Effects of concurrent use of alcohol and cocaine

Addiction. 2002 Jul;97(7):773-83. doi: 10.1046/j.1360-0443.2002.00158.x.


The combination of alcohol and cocaine is popular among drug users, perhaps because of more intense feelings of 'high' beyond that perceived with either drug alone, less intense feelings of alcohol-induced inebriation and tempering of discomfort when coming down from a cocaine 'high'. A review is presented of the medical literature on psychological and somatic effects and consequences of combined use of alcohol and cocaine in man. The search was carried out with Medline, the Science Citation Index/Web of Science and Toxline. Exclusion and inclusion criteria for this search are identified. There is generally no evidence that the combination of the two drugs does more than enhance additively the already strong tendency of each drug to induce a variety of physical and psychological disorders. A few exceptions must be noted. Cocaine consistently antagonizes the learning deficits, psychomotor performance deficits and driving deficits induced by alcohol. The combination of alcohol and cocaine tends to have greater-than-additive effects on heart rate, concomitant with up to 30% increased blood cocaine levels. Both prospective and retrospective data further reveal that co-use leads to the formation of cocaethylene, which may potentiate the cardiotoxic effects of cocaine or alcohol alone. More importantly, retrospective data suggest that the combination can potentiate the tendency towards violent thoughts and threats, which may lead to an increase of violent behaviours.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol-Related Disorders / complications*
  • Cocaine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Cocaine / metabolism
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / complications*
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Interactions
  • Drug Synergism
  • Health Surveys
  • Heart Rate / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Violence / psychology


  • cocaethylene
  • Cocaine