Polydrug abuse, the practice of abusing two substances at once, most commonly in an attempt to enhance the high or decrease an unpleasant side effect of one of the drugs, is quite prevalent within circles of drug abuse and addiction. This practice is not without risks—instead of your brain and body being assaulted by a singular drug, it now contends with risks twofold; in some cases, these risks may more than double, as certain drugs interact with others in a way that is dangerous. This is the case with crack cocaine and alcohol abuse.
How Does Alcohol Affect A Person’s Body And Brain?
Despite the fact that alcohol is legal, it is still a drug—specifically a depressant. Like every drug, when abused, it has the capacity for creating an imbalanced state within your body and mind that can open the door to numerous side effects, risks, and dangers, including, as noted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism:
Injuries — When a person uses alcohol they have a decreased capacity to reason, impaired judgement, and they are more apt to take risks, combined, these result in a higher rate of injury, including falls, motor vehicle accidents, drownings, burn injuries, and even homicides.
Brain damage — Alcohol can create cognitive impairment, brain shrinkage, and Wernicke–Korsakoff Syndrome, a debilitating disorder that can result in permanent brain damage, among other things.
Heart damage — Alcohol takes a huge toll on this organ, causing heart disease, heart arrhythmias, high blood pressure, cardiomyopathy, and stroke.
Other organ damage — As your body strives to process the alcohol, the organs at the forefront of this endeavor suffer. An alcohol addiction increases liver problems, including cirrhosis, hepatitis, and fatty liver; pancreatic concerns may arise, such as pancreatitis; and stomach issues may begin, including bleeding within this organ.
Other health concerns — Drinking alcohol can create sleep troubles, birth defects, unintended pregnancy, increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), a suppressed immune system, and increase the risk of various types of cancers.
Mental health concerns — Alcohol abuse and addiction may create a widely variable mood, and worsen, or create, concerns of depression or anxiety.
What Toll Does Crack Cocaine Take On A Person?
Crack cocaine, also termed “freebase cocaine,” is a rock-like form of cocaine that is made from processing cocaine with baking soda or ammonia. Most commonly smoked, this drug is, in lesser instances, snorted or injected. A stimulant drug, crack’s effects are due to the potent manner by which it affects a user’s central nervous system (CNS); when a user abuses crack, their brain is flooded with the neurotransmitter dopamine, creating a euphoric state and making this drug highly addictive—even after just the first use. This drug is so powerful, that it may cause death after even a person’s first dose. Due to crack’s effect on the CNS, a person may experience increased blood pressure, heart rate, and rates of respiration (breathing). In addition:
In the short term, crack may cause:
- Depression and anxiety
- Aggressive tendencies
- Paranoid thinking
- Intense over stimulation
- Suppressed appetite
In the long term, crack may cause:
- A disposition to risky behavior
- Impaired judgement
- Continued aggression
- Imbalanced mood
- Heightened depression
- Paranoia, delirium, or psychosis
- Sensory hallucinations
- Seizures of the brain
- Respiratory failure
- Cardiac complications—stroke, heart attack, and heart disease
- Damage to a person’s reproductive system
- Birth defects
- “Coke bugs,” the sense of insects crawling under one’s skin
As you can see, crack affects a person’s mind, organ systems, and mental health.
Crack And Alcohol: A Dangerous Combination
Now that you have a more thorough understanding of each drug’s individual dangers, we will illustrate how these dangers are compounded by polydrug abuse.
Chemical reaction — Drugs are chemicals. Chemicals can react together, often in unfavorable and dangerous ways. This is one situation where this occurs to a severe extent. As explained by The Guardian, when these two drugs are simultaneously within your system, a dangerously toxic byproduct is produced within your liver—cocaethylene. This chemical makes the heart less resilient to the stress these two drugs are forcing upon it. The more of this that is produced, the more intense the “high” and the higher the chances of sudden death especially due to heart attack. In addition, the liver, an organ that is already overtaxed with an intense chemical burden from the alcohol, is further stressed and susceptible to greater toxicity from the cocaethylene.
