Effects and Dangers of Mixing Cocaine With Alcohol

is common among people who use stimulants like cocaine.

Among a survey of current cocaine users, 30% of participants reported using one other substance, and 31% reported using two other substances. Of the other substances used, alcohol was by far the most common.1

But when these substances are mixed, it creates a uniquely dangerous combination that can threaten a person’s life and health.

Keep reading to learn about the risks of using cocaine and alcohol together and how to get help if you or a loved one is struggling with drug addiction.

Is Mixing Cocaine and Alcohol Dangerous?

Yes, polydrug use of any kind is dangerous, and using cocaine and alcohol together is especially dangerous—even if they are not used at the exact same moment.1

One study found that the risk of sudden death due to stroke or heart attacks was 18 times higher when mixing cocaine with alcohol than using cocaine on its own.1

The combination of cocaine and alcohol can also negatively affect a person’s cognitive functions, including intelligence, memory, and verbal learning—more so than using either substance alone.2

People may overlook or ignore the dangers of mixing cocaine and alcohol to extend or enhance the “high” associated with using these substances on their own. They may also attempt to avoid the unwanted effects (e.g., irritability and insomnia) of coming down from a cocaine high (a “crash”) by using alcohol (sometimes referred to as “landing gear”).1,2

But mixing cocaine with alcohol does not offset or cancel out the other. Mixing a stimulant like cocaine with a depressant like alcohol can be unpredictable, with some effects from one substance potentially being masked by the other.

As a result, someone may misjudge their level of intoxication or how much they’ve taken of either substance, which can ultimately lead to an overdose.3

In addition, research shows that the intensified pleasure and euphoria associated with the combination of cocaine and alcohol can increase the risk of physical dependence, addiction, and overdose.2

What Is Cocaethylene?

Cocaethylene is a hazardous metabolite created by using cocaine and alcohol together. This byproduct is similar to cocaine but more potent and longer lasting. Its formation is the only known case where an entirely new psychoactive substance is made within the body.4

It is cocaethylene that seems to be responsible for many of the negative effects associated with the cocaine-alcohol combination.

Cocaine use on its own is already risky and dangerous from a cardiovascular perspective, with potential effects that include elevated blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature. But when a person uses cocaine with alcohol, they are exposed to the toxicities of cocaine, as well as the toxicities of cocaethylene.1,5

Studies suggest the substance is over 10 times more damaging to the heart than cocaine alone and associated with an increase in fatal heart attacks and stroke.1,4

Some potentially serious cocaethylene effects include:1,2

  • Increased heart rate.
  • Elevated blood pressure.
  • Extremely high body temperature (hyperthermia).

These effects are significantly worse when using cocaine or alcohol together compared to using either substance alone.

Cocaethylene is also notably toxic to the liver, which is where the metabolite forms in the body. Additionally, for those who use cocaine regularly, cocaethylene can increase the occurrence of panic and anxiety attacks, and these attacks may last for some time.1

Can You Overdose on Cocaine and Alcohol?

Yes, it’s possible to overdose on cocaine and alcohol, and the risk of overdose is greater when using these substances together than when using either drug alone.1,2,6

A person can overdose on cocaine on their first very use—or any use thereafter.5

Cocaethylene is more powerful and lasts longer than cocaine. Someone who overdoses may be unaware it’s still active in their system. They might continue using more cocaine and end up taking too much.

An overdose is a medical emergency. If you think you or someone else is experiencing an overdose, call 911 immediately.

Treatment for Alcohol and Cocaine Addiction

Polysubstance use is common, and individuals who use numerous substances are less likely to seek or receive treatment. But if you or someone you love is struggling with cocaine and alcohol use, professional addiction treatment can help provide the tools and extra support needed to sustain recovery.7

Treatment typically begins with medical detox, followed by more comprehensive rehab in an inpatient or outpatient setting. At the onset of treatment, patients will receive a thorough medical and psychological evaluation to determine the appropriate level of care.

At Sunrise House Treatment Center, we offer different types of addiction treatment, including high-quality inpatient drug and alcohol rehab in the New Jersey metro area.

To start the admissions process, call . Our admissions navigators can provide information about your treatment options and address any questions you might have, including ways to pay for rehab and using insurance to pay for rehab.

You can also quickly verify your insurance benefits using this secure .

You are not alone. Begin the journey toward healing and recovery by reaching out to us today.

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