Extra dangers found from mixing cocaine and alcohol.
Monday, November 9th, 2009
A potentially life-threatening chemical has been found to build up in the liver of those who consume both alcohol and cocaine over a long period of time.
The highly toxic chemical, cocaethylene, is the only known example of the body creating a chemical as result of mixing two others and is thought to major health consequences.
Drug treatment workers are becoming concerned about the health risks of the chemical as it thought to be responsible for an increase in heart attacks to users in their 30’s and 40’s and a surge in social problems. However, experts are not able to decide upon exact threat of the chemical, to a person and to wider society, as little is known about the drug.
Research by The University of California’s Drug Dependence Research Centre in 2003 reported that the combination of alcohol and cocaine produced a prolonged and increased feeling of euphoria, compared to occurrences when each of the substances was consumed independently.
Research carried out in the UK by the National Addiction Centre in 2006 found there was a strong link between the consumption of cocaine and longer, heavier drinking sessions. In fact more than 50% of those questioned admitted that their last heavy drinking episode had lasted more than 12 hours.
Karen Colgan, who works for treatment agency Addaction in Lincolnshire, said that problem of mixing alcohol and cocaine was being driven by the new generation of users who claim to only consume the two drugs at the weekend.
She said: “They don’t see it as a problem, because they are just using at weekends.
“They do it to increase the effects of cocaine, but we have found cases where young people are getting heart palpitations and then going and playing Sunday football.”
The concerns regarding the chemical cocaethylene are heightened when a survey taken out by the British Crime Survey revealed a 25% increase in the number of people aged 16-24 taking the drug compared to the previous year. Further to this, the number of people under the age of 25 who have sought help for cocaine abuse has doubled over the past four years.
It seems that this problem is not just confined to the UK. The US National Household Drug Survey revealed that there were an estimated 5 million people who used alcohol and cocaine each month, which is thought to account for an increase in the number of deaths attributed to the drug.
Back in the UK, the number people admitted to hospital due to overdosing on cocaine has doubled in the past five years. It is estimated that one person is admitted to hospital every 10 hours as a result of a cocaine overdose and that alcohol is often consumed with the drug.
Martin Barnes, chief executive of the charity DrugScope, said: There is no question that the use of both alcohol and cocaine is a growing concern,”
“Surveys show people who drink regularly in bars and clubs are more likely to be using alcohol and drugs. This presents challenges to health professionals about how to raise awareness of the health risks because combining the two drugs is not seen as taboo. It’s simply a lifestyle choice.”
Whilst there is a plethora of evidence regarding the social implications of combining alcohol and cocaine, there is little research into the physical effects of cocaethylene on the body.
It is thought that there is a link between the consumption of cocaine and an increase in the number of people in their 30s suffering from heart problems.
This is backed-up by the US Drug Abuse Warning System, which stated: “cocaine/ethanol abuse is a major cause of emergency medical admissions” and “the cause of increases in cocaine-related mortality”.