Cocaine is a powerful stimulant. It’s created from the coca plant in South America. Although it has some medicinal uses, it is most commonly used recreationally as a form of stimulant or speed. Cocaine provides a short-term high that leaves people thinking they are almost invincible while under the influence. Mixing cocaine with alcohol has the effect of counteracting the high because alcohol is a depressant. Mixing the two together can be dangerous because, to stay high while drinking, more cocaine is required to counteract the alcohol. Or, in order to enjoy the buzz from alcohol while using cocaine, a person might drink more than they would otherwise. Either scenario can lead to overdose or alcohol poisoning. There is also a possibility of addiction to either or both substances.

What is Cocaine?

Cocaine, more commonly referred to as coke, blow, or snow is a drug used by many for its powerful stimulant effect. Users report having more energy and being able to do more tasks quicker. It can be ingested in several ways, from smoking it to snorting it. People use cocaine for the pick me up effect. The drug does increase energy levels because it gives the brain a big dose of dopamine. It’s a short-term energy boost that, to be maintained, requires the user to ingest the drug on a frequent basis. For many, it gives them the energy and boosts they need to get through a busy day. It was the drug of choice for people in high powered careers or those who need to work for long periods of time. However, athletes shy around the usage of cocaine because it shows up in drug tests. People who become addicted to the stimulation provided by cocaine will be the most common users. The substance can be snorted, smoked in a pipe, taken by mouth, or injected.

Common Side Effects of Cocaine

Because cocaine is a stimulant, many of the side effects of using the drug have to do with breathing and the heart. Stimulants increase the heart rate and blood pressure and it can take some time for both to get back to a normal level. Constant use of cocaine means that the heart is constantly being overworked, and that also means the user’s blood pressure is constantly increased as well. Other side effects include nasal problems (when snorted), stomach ulcers, nausea, restlessness, dilated pupils, and constricted blood vessels. Long-term use can cause permanent damage to the heart or blood vessels, permanent damage to the sinuses or nose lining, and an increased risk of heart attack or stroke.

Interactions of Alcohol and Cocaine

Alcohol and cocaine play off each other. Cocaine, being a stimulant, keeps the user stimulated while alcohol is a depressant that takes some of the edge off the stimulation of cocaine. The problem with this combination is, first - it creates a chemical in the body called cocaethylene, a toxin created from the combination of alcohol and cocaine being in the body at the same time. Secondly, when a person is using cocaine and alcohol at the same time, it is impossible to tell how drunk a person is or how much cocaine is in their system, even for them. While they might consider this a positive, allowing them to party longer or harder, it can easily lead to overdose or alcohol poisoning. Using them both together can also lead to increased dependence, since it takes more and more alcohol to combat the cocaine, and it will take more cocaine to counteract the effects of alcohol. These increased doses lead more quickly than anything else to dependence and addiction. Another issue is an increase in sexually transmitted diseases and HIV. People under the influence of both alcohol and cocaine could put themselves at risk by engaging in dangerous sexual behavior.

Alcohol Poisoning and Cocaine Overdose

Alcohol poisoning and cocaine overdose can occur at the same time or separately. Even separately, this can lead to death and, combined, the urgency for immediate treatment is even greater.

The symptoms of alcohol poisoning include:

  • Pale, clammy or blue-tinged skin
  • Vomiting
  • Irregular breathing
  • Slow breathing
  • Passing out
  • Seizures
  • Confusion
  • Low body temperature

Cocaine overdose looks vastly different. Some of the symptoms of cocaine overdose are:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Extreme agitation or anxiety
  • Heart attack
  • High blood pressure
  • High body temperature
  • Hallucinations
  • Irregular heart rhythm
  • Seizures
  • Strokes

Cocaethylene is created when alcohol and cocaine combine in the system and create a special type of toxin.

Symptoms of cocaethylene poisoning include:

  • Liver damage
  • Seizures
  • Compromised immune system


Withdrawal from alcohol and cocaine takes time and absolutely must be monitored by a medical professional.

Some of the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:

  • Anxiety
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Shaky hands
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting

Later withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Confusion
  • Fever
  • Heavy sweating
  • High blood pressure
  • Hallucinations and Tremors
  • Racing heart

Symptoms of cocaine withdrawal are:

  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Increased appetite
  • Slowed thinking
  • Unpleasant dreams and insomnia

Symptoms can start to occur hours after the last use and last for days or even weeks depending on how much alcohol and/or cocaine was in the person’s system. Behavioral therapy could also be utilized during this time to help combat withdrawal symptoms.


Immediate treatment for a cocaine overdose is necessary since many of the effects can be deadly if not treated immediately. Things such as rapid heart rate, headache and other symptoms are treated at a hospital and the same occurs with alcohol poisoning. Medical personnel will often run tests to determine the amount of the drug in the patient’s system, as well as if other drugs are present as this can change the required steps. You should always provide all possible information about what drugs you or a loved one may have taken to cause an overdose, as that information could be the only thing to save their life.

Once the immediate threat has been taken care of, long-term treatment for addiction should occur. Treatment can take place either as an inpatient or outpatient, depending on the type of program and diagnosed level and severity of the addiction. Treatment can range from several weeks to years, depending on the program and the individual. However, the first step of long-term treatment will be detoxification of the body. Though a hospital might keep you through detox after an overdose episode, they may also refer or send you to a detox facility so that you can be under the watchful eye of specialists for this dangerous and imperative period. Only after you have detoxed and gotten through the major withdrawal symptoms can you move on to receive ongoing treatment and therapy for your addiction.