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Addiction Behavior Glossary

Cocaine’s Part in the Drug Epidemics

3 months, 3 weeks ago

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Posted on Jan 26, 2022, 4 a.m.

Understanding the widespread use of cocaine is an important issue, but it’s also a complex one. During the 1970s and 1980s, cocaine was viewed as one of the most dangerous drugs on the street, at the center of illegal drug trafficking into the United States. However, throughout the close of the 20th and into the 21st century, the danger of cocaine has been eclipsed in favor of new trends of abuse like opioids, methamphetamines, and benzodiazepines. But is cocaine a fading fad, or does it continue to play a role in the ongoing drug epidemics? Here’s what you should know about the use of cocaine alongside other dangerous drugs.

Cocaine as a Mixer

Cocaine is a CNS (central nervous system) stimulant drug that is known to be highly addictive. This drug has limited official medical applications, so the widespread use of cocaine today is almost entirely illicit. The statistics of cocaine use over the last few years have continued to show a slight increase, but this increase is almost unnoticeable compared to the significant increase in other illicit drug use. In some ways, this suggests that cocaine use is being eclipsed by other drug choices on the market. 

However, this can also suggest the growing rate of drug mixing and drug cutting as a key factor to understanding the nature of cocaine use today. While drug cutting is often done by a dealer as a way to save money and is not always known by the buyer, drug mixing is an attempt to develop drug cocktails that combine various drugs for the strongest effects possible. Cocaine is a key player in this scenario, and this is what makes the risk of cocaine overdose highly possible and deadly.  

Cocaine Combined with Opioids and Meth

Cocaine is a popular drug to combine with opioids, such as heroin, oxycodone, and fentanyl. When these euphoric and pain-relieving drugs are used along with cocaine, the resulting drug mixture is called a speedball. While this name has traditionally been used to describe the combination of heroin, in particular with cocaine, it can include any combination of stimulant and a depressant. Many people use this “recipe” for a unique drug combination, with both drug types highly increasing the intensity of stimulation and relaxation. However, it also has claimed the lives of countless people, including many celebrities

While cocaine is commonly mixed with opioids, it is also used transitionally with methamphetamines. Many cocaine users switch to meth because of its lingering effects, easier accessibility, and affordability by comparison. Because cocaine and meth are both highly addictive, some users never quit using cocaine. Instead, they only end up adding meth to their consumption list.  Due to the highly addictive nature of both cocaine and meth, both stimulants are used simultaneously, especially because of the different ingestion methods possible (smoking, snorting, etc.).  

Cocaine Combined with Benzos

Benzos are not yet associated with the phrase “drug epidemic” like opioids and methamphetamines, but this does not mean that they are any less dangerous. In fact, a recent study from Yale argues that benzos are well on their way to causing a new drug epidemic if no intervention occurs. Benzos include antidepressants such as Xanax that work to produce a calming effect. Often, those who experience anxiety will use benzos to counteract feelings of worry or fear.

But the tendency is especially dangerous when benzos are used as a way to counteract the anxiety produced by the use of cocaine. When cocaine is mixed with benzos, the outcome is especially dangerous. When “uppers” are mixed with “downers,” it causes a strain on the heart as the two drugs’ effects are working against each other. Additionally, turning to illicit benzos as a way to counteract a cocaine binge can be lethal since fentanyl is commonly used as a cutting agent or even posing as “fake” benzo pills entirely. This makes overdose a potential danger. 

Complications from Cocaine 

While the issue of opioid, methamphetamine, and benzodiazepine usage remains a very serious threat to public health, it is hard to understate the impact of cocaine among these drug epidemics. In these examples, cocaine is either an ingredient for opioid speedballs, a gateway to using methamphetamines, or an unwanted drug that users try to offset by using benzos. However, each case poses the threat of cocaine addiction and the additional problems to personal health that cocaine usage causes. If you are struggling with cocaine addiction, it is vital to seek professional help, especially in order to avoid the danger of these drug interaction examples.

This article was written by Kevin Morris from the Delphi Behavioral Health Group, a dedicated family of facilities committed to offering individualized treatment for all levels of addiction working to treat it at its core to provide those suffering with the tools to start a journey of long-lasting recovery.

As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before making any changes to your wellness routine.

Content may be edited for style and length.

Materials provided by:

DOJ (1989). America’s First Cocaine Epidemic. Retrieved https://www.ojp.gov/ncjrs/virtual-library/abstracts/americas-first-cocaine-epidemic

SAMHSA (2021, August 9). Rise in Prescription Drug Misuse and Abuse Impacting Teens. Retrieved https://www.samhsa.gov/homelessness-programs-resources/hpr-resources/rise-prescription-drug-misuse-abuse-impacting-teens

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NIH (2019, October). How is Methamphetamine Different From Other Stimulants, Such as Cocaine? Retrieved https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/how-methamphetamine-different-other-stimulants-such-cocaine

Yale Medicine (2019, December 11). Are Benzodiazepines the New Opioids? Retrieved  https://www.yalemedicine.org/news/benzodiazepine-epidemic

Delphi Health Group (n.d.). Mixing Xanax & Cocaine: Dangers & Safety Info. Retrieved https://delphihealthgroup.com/benzodiazepines/xanax/and-cocaine/

Delphi Health Group (n.d.). Guide to Cocaine Addiction and Treatment. Retrieved https://delphihealthgroup.com/cocaine/

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