at once
- Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) if drinking when pregnant
Dangerous long-term side effects of alcohol:
- Alcohol dependence
- Brain fog
- Mood disorders
- Weakened heartbeats
- Increased risk of stroke
- Fat deposition in the liver
- Liver damage and scarring
- Damage to pancreas
- Increased risk of certain cancers
Most frequently presented as a white powder, cocaine is a popular, short acting stimulant. Using cocaine triggers a euphoric rush and increase in energy because it creates a surplus of dopamine. Usually the brain recycles and breaks down dopamine after a certain period of time, but cocaine binds to the parts of the brain that recycle and stop that process from taking place. When snorted, the effect can last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. The faster the cocaine reaches the bloodstream and brain, the quicker the high dissipates.
Dangerous short-term side effects of cocaine include:
- Fast and irregular heart-rate
- Heart attack
Dangerous long-term side effects of cocaine include:
- Cocaine dependence
- Damage to the nasal cavity
- Decreased blood flow to intestinal tract
- Intestinal tears and ulcerations
- Decreased heart pumping efficiency
- Increased likelihood of severe chest pain after use
- Increased risk of strokes
- Increased risk of bleeding in the brain
Mixing Alcohol And Cocaine
People who use cocaine frequently do so while also engaging in drinking. Mixing depressants (alcohol) and stimulants (cocaine) often leads to overconsumption of both substances. The common folklore surrounding stimulants and depressants espouses that uppers reduce the effects of downers. While it may feel that way at the time, each substance is still having its full effect on the body. You may feel less drunk when snorting cocaine, but you’re just more alert. The idea that you can drink more without consequence when also using cocaine can lead to dangerous binge drinking habits and hazardous over consumption.
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Compounding Side Effects
Problematic use habits involving both cocaine and alcohol can cause severe damage to the body. Both substances take a toll on the heart, especially in the long term. Increased risk of stroke on both counts is extremely dangerous especially if a chemical dependence is formed. Mixing the 2 substances at once is risky but will most likely not incur any of these serious side effects. It’s when a long term, hazardous habit takes hold that these health risks become a much more serious threat.
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Studies based around the interaction between alcohol and cocaine found an interesting relationship in use patterns. It observed parts of the brain impacted by alcohol use and what that meant in regards to willingness to use cocaine. The findings suggest that alcohol use, specifically long-term, changes a structure called the nucleus accumbens. This region is responsible for managing rewards and specifically how rewards interact with memory.
After a long period of sustained alcohol use, the accumbens is changed to be more sensitive to stimulation from cocaine. The study found that cocaine addiction was more common among people who regularly drink alcohol. The reverse relationship, cocaine use leading to increased risk of alcohol addiction, was not found to be true. Given the availability of alcohol, it’s often the first of these substances to become habitual in someone’s life, making this increased addiction risk relationship even more dangerous.
When mixing alcohol and cocaine specifically, not only do you open yourself up to risky binge drinking, but the two substances react with each other in the body. When using alcohol and cocaine concurrently, the body metabolizes them and produces a substance called Cocaethylene. This byproduct is also psychoactive, and it prolongs the effects of cocaine longer than if someone had just used cocaine alone.
Unfortunately, cocaethylene is a more toxic substance for the heart and liver than either alcohol or cocaine alone. Not only are both drugs bad for similar parts of the body, but their combination creates a byproduct that’s even worse. Given the additional risk factors associated with changes in the brain’s reward center, cocaethylene’s danger should not be underestimated.
Moving Away from Unhealthy Habits
Successfully navigating your way out of hazardous alcohol and cocaine use can be dangerous without help. It may feel embarrassing to ask for help, but as we understand more about addiction, it’s clear that receiving assistance is a more reliable way to move onto a healthier lifestyle. Reach out to a dedicated treatment provider today to find out what resources are available.