According to the Journal of Medical Toxicology, when a person uses both alcohol and cocaine, the substances form a very unique substance known as cocaethylene as result of the substances being metabolized in the liver. Cocaethylene, also known as ethylbenzoylecgonine, has some significant effects of its own.
According to The Neurochemistry of Abused Drugs, the production of cocaethylene occurs in the liver. The liver is the main organ that is associated with the detoxification process.
Whenever a person consumes any substance, there are a number of waste products, and some substances can build up in the system and be harmful. When certain harmful substances and/or waste products accrue in the bloodstream, they are processed through the liver where the natural process of metabolism breaks them down so they can be eliminated from the body, typically through urine.
It is hypothesized that cocaethylene develops in the liver as a result of the metabolism of cocaine being altered by the presence of alcohol. Researchers believe that cocaethylene is produced in the liver about two hours after an individual has used the two drugs. Researchers suggest that about 20 percent of the cocaine being metabolized in the liver is disrupted by alcohol (producing cocaethylene), and when the liver attempts to eliminate the cocaethylene it has produced, the alcohol in the system slows down the process, leaving about 20 percent of the cocaethylene remaining in the system.
As individuals continue to drink alcohol, this continued alcohol consumption begins to disrupt the elimination of cocaethylene in the liver, and it begins to pass from the liver into the bloodstream where it can affect a number of tissues and organs. The addition of cocaethylene to the alcohol and cocaine already in the system can produce effects that are much more powerful than the effects that alcohol or cocaine alone produce.
The effects of cocaethylene in the liver and bloodstream are more salient in those who use both alcohol and cocaine together on a regular basis; however, some of the effects, such as sudden heart attacks or impulsive behaviors, may even occur in occasional users who combine the two drugs.
Some of the effects of the production of cocaethylene include:
In addition to the above effects, individuals who chronically and habitually abuse multiple drugs together are at risk to develop a number of significant substance use disorders. In the case of concurrent alcohol and cocaine use, individuals who develop both an alcohol use disorder and a cocaine use disorder will develop a number of complications that require very specialized treatment interventions.
Individuals entering treatment as a result of combined use of alcohol and cocaine face a number of difficult challenges. Treatment providers will need to address the use of both substances concurrently as well as any co-occurring physical and mental health disorders, such as depression, personality disorders, anxiety, etc. Treatment for individuals who have a number of different co-occurring disorders can become very complicated, and it is often fraught with setbacks and potential relapses. These issues are even further complicated by the effects to the body and mind that occur as a result of the prolonged effects of cocaethylene.
That being said, there is always hope for recovery. With comprehensive care, individuals who regularly abuse cocaine and alcohol together can effectively leave this abuse in their past and move forward into a healthier future.