Alcohol and Cocaine
Mixing alcohol and cocaine is a dangerous combination that puts the user at risk for addiction and can be potentially fatal.
Mixing Alcohol and Cocaine
Alcohol is by far the most commonly used substance in America, with 63% of adults drinking alcohol. Because it is legal, you will see alcohol in almost every grocery store, gas station, and restaurant you go into, making it easy and affordable to get. The dangers and risks that come with alcohol is a long list, including health problems like liver disease, and acute risks like roadway fatalities. There is an added risk when someone starts to consume alcohol with other substances. One of these common mixtures is alcohol and cocaine.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that there are 1.5 million current cocaine users in the United States. Adults aged 18 to 25 have the highest rate of cocaine use, compared to other age groups. Cocaine is found in the leaves of the coca plant and started to reach widespread use in the 1800s when chemist Angelo Mariani combined coca with wine and started selling the drink. When a prohibition was passed in Mariani’s French county, he removed the wine and replaced it was sugar syrup, creating Coca-Cola. The cocaine infused drink grew in popularity until the cocaine was eventually removed in 1903.
It wasn’t until 1922 that cocaine was officially banned, but by then it was already being used by many Americans. In the 1970s, cocaine was a popular drug for entertainers and businesspeople. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the number of college students experimenting with cocaine increased tenfold at some American universities. In the 1990s, Columbian drug cartels produced and provided cocaine to America, Europe, and Asia and the drug became fairly affordable and easy to obtain. Today, many users only use cocaine when they are drinking alcohol, as it as often seen as an acceptable party drug in today’s media.
Mixing alcohol and cocaine is a common practice for many drug users. When someone under the influence of alcohol consumes cocaine, the feelings of inebriation from alcohol are reduced. Also, the intoxication from alcohol reduces the uncomfortable feelings of coming down from a cocaine high. Because of these perceived associations, users might believe they are helping control their intoxication when in fact they are putting themselves at a much higher risk.
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Combining Uppers and Downers
Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, also referred to as a “downer.” When someone drinks alcohol, dopamine and serotonin are released into the brain, giving feelings of pleasure. Gamma-Aminobutyric acid, or GABA, is also released which slows down the body. These chemical effects are responsible for the slurred speech and slow thought processing ability that is associated with alcohol. Many people feel sleepy and relaxed when they are drinking. Cocaine has the almost exact opposite effect.
Cocaine is a powerful stimulant, also called an “upper.” When a person consumes cocaine, typically inhaled through the nose, a large amount of dopamine is released in the brain and continues to constantly stimulate the reward center of the brain. While the high continues, users have increased energy, alertness, euphoria, and restlessness. When the high starts to wear off, usually within 15 to 30 minutes, the user will start to feel sad or irritable, and have a craving for more of the drug. This is one of the factors that makes cocaine so addictive.
When uppers are taken at the same time as downers, the body is strained as one drug is slowing the central nervous system, while another drug is increasing the heart rate. Not only is the heart stressed, doing cocaine and drinking alcohol at the same time creates a chemical called cocaethylene. Cocaethylene is a psychoactive substance that is associated with seizures, liver damage, and compromised functioning of the immune system. it also has the risk to be fatal.
Dangers of Mixing Alcohol and Cocaine
There are more risks to mixing alcohol with cocaine, besides the substance’s conflicting chemical structures. A study by Brown University looked at hundreds of suicidal emergency department patients to study the factors of who attempted suicide in the following year. Alcohol alone had no significant association to predict a future suicide attempt, and cocaine had a small association. However, when alcohol and cocaine was combined, the mix was significantly associated with a suicide attempt. The researchers looked at other substances, such as marijuana, painkillers, and tranquilizers, but only alcohol mixed with cocaine had the association with suicide risk.
In another study from Columbia University Medical Center, scientists looked at rats that could push a lever to receive as much cocaine as they wanted. Some of the rats were sober beforehand, while others had been given alcohol for 10 days before starting the cocaine experiment. The rats who had been primed with alcohol quickly demonstrated signs of addiction and demanded more cocaine than their sober counterparts. For example, the sober rats pressed their cocaine delivering lever 18 times. The rats that had been given alcohol pressed their lever 58 times. The researchers believe this substantiates evidence that alcohol is a gateway drug.
Treatment for Alcohol and Cocaine Use Disorder
Alcohol and cocaine are dangerous and addictive substances when they are consumed alone. When someone starts combining the two drugs, they are put at a heightened risk for addiction and a potential overdose. Using drugs while drinking alcohol should not be normalized. If you or someone you know is combining these substances, contact a knowledgeable treatment provider now who can guide you towards recovery.
USA Today. (2019). How much beer does your state drink? In the thirstiest, about 40 gallons a year per person. Retrieved January 10, 2020 at https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2019/09/14/how-much-beer-did-the-average-person-drink-in-every-state/40109241/
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). Cocaine. Retrieved January 10, 2020 at https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine/what-scope-cocaine-use-in-united-states
National Center for Biotechnology Information. (2002). Effects of concurrent use of alcohol and cocaine. Retrieved January 10, 2020 at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12133112
U.S. News. (2019). Is Alcohol a Depressant? Retrieved January 10, 2020 at https://health.usnews.com/conditions/mental-health/depression/articles/is-alcohol-a-depressant
Center for Substance Abuse Research. (2013). Cocaine (Powder). Retrieved January 10, 2020 at http://www.cesar.umd.edu/cesar/drugs/cocaine.asp
National Center for Biotechnology Information. (1997). Cocaethylene toxicity. Retrieved January 10, 2020 at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9243342
The Atlantic. (2013). Why We Took Cocaine Out of Soda. Retrieved January 10, 2020 at https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/01/why-we-took-cocaine-out-of-soda/272694/
Drug Free World. Cocaine: A Short History. Retrieved January 10, 2020 at https://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/cocaine/a-short-history.html
Brown University. (2016). Simultaneous cocaine, alcohol use linked to suicide risk. Retrieved January 10, 2020 at https://www.brown.edu/news/2016-04-08/suicide
Inverse. (2017). Sustained Alcohol Use Increases Vulnerability to Cocaine Addiction. Retrieved January 10, 2020 at https://www.inverse.com/article/37998-alcohol-cocaine-addiction-gateway-drug
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