Dangerous Combos: Cocaine and Alcohol

Cocaine and Alcohol Addiction

The Dangerous Combination of Cocaine and Alcohol

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) there are approximately 1.9-million cocaine users. For the purpose of the survey “cocaine user” was deemed to mean a person who had used cocaine within the past month. Alcohol, on the other hand, is the most abused substance on the planet where over 17-million people in the United States alone suffer from alcohol abuse or dependence, according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.

Separately, both drugs are responsible for millions of substance abuse diagnoses each year, but together – while numbers of active comorbid users are decidedly lower – the two form a potent combination that is dangerous and often deadly for its users.

When mixed, this potent substance cocktail of cocaine and alcohol can actually produce a third substance – cocaethylene – that is highly toxic and often deadly.

Drug addiction clinics are becoming increasingly concerned with the chemical, and its corresponding health risks.

What is Cocaethylene?

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI):

“Comorbid abuse of cocaine and alcohol is a common occurrence. Cocaethylene, the ethyl ester of benzoylecgonine, is an active metabolite formed as a result of simultaneous use of these substances.” (Source)

This formation occurs when ethyl alcohol interferes with the expulsion of cocaine from the blood stream. The result is a toxic chemical that deposits itself in the liver and makes the combination of the two drugs far more dangerous than either of them independently. No one knows for sure exactly how toxic the drug is but laboratory studies show that the increased toxicity could be 30-percent higher than that of cocaine alone. In addition, the presence of cocaethylene actually slows down the metabolism of both the cocaethylene and both of the substances that created it, ether alcohol and cocaine.

Cocaethylene isn’t just dangerous in the liver either. Cocaethylene toxicity is also believed to be a significant factor in many cocaine-related heart attacks. The jury on this is still out, as evidence exists on both sides of the argument, but it’s worth noting that organizations like the United States government’s own Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service notes that cocaethylene is likely the cause of cardiovascular damage and disease in young cocaine users.

The scariest part of cocaethylene, however, might be in how it encourages further substance abuse. Many addicts cite cocaine as one of the reasons they are able to stay up later, drink longer, and party well into the night. Because of this, the levels of toxic substances building up within the liver could easily get to dangerous levels before the individual ever realizes there is a problem.

Research suggests that those who use cocaine while drinking do so for precisely the reason stated above – to party longer, and remain “feeling” sober all while getting the euphoric feelings and diminished inhibitions that come along with heavy alcohol use. In short, the cocaine is stated to reduce the feelings that your body produces to tell you it’s time to go home.

Data also suggests that this combination can have a tendency to increase levels of aggression in those who have even moderate amounts in their system. Retrospective data points to the increased tendency for both violent thoughts and threats, both of which lead to an increase in violent occurrences amongst those that are under the influence.

We’re still studying the effects of cocaethylene on the body, but from what we already know, the use of cocaine and alcohol is responsible for producing this toxic chemical whose presence could prove deadly.

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