Unfortunately, it isn’t uncommon for people to mix cocaine and alcohol.
Some people like to balance the “down” of alcohol with the “up” of cocaine. People who find they are getting too drunk may use cocaine in order to make themselves a little more sober and in order to continue drinking and socializing. Likewise, people may use alcohol to dampen the uncomfortable anxiety and hyperactivity that occur after cocaine use.
The combination of cocaine and alcohol can produce a sense of increased and prolonged euphoria than either substance could on their own. However, new research has shown that a third chemical, cocaethylene builds up in the livers among those who mix the two drugs. The chemical may be responsible for the increased effects of mixing cocaine and alcohol.
Few outside of the field of pharmacology have even heard of cocaethylene. But drug addiction clinics say they are becoming more and more concerned by the health risks that are associated with the chemical. This is the only known example of the body forming a third drug following the use of two others.
About one-sixth of the cocaine that is ingested undergoes a chemical process and is changed into cocaethylene in the body when taken with alcohol. When cocaine is taken intravenously, up to 24 percent of the cocaine is transformed.
Along with being toxic to the liver, cocaethylene causes a more significant rise in heart rate and blood pressure than cocaine itself, so it is even more toxic to the heart than cocaine by itself. That is why concurrent use of cocaine and alcohol has been associated with greater risk of sudden death than after cocaine alone. This is especially risky for people who have an underlying heart condition.
Many have blamed heart attacks in people under 40 on this chemical. Unfortunately, very little is known about cocaethylene, so few experts can agree on the exact nature of the threat to users. There is a growing suspicion, however, that combining cocaine and alcohol may be at least partially responsible in the increase in the number of people in their 30’s that are suffering from heart problems.
Others, however, claim that the increase in cardiac related deaths may simply be due to a better analysis of postmortem data, which has raised awareness of cardiac-related illnesses, rather than any external factor.
There is also emerging evidence about the dangerous social effects of combining alcohol and cocaine. Cocaine use allows drinkers to consume vast amounts of alcohol, and this effect has been blamed for an increase in sexually risky behavior among the young and rising incidences of violence. Many small studies of young people arrested for violent behavior have shown that the majority were on both cocaine and alcohol.
More research and bigger studies will need to be performed in order to determine the exact impact of combining cocaine and alcohol, and both its physiological and social effect. Until someone proves the link, it is likely that people will continue to mix cocaine and alcohol. For some, this could prove to be a deadly combination.
If your loved one is in need of treatment for alcohol or cocaine addiction please give us a call at 800-951-6135.