The dangers of mixing cocaine and alcohol

Find out the short and long-term risks that mixing cocaine and alcohol can have on  your health and wellbeing.

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Whether you take cocaine occasionally, regularly or have used it once or twice, it is important to understand the risks involved in mixing it with alcohol. Both substances affect the body and mind, even when taken alone, and there are even greater risks when they are consumed together.

As cocaine is a stimulant and alcohol is a depressant, the collective pressure they put on your body and mind can be dangerous. Within this blog, we have outlined the immediate and longer-term risks that mixing cocaine and alcohol can have on both your health and your wellbeing.

The short-term risks of mixing cocaine and alcohol

There are immediate dangers from both alcohol and cocaine. For example, alcohol carries the following short-term risks:

  • Impaired vision
  • Unpredictable emotions
  • Vomiting
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Dehydration and blackouts
  • Reduced inhibitions - this can often be the catalyst for taking cocaine as you may feel more comfortable doing illegal drugs after drinking

Cocaine’s short-term risks include the following:

  • Rise in body temperature
  • Increased heart rate
  • Feelings of paranoia and anxiety
  • Becoming more erratic and/or aggressive
  • Increased blood pressure

The combination of cocaine and alcohol can make you feel invincible, and increase the likelihood of you behaving in a way that compromises your safety. Also, the shared negative effects of both cocaine and alcohol, such as aggression, can intensify when the two substances are taken together.

The short-term risks of cocaine and alcohol show that, even if the substances are taken recreationally, they can harm your body and your mood fairly quickly. They can also take a toll on your mental health, which is often felt during the 'comedown' in the days after taking cocaine and alcohol.

What is a comedown?

Comedowns happen when your body is getting rid of the drugs that it has been subjected to. They can vary depending on how much of the drug you've taken as well as the time period the drug has been taken, and differ from person to person. Managing a comedown can be difficult and many people get the urge to take more drugs to get rid of the symptoms, although this can then spiral into an addiction as your body then starts relying on drugs to function.

As a result of the alcohol leaving your body, you may also experience what's known as hangxiety. This is when your body is adjusting to life without alcohol and it causes you to become distressed and anxious. Alcohol is often associated with feeling merry and jolly, but excessive drinking can cause anxiety, or make existing anxiety worse.

The long-term health risks of mixing cocaine and alcohol

Mixing cocaine and alcohol has been linked to a greater risk of suicidal tendencies. Prolonged use can also take a toll on your long-term physical health, which can be fatal.

Prolonged alcohol consumption carries the following long-term risks:

  • Increased risk of heart attacks, strokes and cancer
  • Liver damage
  • Brain damage
  • High blood pressure
  • Mental health problems such as depression and anxiety

And, long-term cocaine use can lead to the following problems, some of which mirror the risks of alcohol:

  • Nose and mouth damage
  • Risk of blood clots, embolisms and heart attacks
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Seizures and strokes
  • Mental health problems such as psychosis, paranoia and hallucinations
  • Liver and kidney damage

The toxic effects of cocaine and alcohol are heightened when they are taken together as the combination of the two substances creates new metabolites in the body.

The most potent of these is an active substance called cocaethylene, which can damage your liver, heart and other vital organs. Once cocaethylene is created in the body, it remains there for much longer than alcohol or cocaine alone. It is associated with increased craving, more dependence and it significantly increases the risk of serious health problems.

How to address your cocaine and alcohol consumption

If you feel like you’ve lost control of your ability to stop taking cocaine and alcohol, don’t try and struggle on through alone. Talk to someone you trust, share what you’re feeling and ask for their help.

Keeping quiet will only make you feel worse, as without support, you’ll likely feel lonely, helpless and unable to cope. This can lead to a vicious cycle where you use cocaine and alcohol to try and feel better. And, the longer you allow this to go on, the more damage it will continue to have your life.

No matter how bad things feel right now, you can stop using cocaine and alcohol if you want to. There’s always someone willing to listen and help, and many people in your situation have been able to move on from these types of challenges before. With professional help, you can embark on a better future.

How professional treatment helps with drug or alcohol addiction

At Priory, we know how to help people overcome their struggles with addiction.

Our treatment options that are available for those struggling with drugs and alcohol include the following:

  • Outpatient therapy allows you to attend weekly one-hour appointments, which you can fit around your current commitments and schedule
  • We offer day care programmes, where you attend one of our hospitals or wellbeing centres for a series of days or half days to take part in therapy sessions
  • If you’ve been taking cocaine and alcohol frequently and are suffering with addiction, you may be referred to a detoxification programme to rid your body of any substances. We may then recommend a 28-day rehabilitation programme. This residential option provides you a supportive community where you can share your recovery with others taking the same journey as you

At Priory Group, you can undertake a free no-obligation addiction assessment so that we can help you determine the treatment that will be most effective for you.

Blog reviewed by Dr Shehrzad Y Qureshi consultant psychiatrist who is dually accredited in general adult psychiatry and addiction psychiatry at Priory Hospital Glasgow

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