While the rates of cocaine abuse in the US have dwindled since the early 1990s, many American adults still mix cocaine with alcohol – either recreationally or otherwise (combining drugs can indicate a serious polydrug addiction). This specific combination poses serious health risks, seeing as cocaine is a stimulant and alcohol is a depressant. Because alcohol acts indirectly with GABA receptors (receptors that respond to the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid), using both substances simultaneously may increase euphoric effects.
People may also mix the two because they believe one will balance out negative effects from the other. For example, if someone gets too strung-out on cocaine, and starts to experience symptoms like anxiety, profuse sweating, or paranoia, they may begin drinking alcohol in order to ‘calm down’. On the other hand, if someone begins drinking alcohol before a long night of partying, they may use cocaine to help them ‘wake back up’. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people who do mix the two chemical substances aren’t informed of the risks involved – and many of them do serious physical and mental damage to themselves… damage that could have easily been avoided.
More on Cocaine Addiction
Cocaine is a widely popular and generally very powerful stimulant, frequently manufactured in South America. It is an illicit drug, and it is often cut with other illicit and/or legal substances by drug dealers, sometimes making it far more potent and dangerous. Some street dealers will cut cocaine with things like baking powder, talcum powder, or cornstarch in attempts to cut corners and make more money. While substances like these usually aren’t lethal, they can cause serious infections.
Other dealers will cut the substance with fentanyl, or other potentially lethal drugs. Even if a first-time user takes cocaine that has been laced with fentanyl, he or she may overdose. Most people who use cocaine will use it nasally (by snorting it). However, the drug can also be smoked or dissolved and intravenously injected. Psychological effects may include feelings of euphoria, extreme agitation, or a loss of contact with the real world. Those who abuse cocaine for an extended period of time will likely experience harsher symptoms, such as organ damage, permanent changes within the brain, and even full-blown psychosis.
Effects of Long-Term Cocaine Abuse
When the brain is repeatedly exposed to this specific chemical compound, the reward pathways become less receptive to natural sources of pleasure. This leads to increased tolerance, and it also often leads to deep feelings of melancholy when the drug is not being used. Essentially, those that use cocaine long-term become unable to create their own “feel good” brain chemicals, leading to depression. If the user snorts cocaine regularly, he or she is at risk of permanently damaging the nasal passageways. Other effects of long-term abuse include recurring headaches or migraines, heart disease, stroke, seizures, convulsions, severe mood swings, sexual problems, loss of smell, irreparable lung damage, bowel decay, and HIV or hepatitis (if the drug is used intravenously).
More on Alcohol and Polydrug Abuse
On the other hand, as previously mentioned, alcohol is a depressant – it works to slow the central nervous system. Those that mix the two chemical substances will generally do so for one of three reasons: to intensify the “high” of the cocaine, to reduce feelings of drunkenness (or lethargy associated with drunkenness), or to alleviate withdrawal symptoms of cocaine abuse.
In 2009, a study was conducted that concluded the risk of sudden death is up to 20 times greater when mixing cocaine and alcohol than when using cocaine alone. Additionally, users are far more likely to overdose on one drug when the other is involved, seeing as cocaine counteracts the effects of alcohol and vice versa. Polydrug abuse is a serious issue and should be dealt with immediately. If you find yourself frequently combining alcohol and cocaine, or if you have experienced symptoms of addiction (increased tolerance, irritability, trouble at work or at school) but are still not sure, we at Recreate Life Counseling are available to help. For more information on cocaine and alcohol addiction, please reach out today.