There’s a myth out there about using cocaine and alcohol together. People believe taking both can boost the cocaine high and help avoid withdrawal.
This is just not true.
In fact, mixing cocaine and alcohol can have lethal results.
Keep reading to learn how cocaine and alcohol affect the body and what happens when you mix the two.
Its influence comes on fast and is gone within a few minutes to a few hours.
- joy from a boost in dopamine in the brain
- more energy
- more talkative
- mentally alert
- more reactive to lights, touch, and sounds
Other side effects of cocaine include:
- rise in body temperature
- shakes and restlessness
- increased heart rate and blood pressure
- heart rhythm problems
- heart muscle problems
- anxiety, paranoia, panic attacks
- drug tolerance and dependence, which can cause people to use higher doses and use more often
NOTE: This isn’t a full list of cocaine’s side effects.
Alcohol is a depressant. It affects the brain, including your:
Drinking too much at once (binge drinking) or heavily drinking for a long stretch of time can damage vital organs, including the:
Excessive alcohol use may cause:
- high blood pressure
- heart rhythm problems
- heart muscle damage
- liver inflammation, fatty liver, liver cirrhosis
- inflammation of the pancreas
Increased toxic effects
Using cocaine with alcohol creates new elements. One of the most powerful of these metabolites is called
This product is stronger than either cocaine or alcohol alone. It increases toxicity to the heart, liver, and other major organs.
Longer method of action
Cocaethylene also stays around for a much longer time in the body than cocaine, and its toxic effects last longer. Alcohol also slows the removal of another metabolite, ethylbenzoylecgonine, from the kidneys. This raises the blood levels of cocaine and cocaethylene.
Increased risk of stroke
Sudden stroke is possible when using both cocaine and alcohol. Cocaine increases the risk of stroke by:
- shrinking blood vessels
- raising heart rate and blood pressure
- causing sudden brain bleeding
- increasing risk of blood clots
Increased alcohol consumption
Both cocaine and cocaethylene raise levels of the brain chemicals dopamine and serotonin and block their reuptake. This increases stimulant effects on the body, which can lead to:
- impulsive and violent behavior
- panic attacks
Increased risk of heart-related problems
The level of risk may increase if a person already has heart-related health issues.
Mixing cocaine and alcohol can increase your risk for:
- sudden stroke
- heart attack
- violent behavior
- anxiety, depression, and unclear thinking
- liver damage
- increased body temperature
- intense drug cravings
- increase in cancer risk
- sudden death
People who use cocaine and alcohol are also
Plasma and liver enzymes break down cocaine into two major metabolites: benzoylecgonine and ecgonine methyl ester. The body removes them through urine. These metabolites can
When people mix cocaine and alcohol, cocaethylene can stay around for days to even weeks in the body. Total duration depends on how much is used and how it’s consumed. How your liver, pancreas, and kidney are working also play into duration time.
Using cocaine and alcohol at the same time can greatly increase these dangers. Combining these substances during pregnancy can cause:
- premature birth
- low birth weight
- developmental delays, like problems with learning, attention, emotions, and physical and mental development
The dangers depend on the individual, including:
- other health problems they may have
- how long cocaine and alcohol were used
- whether other drugs were used during pregnancy
One reason people use alcohol and cocaine together
However, alcohol can increase cravings for cocaine. This creates a cycle of misuse of both.
It also causes toxic levels of cocaine metabolites to build in the liver. That increases the risk of stroke and heart-related reactions for days to weeks.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), more than 14 million people met the criteria for alcohol use disorder (AUD) in 2017 in the United States.
Around 966,000 people met criteria for substance use disorder (SUD). More than 2 million had both AUD and SUD.
A related dependence
Dependence means the body has become used to a drug and needs it to function. Addiction, on the other hand, is a set of behaviors. It’s the compulsive use of a drug despite negative consequences, whether they’re social, financial, legal, etc.
Signs of cocaine and alcohol dependence include:
- behavior changes
- sleep and mood shifts
- nausea and vomiting
- weight loss
- runny nose, nosebleeds
- dilated pupils
- increased heart rate or blood pressure
There are many reasons that go into why someone may have a higher risk for substance misuse and dependence. These include:
- lifestyle factors (like stress, diet, and exercise)
Cocaine dependence develops when there’s a change in the brain’s reward system from constant release of dopamine. After a while, you need more of the drug to get the same desired feelings and to avoid withdrawal.
Cocaine also causes changes to other brain chemicals like norepinephrine and serotonin.
Withdrawal symptoms can include:
- poor sleep
- lack of appetite, focus, and energy
- poor impulse control
- poor decision-making
- unclear thinking
If you think you or a loved one might have a problem with cocaine, alcohol, or another substance, reach out to a healthcare provider. They can work with you to find the best treatment option.
The following organizations can also help you get local help and support:
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger of hurting themselves, reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK for free, confidential help 24/7.
Cocaine is often used with alcohol. This co-use increases the harmful effects of cocaine as well as the risk of drug dependence and addiction.
When these two substances combine, they create a more powerful metabolite called cocaethylene. It can stay around for a much longer time in the body and cause damage to major organs.
Currently, there’s no Food and Drug Administration–approved treatment for cocaine dependence. Research is being done on vaccines and gene- and biomarker-based treatment models.
Disulfiram is one drug that’s approved to treat alcohol dependence. It may also work in some people to treat cocaine dependence. Other medications to treat cocaine dependence are being used off-label with limited success.
Cognitive behavioral therapy, peer recovery support, and other symptom-management treatments can also treat and manage drug dependence.