Co-occurring Alcohol And Cocaine Use
A 2018 study found an estimated 74% prevalence rate of simultaneous alcohol use among people who used Cocaine. Research also shows that alcohol use can increase cravings for Cocaine, and among individuals with a Cocaine use disorder, nearly 60% also have an alcohol use disorder.
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Dangers Of Mixing Alcohol And Cocaine
Concurrently using alcohol and Cocaine can cause many adverse neurological and physical side-effects, including a steep increase in overdose risk.
People use Cocaine and alcohol concurrently for a variety of reasons, including:
- Believing they are increasing the pleasurable effects of each substance
- Using alcohol to reduce anxiety that occurs once the euphoric effects of Cocaine wear off
- Balancing out the effects of each drug
However, these are common and dangerous misconceptions that many have about mixing a stimulant and a depressant. The danger increases as people often misjudge their level of intoxication or the amount they’ve taken. They frequently end up using more of one or both substances, which can lead to adverse and deadly consequences.
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Combining alcohol use with Cocaine can have many negative neurological impacts, such as diminished memory, lower IQ scores, and decreased verbal learning capabilities.
Physical effects are also often present and include:
When used together, these substances can cause cardiotoxic effects and increase the risks of overdose. Moreover, studies indicate that the risk of sudden death (from heart attack or stroke) as a result of the concurrent use of Cocaine and alcohol was 18 times higher than when Cocaine was used alone.
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Creation Of Cocaethylene
Combining alcohol and Cocaine causes the liver to form a metabolite known as cocaethylene. Cocaethylene is equal in potency to Cocaine, producing similar sensations of energy, focus, and excitement, but the effects are longer lasting.
Like Cocaine, cocaethylene blocks the reuptake of the neurotransmitter dopamine (the body’s natural reward chemical that is associated with movement, motivation, and reward-seeking behavior) which increases dopamine’s reinforcing effects and contributes to increased feelings of pleasure. However, cocaethylene simultaneously increases the possibility of serious health effects, including the risk of persistent and longer-lasting panic and anxiety attacks, as well as the risk of stroke because it remains in the body for days to weeks.
Common Questions About Rehab
Treatment for alcohol and Cocaine use can help you overcome addiction and regain control of your health and your life. Treatment can take place in inpatient or outpatient settings, depending on individual needs, and involves different forms of support, medication, and therapy.
Cessation of alcohol and Cocaine use may need to begin with detoxification. Alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous and potentially fatal, so medically managed detox is often essential. In contrast, withdrawal from Cocaine and other stimulants, while often extremely uncomfortable, is not life-threatening.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) addresses the underlying issues associated with addiction and can help you learn and practice the skills to become consciously aware of your thoughts, better tolerate discomfort, bring balance to your emotions, and change the behaviors that led to problematic alcohol and Cocaine use and addiction.
Participation in mutual-aid and 12-step programs, like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), can be a valuable complement to professional treatment and helps many people maintain their recovery. Group therapy helps battle the loneliness that addiction can cause and helps foster a sense of community and support necessary for successful recovery.
Treatment providers work with many insurances, including:
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Treatment Is Available
Alcohol and Cocaine abuse each have their own negative effects that are only compounded when used together.
Don’t suffer from alcohol or Cocaine abuse any longer. Start your recovery journey today and contact a treatment provider to explore treatment options available to you.
Ashish Bhatt, MD, MRO
Doctor of Addiction Medicine
Learn about Dr. Ashish Bhatt
Dr. Bhatt has been Addiction Center's Medical Content Director for more than three years, providing his expertise to ensure quality and accuracy.
Doctor of Addiction Medicine
Expert in adult and child psychiatry
Over 20 years of professional experience