Opposing effects — At the root, the danger of combining these two drugs lies in the fact that you are combining a depressant (alcohol) with a stimulant (crack). For the same principles that combining alcohol with energy drinks (lesser stimulants) is dangerous, so is your body caught between these opposite effects. Your body is essentially being simultaneously pulled between a frenetic state and a sedative one, leaving your heart and cardiovascular system caught in the middle.
Livestrong.com comments on the combination of stimulant and depressant drugs, noting that “Using high doses of these drugs, mixing them simultaneously, and combining stimulants or depressants with other drugs or alcohol increase the risk for side effects, such as panic attacks, hallucinations, paranoia, hostile behavior, depression, and sleep and appetite problems.”
Cardiovascular impact — Alcohol and crack may both cause your blood pressure to climb, leading to an increased risk of stroke. Each of these drugs increases a person’s risk for heart failure, together, this risk becomes more oppressive.
Consuming more alcohol — A person may use crack so they don’t feel alcohol’s effects as readily, a “false sense of sobriety,” allowing them to drink more. What is dangerous about this, is that despite the fact you may feel like you can drink more, your body is still affronted with the same amount of alcohol, in addition, due to its stimulant nature, crack speeds up your metabolism, causing the alcohol to be processed more effectively; combined the things—greater amounts of alcohol, processed quicker—may result in alcohol poisoning and even death.
Cognitive impact — Looking back on the side effects, you can see that both alcohol and crack decrease a person’s judgement and make them more apt to engage in risky behaviors. Due to this, a person may be more susceptible to injuries and also engage in unsafe sexual practices, opening the door to STDs and unwanted pregnancy. A person may not be able to make a sound decision while under the influence of alcohol, becoming then so overwhelmed by a craving, that they decide to share a needle, putting themselves at risk for HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B and C.
Predisposition to violence — As crack can foster aggressive tendencies, paranoia, and even hallucinations, a person may come to believe that their peers or those around them are out to get them, a small disagreement may become blown out of proportion. As a person’s judgement, rational, and inhibition are decreased from the alcohol, they be more quick to engage these other people in a contentious or violent way, endangering themselves and those around them.
Mental health standing — Both drugs cause depression and anxiety; together, these disorders may become even more severe, leading a person to consume more drugs in an attempt to squash these debilitating symptoms, increasing the risk of addiction. A person’s suicide risk may also climb.
Birth defects — If a mother abuses alcohol or crack independently of each other while pregnant, she is at risk of having a child prematurely, and/or with severe birth defects, including Fetal alcohol syndrome, intense behavioral or cognitive issues, kidney problems, and even addiction (to crack), when combined the newborn child faces a combination of these risks.
Any drug abuse is dangerous and paves the path for addiction. Using two drugs together, especially alcohol and crack may damage critical mental and physical functions and even cause death; don’t take the risk.
Drug addiction warrants professional help and polydrug abuse and addiction even more so. In complex situations such as this, inpatient drug rehab may be best. Within these residential programs, you will have access to various behavioral therapies, including cognitive behavioral therapy, individual and group counseling, family support, unique treatment modalities or programs like wilderness or holistic based, and aftercare guidance and support.
We Can Help You Find Sobriety
Whether you’re struggling with alcohol, crack, a combination of both, or another drug—we can help you find resources for both you, and your family, to help support and direct you to the best treatment programs and support groups in your time of need. The road to recovery won’t be easy, however, it is possible. Let AlcoholTreatment.net help you find a sober and brighter path. Contact us today.
RETHINKING DRINKING — What are the risks?
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism — Alcohol’s Effects on the Body
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism — ALCOHOL’S DAMAGING EFFECTS ON THE BRAIN
Center of Substance Abuse Research — Crack Cocaine
American Heart Association — Illegal Drugs and Heart Disease