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Cocaethylene: The Dangers & Risks

Cocaine and alcohol together are both very powerful drugs that can lead to dependency. Understanding the dangers of mixing drugs and alcohol can improve the likelihood of an individual getting the proper treatment.

Using cocaine and alcohol together can create a dangerous toxin in your liver known as cocaethylene.[1] Cocaethylene is a combination of the two drugs that the body creates when trying to metabolize and filter out the toxins in both cocaine and alcohol.

Also known as ethylbenzoylecgonine, cocaethylene is a toxic substance that has risky effects of its own and can last in the body for four hours.

In fact, it diminishes in the bloodstream by half every four hours. Alcohol causes it to stay in the body longer.

Various “waste products” are formed in the body when the liver attempts to flush out any substances we consume, including cocaine and alcohol. Cocaethylene is a harmful build-up of these waste chemicals in the body, which enter the bloodstream and are passed throughout the body.

How is Cocaethylene produced?

Normally, the liver is able to flush out these toxins from the body, notably through urine.

However, when cocaine and alcohol are processed together in the liver, the cocaine that is being metabolized does so at a slower rate as the alcohol disrupts the process.

This leaves the highly toxic and harmful substance of “cocaethylene” in the body, which is produced around two hours after the individual has last taken a dose of cocaine.

The more someone drinks, the slower the liver is able to process the existing cocaine in the system, resulting in a higher potency, or concentration, of cocaine in the blood.

Consequently, cocaethylene starts to produce, and instead of the toxins in cocaine passing through the liver, it enters the bloodstream and begins spreading to tissues and organs.

The presence of cocaethylene, as well as the existing alcohol and cocaine already in the body, creates a different physical effect to simply being “drunk or high.”

Why Do People Mix Cocaine And Alcohol?

The presence of cocaethylene, as well as the existing alcohol and cocaine already in the body, creates a different physical effect to simply being “drunk or high.” Many people mix alcohol and cocaine to create a euphoric feeling commonly known as a “buzz.”

Users tend to believe that cocaine can prolong the pleasant feeling that alcohol provides, and that consuming cocaine will allow them to “carry on” drinking for longer periods of time as the drug sharpens the senses and “wakes up” the alcohol-induced sleepiness.

People also want to relieve or avoid the unpleasant onset of symptoms of one of the drugs by using the other. Cocaine is a stimulant that can leave individuals feeling anxious, while alcohol may cause people to feel tired and therefore cocaine use can help them to feel alert.

Many people also use cocaine and alcohol to reduce the effects of withdrawal. Cocaine withdrawal can cause, irritability and the feelings of agitation, but alcohol can temporarily reduce these symptoms.

Unfortunately, although it can ease the symptoms, cocaine and alcohol are not safe combinations at all. Despite the dangers, cocaine abuse alone causes $11 billion in healthcare costs in America each year.[2] Overall, $193 billion is lost due to lost work productivity, crime, and healthcare.

What Are The Risks And Dangers Of Mixing Cocaine And Alcohol?

Mixing alcohol greatly increases your chances of having a heart attack. Combining alcohol with cocaine can cause more damage to the heart than using either drug on their own, according to statistics from the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment.

The combination of cocaine with any stimulant, including alcohol, can cause:

  • Cardiovascular risks
  • Liver damage
  • Stroke
  • Increased pulse rate
  • Seizures
  • Psychosis
  • Paranoia
  • Alcohol poisoning

Others have reported symptoms of failing respiratory systems along with the decreased ability to breathe. These side effects can be life-threatening and can even occur days after the last use of alcohol and cocaine together.

How To Recognize The Signs Of Addiction

Many people ignore the warning signs of poor health when they’re using cocaine and alcohol. It is a common perception among social circles that combining the two drugs is not dangerous and that it is “normal” social behaviour in this day and age.

Cocaethylene in the body alone doesn’t increase your chances of addiction, but the prolonged use of cocaine and alcohol can also cause long-term physical harm to the heart and liver.

1. Physical Signs of Cocaine & Alcohol Use

However, the warning signs that the body gives off when cocaethylene is being formed internally does not halt the cravings for many people.

Below, we have listed common physical symptoms of cocaine and alcohol misuse:

  • Respiratory issues
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dilated eye pupils
  • Higher body temperature
  • Increased heart rate
  • Unexplained Headaches
  • Pain in the abdominal area
  • Nausea/ Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pain in the chest
  • Palpitations

Moreover, when an individual cannot stop using alcohol or cocaine or begins to use frivolous excuses or reasons for their behaviour, the chances that the individual is suffering from addiction are very high.

