Cirque Lodge > Blog > Addiction > Cocaine and Alcohol

People sometimes take both cocaine and alcohol at the same time because they believe that drink boosts the effects of the drug. This is unwise because it can be dangerous to mix cocaine with alcohol, and the practice presents severe risks to a person's health.

Read on to understand the reasons why simultaneous cocaine and alcohol use can cause serious problems. If you're worried about the negative consequences of concurrent use of alcohol and cocaine, be assured that help is available and recovery is possible.

What Is Cocaine?

What Is Cocaine?

Cocaine is a psychoactive substance that is extracted from the leaves of coca plants. While coca leaves have been used for their psychoactive properties for centuries, it is only relatively recently, in 1859, that the compound responsible for this was isolated.

Cocaine is a central nervous system stimulant that acts by preventing the reuptake of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. This leads to an accumulation of these neurotransmitters so they can act for longer, leading to increased energy, confidence, and euphoria. Over a period of time, as you continue to take cocaine, your brain loses dopamine receptors, so you need more cocaine to have the same effect.

Due to its potency, cocaine is classed as a Schedule II drug. This means that it has a high potential for abuse and dependence, however, it is not a Schedule I drug as it is seen to have medical uses. In some cases, cocaine is used in nose, throat, and mouth surgery due to its anesthetic properties.

Cocaine users may start to use it casually and, with time, develop dependence and addiction. Dependence is when your body and mind start to think they need the drug to function normally. When you stop taking it you experience withdrawal symptoms that can be very unpleasant. While cocaine addiction is sometimes confused with dependence it is a different phenomenon that often co-occurs with it. Addiction also develops gradually. It is a brain disorder that causes you to compulsively seek out and take the substance to which you are addicted.

Alcohol Abuse and Addiction

While alcohol consumption is generally socially accepted, it is also a dangerous drug. Dependence and addiction tend to develop more slowly but can form nonetheless. Often people see alcohol addiction as a very particular type of drinking and behavior and therefore do not see the signs that they are developing an addiction. A 2019 national survey found that around 14.2 million people in the USA had an alcohol use disorder. This includes abuse, dependence, and addiction.

Mixing Cocaine and Alcohol

Mixing cocaine and alcohol is perceived to boost a cocaine high and reduce withdrawal symptoms. For users of both, it can seem that they are getting the upsides of cocaine without the downsides. However, mixing cocaine and alcohol can cause adverse reactions.

Effects of Cocaine

  • Nausea
  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased body temperature
  • Increased risk of seizures
  • Increased risk of developing mental health disorders
  • Overconfidence and excitement
  • Paranoia
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Erratic behavior
  • Aggression

Effects of Alcohol

Short-term effects:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Poor coordination
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Shallow breathing
  • Decreased cognitive function
  • Sedation

Long-term effects:

  • Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Increased risk of certain cancers, including throat and bowel
  • Liver damage
  • Exacerbated mental health conditions

Effects of Mixing Cocaine and Alcohol

Cocaine and alcohol are perceived by many to balance each other out because one is a stimulant drug and the other is a depressant. However, instead, combining them leads to mixed messages being sent to your body which can lead to unpredictable outcomes.

Consuming both cocaine and alcohol leads to the formation of a chemical called cocaethylene. This does not occur when either is consumed separately. Cocaethylene appears when cocaine and ethanol (alcohol) are in the blood.

Cocaethylene is very damaging to health. It causes high blood pressure and heart-related health issues such as heart attack and stroke. The body takes longer to remove this chemical than it does cocaine or alcohol taken separately. It increases toxicity to the heart and liver as it stays in the body for longer.

Mixing cocaine with alcohol is particularly dangerous if you have underlying health issues that already make you vulnerable to stroke and heart problems.

Another risk of mixing cocaine and alcohol is that it often leads to increased use of both. This creates a vicious cycle, increasing the risk of adverse effects, including overdose. Overdose deaths that involve cocaine have increased drastically recently, rising from 5,419 in 2014 to 19,447 in 2020.

Taking the two drugs together also exposes people to the danger of developing new addictions. A person who has a substance use disorder based on alcohol could go on to develop a cocaine addiction. Similarly, a person who already has a disorder related to cocaine could go on to develop an alcohol use disorder due to increased alcohol consumption.

Mixing cocaine and alcohol is also risky because cocaine's effects can hide the impact of alcohol and the other way around. For example, the effects of cocaine may cause you to continue partying while your nervous system slows down due to alcohol, or the effects of alcohol may hide that your heart rate is dangerously high. In some cases, people experience sudden death due to heart attacks.

Signs of Cocaine and Alcohol Abuse

Signs of Cocaine and Alcohol Abuse

It can be helpful to understand the signs of cocaine and alcohol misuse so that you can recognize if a loved one needs support. Some signs of abuse include:

  • Behavior changes
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Depression
  • Runny nose
  • Nosebleeds
  • Dilated pupils
  • Increased heart rate or blood pressure

Substance Abuse Treatment

If you are mixing substances and want to stop, it is important that you get support from a healthcare provider. Going through detox under medical supervision means that your withdrawal symptoms can be eased by experienced and trained professionals.

Drug and alcohol addiction treatment can be received in inpatient or outpatient programs. It is typically recommended that you seek inpatient treatment if you are mixing substances, especially if you are struggling with alcohol dependence. In an inpatient treatment program, health professionals will monitor you to make sure that you are as comfortable as possible. They will also provide you with medications to help ease withdrawal symptoms if you need them.

It is also important to remember that detoxing is only the start of the treatment process. Once you have stopped taking the substances you will need to deal with your reasons for using as well as your relapse triggers. Do not lose hope if you relapse at some point, it is still possible to regain your sobriety. Joining support groups can help you to feel that you are not alone in your journey. Many people find that 12-step programs work well for them and continue to go to meetings long into sobriety.

Treatment at Cirque Lodge

Don't delay seeking treatment if you are worried about alcohol and drug abuse, whether it is your own or a loved one's. Taking part in a treatment program will make a positive change in the life of a person who is struggling with a substance use disorder.

At Cirque Lodge, we offer private and exclusive treatment in a peaceful setting in the Rocky Mountains. Our luxury facility and 12-acre garden will provide you with privacy and the chance to be close to nature.

With our wide range of treatment options, we can ensure that your recovery journey is individualized to your wants and needs. We believe it is important that you have agency in your recovery. Our treatment options include the following.

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps you to identify thoughts and behaviors that contribute to your addiction and enables you to build new healthy thoughts and behaviors.
  • Experiential therapy offers you the chance to revive your mind, body, and soul. Options at Cirque Lodge include equine therapy, a high-ropes course, and art therapy
  • Family healing program to involve your family in your recovery process if you choose.
  • Outdoor activities
  • 12-step recovery program

Please visit our website or call us at (801) 614-7976 for more information about our facility and treatment options or if you are ready to seek treatment.

About Cirque Lodge
Cirque Lodge is a recovery retreat providing cognitive and experiential therapies, in the pristine natural beauty of Utah’s Rocky Mountains.

Cirque Lodge is considered among our colleagues, as one of, if not the premium drug and alcohol rehab facility in the country.
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