Mixing Cocaine and Alcohol

Mixing cocaine and alcohol creates a highly toxic substance known as cocaethylene. Medical professionals describe the mixture of these commonly used drugs as a lethal combination due to the severe and life-threatening effects of alcohol and cocaine interactions. Discover why drinking and cocaine is a bad mix and learn how to connect with science-backed addiction treatment in California.

Effects of Cocaine and Alcohol

Cocaine and alcohol are both powerfully addictive substances that are easily accessible. Individually, they pose significant risks and contribute to substance-related fatalities. Mixing alcohol and cocaine greatly amplifies the potential for adverse effects, including the risk of death.

Cocaine Effects

When consumed, cocaine rapidly enters the bloodstream and affects the CNS (central nervous system), triggering intense euphoria, heightened energy levels, and increased alertness. However, these short-term effects are often accompanied by negative consequences such as anxiety, restlessness, paranoia, and increased heart rate and blood pressure. Cocaine abuse can lead to long-term effects on physical and mental health, including cardiovascular problems, respiratory issues, neurological damage, and addiction.

man looking away representing alcohol blackout

Alcohol Effects

Alcohol, as a CNS depressant, slows down brain activity, impairs coordination and judgment, and affects various bodily functions. Initially, it may induce feelings of relaxation and lowered inhibitions, but excessive alcohol consumption can result in negative effects such as slurred speech, memory loss, impaired motor skills, and increased aggression. Prolonged alcohol abuse can lead to liver damage, cardiovascular problems, cognitive impairments, and addiction.

an image of someone dealing with the effects of cocaine and alcohol

Effects of Mixing Cocaine and Alcohol

Those who engage in the simultaneous use of cocaine and alcohol – polysubstance abuse –  may have different motivations for doing so. Some may seek to enhance the pleasurable effects of each substance, use alcohol to alleviate post-cocaine anxiety, or mistakenly believe that the combination can balance or nullify the effects of one another—a dangerous misconception. Instead of achieving balance, though, the combined effects of cocaine and alcohol can be highly unpredictable and even life-threatening. 

One significant risk of combining these substances is the masking of their individual effects. This can lead individuals to misjudge their level of intoxication or the amount they have consumed, potentially resulting in the consumption of higher quantities of either or both substances and increasing the risk of overdose. 

Common complications triggered by mixing these substances include: 

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Impulsiveness
  • Impaired decision making and judgment
  • Loss of coordination
  • Jaw tension and teeth grinding
  • Increased heart rate 
  • Alertness and talkativeness 
  • Increased confidence
  • Intense euphoria
  • Intense cravings for more alcohol and cocaine 
  • Heightened risk of contracting STIs and STDs
  • Sudden death 

Research shows that the concurrent use of cocaine and alcohol increases the risk of sudden death from heart attack or stroke by 18 times compared to using cocaine alone. 

Beyond this, when alcohol and cocaine are combined, the liver produces a substance called cocaethylene. Cocaethylene has a potency equivalent to cocaine and can extend the duration of the cocaine high, even if individuals are unaware that the combination is prolonging the psychoactive effects. Additionally, cocaethylene poses risks to the cardiovascular system, including heart attack and stroke. Combining alcohol and cocaine may also trigger detrimental effects on intelligence, memory, and verbal learning, beyond the impact of using either substance alone.

an image of a brain, representing the dangers of mixing cocaine and alcohol
A woman stares out the window representing the effects of mixing cocaine and alcohol

What is Cocaethylene?

When cocaine and alcohol are used together, they produce a dangerous metabolite called cocaethylene. This newly formed substance acts similarly to cocaine but has a longer duration of action. It inhibits the reuptake of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with movement, motivation, and reward-seeking behavior, resulting in heightened feelings of pleasure, energy, focus, and excitement. However, the use of cocaethylene also significantly increases the risk of severe health complications, including: 

  • Sudden death caused by heart attack, stroke, or hyperthermia.
  • Sudden death associated with violent incidents related to cocaine use, such as car accidents, gunshot wounds, or strangulations.
  • Liver problems, such as fibrosis and toxicity, which may necessitate admission to intensive care units in hospitals. 

Chronic cocaine users are at a higher risk of experiencing persistent and potentially more prolonged panic and anxiety attacks. 

The presence of cocaethylene in the body exacerbates the risks and negative consequences associated with cocaine and alcohol use, emphasizing the need for caution and awareness when considering the combination of these substances.

woman deep in thought representing what is cocaethelyne

Signs of Cocaine and Alcohol Abuse

Recognizing the signs of cocaine and alcohol abuse can help promote early intervention and streamline connection with appropriate help. Some common signs and symptoms of substance abuse involving cocaine and alcohol may include:

  • Intense cravings for cocaine and alcohol
  • Frequent and excessive consumption of both substances
  • Neglecting responsibilities and obligations
  • Financial difficulties due to substance purchases
  • Changes in behavior, mood swings, and irritability
  • Social withdrawal and isolation
  • Physical signs such as dilated pupils, weight loss, and deteriorating physical appearance
  • Engaging in risky behaviors under the influence
  • Legal issues related to substance use
  • Failed attempts to quit or cut back on cocaine and alcohol use 

If you or someone you know exhibits these signs, seek professional help and support for substance abuse and addiction treatment.

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Alcohol & Cocaine Abuse Treatment at Gratitude Lodge

Discover a transformative path to overcome addiction and mental health conditions at Gratitude Lodge in Southern California. Our pet-friendly rehab centers in Newport Beach and Long Beach are designed to facilitate whole-body recovery. Begin your journey with our supervised alcohol detox program, ensuring a safe and seamless transition into lasting recovery. 

Following detox, transition into our inpatient treatment program. Interventions offered include medication-assisted treatment, psychotherapy, group therapy, individual counseling, family therapy, holistic therapies, and aftercare. 

Trust Gratitude Lodge to support you every step of the way, as you transition from active addiction to a fulfilling life in recovery. Contact our admissions team at 800-994-2184 and embrace a new beginning today.

Mixing Cocaine and Alcohol FAQs

What happens when you mix cocaine with alcohol?

Combining cocaine and alcohol leads to the formation of a toxic substance called cocaethylene in the liver. This interaction intensifies the effects of both substances and puts significant stress on the cardiovascular system. It can result in rapid heart rate, increased blood pressure, impaired judgment, and an elevated risk of heart attack, stroke, or sudden death. 

Does cocaine react with alcohol?

Yes, cocaine reacts with alcohol in the liver, producing cocaethylene. This reaction alters the way both substances affect the body and increases their potency. The combined effects can have serious implications for physical health and overall well-being.

Is it dangerous to combine cocaine with alcohol?

Yes, combining cocaine with alcohol is extremely dangerous and can have life-threatening consequences. The mixture places excessive strain on the heart, increases the risk of cardiovascular events, impairs cognitive function, and can lead to overdose or sudden death. It is strongly advised to avoid mixing cocaine and alcohol to prioritize personal safety and well-being.

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