This is the right time to seek the correct treatment before dependency on cocaine and alcohol takes on life-altering consequences – or even death.

2. Bevahioural Signs of Cocaine & Alcohol Use

Other behavioural signs of alcohol and cocaine misuse can include:

  • Unstable finances
  • Requesting to borrow  money
  • Missed life opportunities/ missing out on normal social events
  • Failing relationships/ avoiding ones who care
  • Disrupted sleep patterns
  • Higher tendency to become violent
  • Increased/ abnormal risky sexual behavior
  • Anxiety/ stress
  • Irritability

Social Impact Of Cocaethylene

Cocaethylene also poses a social risk. The heightened sense of self-confidence from cocaine mixed with alcohol also increases the chances of violent behavior, risky sexual behaviour or abnormal impulsive behavior.

The impact of cocaethylene will have a different impact on each individual and it is the role of friends, family, and colleagues to keep a close eye on the behaviour and actions of an individual who might be falling down the slippery road of alcohol and cocaine dependence.

Mixing cocaine and alcohol poses the danger of harsh side effects for anyone that accumulates the toxin in their system. The National Survey Of Health And Drug Report indicates that 35.3 Americans age 12 and older have used cocaine.[3] 

Effects Of Cocaethylene On The Brain

Alongside the serious and potentially life-threatening risks of cocaethylene on the body, the brain is also highly impacted by the use of drugs and alcohol.

Many people aim to intensify or decrease the impact that cocaine has on the brain by using a central nervous system depressant – alcohol. Trying to take the edge off the stimulating effects of cocaine is what puts many people at risk.

In fact, cocaethylene has had an impact on how adrenaline is processed in the brain. The stimulation not only comes from the dopamine and serotonin released in the brain but the release of cocaethylene causing the adrenaline in the brain to be released in a different way.

The potency of cocaine is what increases the chances of a small amount of cocaethylene causing an overdose. Combined with alcohol, a relatively small amount of cocaine can still cause an overdose.

Many people aren’t aware of these facts and find themselves with a toxic level of drugs in their system.

The use of alcohol and cocaine doesn’t always lead to rapid overdose. However, for 12 hours after cocaethylene is introduced to the body, users are at risk of a fatal overdose.

Withdrawal From Cocaethylene

Withdrawal from any drug will take some time and come with risks. Cocaine is one of the most addictive drugs in the world, which makes withdrawal symptoms very debilitating.

Below, we list some of the emotional and physical changes an individual can experience when withdrawing from cocaethylene:

Emotional Issues

  • Intense anger
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Slower thinking/ cognitive ability
  • Exhaustion
  • Inability to experience sexual arousal
  • Anhedonia, or the inability to feel pleasure
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions
  • Vivid, unpleasant dreams or nightmares
  • Increased craving for cocaine

These emotions have caused many patients to relapse, but there are treatment options to help individuals detox from cocaine.

Other physical symptoms associated with cocaine and alcohol withdrawal include:

Physical Changes

  • Lack of energy
  • Lack of motivation
  • Increased hunger
  • Fatigue
  • Restlessness
  • Slow movements
  • Increased appetite
  • Chills,
  • Tremors,
  • Muscle aches
  • Nerve pain
  • Arrhythmia and/or a heart attack during withdrawal

Any of the above signs or any other physical symptoms that occur should be discussed with your doctor right away.

Dual Diagnosis

A dual diagnosis is when your drug addiction is also diagnosed with a subsequent mental disorder. During therapy and counseling, your therapist might diagnose you with a mental disorder that’s a contributing factor to your dependency.

If you’ve been diagnosed with a mental disorder, it’s important to get treated for your psychological disorder and dependency at the same time for a successful recovery.

In fact, a dual diagnosis is very common in substance abuse users and symptoms can include:

  • Retreating from interpersonal relationships and family
  • Neglecting hygiene/health
  • Practicing unsafe behavior
  • Lost control over substance use

Cocaethylene toxicity can have a tremendous impact on your life. The side effects can be dangerous and only half of the people that use drugs and alcohol seek treatment options.

In fact, cocaethylene toxicity is responsible for 30% of the heart attacks in people under 40.[4] The surge in social problems from cocaethylene has also been troubling.

Patients must be dedicated to the treatment and becoming sober for recovery to be successful. Cocaethylene has been tested and found to be more toxic than cocaine. It’s important for substance and alcohol users to know the risk to avoid serious injury or death.

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