Abusing crack cocaine or alcohol can significantly harm an individual when each substance is used alone. The effects of mixing crack cocaine and alcohol, however, are not simply a cumulation of the highs produced by each substance. As many people who are addicted to crack cocaine and alcohol realize, combining the two substances actually multiplies the effects, creating a psychological and physical situation that is greater than the sum of the parts.
Effects of Crack Cocaine
Crack cocaine affects the central nervous system. It acts as a stimulant to create an euphoric high in users. Side effects of crack cocaine use include constricted blood vessels, increased heart rate and blood pressure, restlessness, irritability, and anxiety. The effects that crack cocaine has on respiration and the heart mean that users are at substantial risk of having seizures or going into cardiac arrest, which can be followed by respiratory arrest and sudden death. Crack cocaine abuse is dangerous enough, but when it is combined with another substance, like alcohol, the potential consequences can be more than an individual's body can handle.
"Crack cocaine abuse is dangerous enough, but when it is combined with another substance, like alcohol, the potential consequences can be more than an individual’s body can handle."
Adding Alcohol to Crack Cocaine
Alcohol is a sedative that affects every individual differently. As recreational drinkers of alcohol often know, the likelihood that a person will end up drunk is a function of many variables, including weight, body chemistry, mood, psychological history, underlying illnesses, and even whether or not the person is drinking on an empty stomach. Adding alcohol to crack cocaine abuse is like adding a wild card to an already dangerous situation. No one can know for sure how the combination of the two will impact a specific individual.
"...the addiction of a depressant to a stimulant can produce either a highly additive effect, ...or an antagonistic effect..."What researchers do know, however, is that the addiction of a depressant to a stimulant can produce either a highly additive effect, where the highs of both drugs are multiplied, or an antagonistic effect, where the highs cancel each other out. In high doses, the effects of mixing crack cocaine and alcohol are more likely to be addictive. Further, the human liver actually combines cocaine and alcohol to produce a third substance called cocaethylene. This new substance greatly intensifies the euphoric effects of crack cocaine and significantly increases the risk of sudden death.
Blood-Alcohol-Level and Crack Cocaine
Typically, the rate at which alcohol reaches the brain and increases a person's blood-alcohol level (BAL) is a factor of all of those variables that are specific to each individual. The addition of a stimulant, like crack cocaine, speeds up a person's metabolism, resulting in the alcohol reaching the brain faster. In addition, the stimulant masks the depressant effects of the alcohol. The bottom line is that an alcohol drinker who decides to smoke crack cocaine at the same time will get drunk faster and have a more rapid change in BAL but will likely not feel drunk. This can cause a person to continue drinking, resulting in blood poisoning.
From the opposite perspective, the addition of alcohol to crack cocaine increases a person's heart rate as much as five times the rate of crack cocaine use alone. This is why sudden death is an increased possibility when the two substances are used together. Researchers have also shown that combined use produces even poorer performances on learning and memory tests than either substance alone.
Professional Treatment for Addiction
Professional treatment for addiction to crack cocaine and alcohol may be the only viable option for individuals who are addicted to both drugs. The highly addictive physical and psychological effects of the body's production of cocaethylene may mean that quitting cold turkey is not feasible for most people. Withdrawal symptoms can be as dangerous as the side effects and can require medical monitoring in a facility that specializes in the effects of mixing crack cocaine and alcohol. If you are interested in more information or need in-patient or out-patient referrals, consider calling 800-861-9454 or filling out a quick contact form so you can find the help you need for yourself or a loved one.