A briefing paper 'Cocaethylene: responding to combined alcohol and cocaine use' has been produced by the AERC Alcohol Academy. The paper assesses the current understanding, data, trends and implications for public health and alcohol policy.
The briefing identifies that combined alcohol and cocaine use appears to be increasingly popular despite indications of significantly increased health and social risks. Combining alcohol and powder cocaine can form cocaethylene in the liver, a unique metabolite that can enhance the user's experience but significantly increase the risk of heart attack or sudden death. Its use has also been linked to other conditions and an increased risk of violence.
However awareness about cocaethylene and associated risks appears low; the paper recommends that both further research and policy recognition are needed. It identifies a role for alcohol and drugs policy to better respond to poly-use, both within the health & treatment and community safety fields. Although there is little evidence of specific treatment or intervention approaches for combined use, it appears there is scope within existing approaches to better respond to combined use. There may be opportunities particularly within the alcohol field and through the delivery of brief interventions (or 'IBA'), whilst primary powder cocaine treatment indicates positive outcomes for combined users.
The Academy has been developing a cocaethylene training course to develop knowledge and explore treatment responses for combined users, and is working with experts to explore and develop further research on the subject. If you are interested in training or have further information on combined alcohol and cocaine use, please get in touch.