Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant drug, meaning that people can become hooked on it quickly, even with casual use. One problem that arises with this drug is that some people may use cocaine only when under the influence of alcohol, not realizing that they are at risk of a cocaine cross-addiction. The habit may seem harmless, but in reality, using cocaine while drinking alcohol is risky and can lead to an addiction to both substances. Read on to learn about the dangers and to discover why using cocaine socially, or as part of the “party scene” is more serious than you may believe.

The Issue of Cocaine and Alcohol Abuse

Research with recreational cocaine users indicates that they use cocaine when drinking, in order to increase their confidence and enhance the positive feelings that occur when partying with friends. Cocaine users also report that they are able to consume larger quantities of alcohol when using cocaine,  which may be seen as beneficial in social settings but is actually quite risky.

Cocaine may allow users to consume more alcohol without feeling intoxicated or drowsy, but alcohol is still building up in the bloodstream. When cocaine leads to excess alcohol consumption, users are at risk of alcohol poisoning. As the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism explains, binge drinking increases the risk of alcohol overdose. This can lead to serious consequences, such as accidents, injuries, blackouts, and even death from choking on vomit. When a person is feeling alert and energetic from a cocaine high, they may not realize that they are actually at a dangerous level of alcohol intoxication.

Risks of Cocaine Addiction

Another problem that occurs when mixing alcohol and cocaine is that users are at risk of developing an addiction. People may think that they do not have a problem because they only use cocaine when drinking, but cocaine use can quickly escalate. Cocaine is powerfully psychologically addictive, because it causes a quick buildup of dopamine, which is a brain chemical that produces feelings of pleasure.

Over time, the body adapts to the increase of dopamine within the body, resulting in a cocaine tolerance. This means that users will need to take larger and larger quantities of cocaine to achieve the same desired effects. People who begin using cocaine recreationally may find themselves using larger amounts of the drug than intended, because they are attempting to feel as alert and confident as they did those first few times they used cocaine while drinking.

Over time, as a person develops a cocaine tolerance and increases their use of the drug, they may also begin to experience withdrawal symptoms when not using. This can cause depression, fatigue, sleep problems, slower thinking, and increases in appetite. Users who experience these withdrawal side effects are likely to seek out more cocaine just to cope, which creates a cycle of drug abuse, eventually leading to addiction.

Someone who is addicted to cocaine will show symptoms such as the following:

  • Being unable to cut back on cocaine use
  • Using cocaine in dangerous situations
  • Giving up other activities in favor of cocaine use
  • Continuing to use cocaine despite problems at work or school
  • Engaging in cocaine use even when it causes a mental or physical health problem
  • Spending a significant amount of time using cocaine or recovering from cocaine abuse

Alcohol and Cocaine Cross Addiction

When alcohol and cocaine are used together, a person is at risk of also developing a cross addiction. Put simply, a cross addiction occurs when a person replaces one addiction with another. This can mean one of two things. If a person enters treatment for alcohol addiction but believes they don’t truly have a problem with cocaine, they may continue to use cocaine recreationally, and then eventually develop a cocaine addiction.

Another potential outcome is that a person may begin casually using cocaine from time to time, and then progress to using cocaine each time they drink, resulting in addiction to both substances. Over time, the brain can become habituated to using the two substances together, so a person will naturally seek out cocaine each time they drink, as if acting on autopilot.

How Treatment Can Help

If you’re using both alcohol and cocaine and find that you are unable to stop, despite negative consequences like problems at work or difficulty with relationships, it is time to reach out for treatment. Ultimately, abstinence from both substances is the only way to achieve lasting sobriety. You may think that you can continue to drink from time-to-time, but the fact that your brain has become habituated to both alcohol and cocaine use can lead to a full-blown relapse to cocaine abuse, even with one drink. Similarly, if you give up alcohol and do not recognize that you also have a problem with cocaine, you may find that cocaine abuse worsens despite abstinence from alcohol.

Entering addiction treatment can help you to develop the tools needed to remain sober from both alcohol and cocaine. For instance, you may participate in a therapeutic community, in which you and others with similar addictions support each other and help each other to make the changes necessary to live a sober lifestyle. Treatment may also involve therapy, which can help you to address the underlying issues that led to addiction and develop ways to cope with stress without turning to drug and alcohol use. If you are looking for treatment, Ethos Recovery is dedicated to helping people live a life free from active addiction, so give us a call today. We offer structured sober living in the heart of Los Angeles and provide the support you need to change your lifestyle.