Individually, cocaine and alcohol are highly addictive and dangerous substances. There’s a concerning trend among users to combine the two. Research suggests that up to 77% of cocaine users combine the two drugs, and mixing alcohol and cocaine is the most prevalent of all possible drug combinations. However, using the two substances together can cause serious and even lethal side effects.
How Alcohol Affects the Body
Alcohol is a legal and widely available drug, heavily endorsed by society. However, excessive drinking has unpleasant side effects and long-term effects on a person’s health. Alcohol is a depressant that impairs judgment, affects coordination and decreases inhibitions.
Many people use alcohol to relax or help them sleep. But over time, it can change the brain’s reward pathways and cause addiction. Like with most drugs, many people who drink develop dependency and tolerance, meaning they need more of the drink to feel the effects.
Some physiological effects of drinking include:
- Changing the way your brain typically works by disrupting the neural pathways
- Heart damage
- Unnecessary strain on the liver
- Stomach inflammation, diarrhea and heartburn
- Affecting your immune system and making it more difficult for your body to fight off infection
What Happens When You Take Cocaine
Cocaine is one of the most prevalent drugs in the United States, with approximately 4.8 million people reporting using it in the last year. It’s a stimulant drug that can have a range of side effects. Usually, the euphoric effects of cocaine don’t last long, so users feel the need to constantly keep taking it to avoid the imminent crash. When taking these drugs, a user may get some of these side effects:
- Increased heart rate, causing overheating
- Dilated pupils
- Inability to fall asleep
- Lowered appetite, with many long-term users losing weight while taking it
- Stomach pains, nausea and diarrhea
- Movement disorders such as Parkinson’s
- Anxiety, panic attacks and paranoia
- Violent and erratic behavior
Additionally, the long-term toxic effects of cocaine on the heart and cardiovascular system are well-known and can be severe. Chest pain that mimics the symptoms of a heart attack is a common complaint among cocaine users who go to the emergency room. Chronic cocaine use can lead to long-term damage to the heart and increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular problems.
Why Do People Mix Alcohol and Cocaine?
Drug users recreationally use alcohol with cocaine because it causes a more intense feeling of euphoria. The drug allows them to drink more without feeling the effects of intoxication. Some users report using alcohol to relieve anxiety and other unpleasant effects associated with cocaine withdrawal.
The combination of alcohol and cocaine causes the body to metabolize a substance called cocaethylene. Unlike regular cocaine, cocaethylene’s effect lasts three times as long in the brain, as it has a longer half-life and can produce a more intense “high.” However, while users enjoy the effects of combining these two substances, the side effects range from unpleasant to lethal.
Effects of Mixing Cocaine and Alcohol
Despite how common it is, mixing cocaine and alcohol is incredibly risky and potentially life-threatening. Combining these two substances can lead to side effects such as heart attacks, seizures and respiratory failure. The cocaethylene that results from this drug combination is also highly addictive, and due to its potency, it can stay in the body for a long time, prolonging the “hangover.”
Alcohol can cause an intense craving for cocaine, making it impossible for users to stop taking one substance without eventually relapsing.
Other risks associated with mixing cocaine and alcohol include liver damage, gastrointestinal problems and an increased risk of accidents or injuries. It can impair judgment and motor skills, making it difficult to perform basic tasks. Users often engage in risky behaviors, such as sexual promiscuity, which increases their risk of unwanted pregnancies and STIs.
Mixing alcohol and stimulants like cocaine can lead to the substances masking each other’s effects, as alcohol is a depressant. This means users can take too much and accidentally overdose. While many users tend to drink to lower the effects that come from cocaine “come down,” taking these two drugs together is incredibly dangerous and can even have the opposite effect.
These drugs are dangerous individually, but together they can be lethal. The idea of coke and wine may sound appealing to habitual drug users, but there’s no safe amount of either substance. When combining the two, the risk of a stroke rises even more than when just taking cocaine, as cocaethylene can stay in your body for up to several weeks after use. Other effects include potential bleeding in the brain and permanent brain damage.
Additionally, taking these two dangerous drugs together increases the chances of:
- Sudden heart attack
- Violent and erratic behavior
- Paranoia and intense feelings of anxiety
- Depression, psychosis and unreasonable thoughts
- Permanent liver damage
- Sudden death
Withdrawal From Cocaine and Alcohol
Addiction to each of these drugs is dangerous enough, but when taken together, it can make matters much worse. The withdrawal symptoms associated with both these drugs are more intense than individually, and in some cases, they can be deadly. Some of the withdrawal effects from cocaethylene, the substance cocaine and alcohol create in a person’s metabolism, include:
- Low mood and depression
- Feeling tiredness and fatigue
- Inability to focus
- Trouble sleeping
- Tremors, also known as “the shakes”
- High blood pressure
- Sudden psychotic episodes
Taking either of these two drugs is a bad idea, but when taken together, they enhance each other’s dangers and, in many cases, cause the death of otherwise healthy individuals.
If you’re struggling with addiction, we can help. At Sunlight Recovery, we understand the difficulties that come from drug abuse, and our compassionate staff can help you start the road to recovery today. We offer residential in-patient treatment, detox and rehabilitation.