According to Sascha Strupp, strategic analyst for drug trafficking at the EU law enforcement agency cocaine traffic from South America to Europe has reached “record amounts”. “Corona did not have any influence on smuggling” Strupp said, calling the narcotics trade a “growing market.”
According to Europol, most cocaine currently reaches Europe via the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain.
In the first half of 2020, more than 25,000 kilograms (55,116 pounds) of cocaine were seized in the port of Rotterdam, more than double of what was found in the same period of 2019 – a year in which the 34,000 kilograms of confiscated cocaine had already been a record. Dutch police last month found the largest cocaine laboratory ever discovered in the Netherlands, which was processing around 200 kilograms of cocaine per day!
As previously discussed, London already has a cocaine problem – a 23kg a day problem.
The capital’s cocaine use is staggering. More than the combined consumption of Berlin, Amsterdam and Barcelona, recent reports peg the total daily usage as equal to approximately 600,000 lines every day. Worse still, the city’s usage of the drug is consistent across the week, with only a small rise in the weekend. The issue is widespread, damaging and perpetual.
Worth over one billion Pounds per year and with a daily street value close to three million Pounds, the health consequences of increasingly potent cocaine use are felt across the capital by its users – and the friends, peers and loved ones affected by its addiction, dependency and use
Cocaine + Alcohol = Cocaethylene
When a person uses both alcohol and cocaine, they create a very unique substance known as cocaethylene as result of the substances being metabolised in the liver.
Evidence suggests that cocaethylene is produced in the liver about two hours after an individual has used the two drugs. Studies suggest that about 20 percent of the cocaine being metabolised in the liver is impacted by alcohol (producing cocaethylene), and when the liver attempts to eliminate the cocaethylene it has produced itstill leaves about 20 percent of the cocaethylene remaining in the system. As individuals continue to drink alcohol, this continued alcohol consumption begins to disrupt the elimination of cocaethylene in the liver, and it begins to pass from the liver into the bloodstream where it can affect a number of tissues and organs.
Effects of Cocaethylene
The effects of cocaethylene in the liver and bloodstream are more significant in those who use both alcohol and cocaine together on a regular basis; however, some of the effects, such as sudden heart attacks or impulsive behaviors, may even occur in occasional users who combine the two drugs.
Some of the effects of the production of cocaethylene include:
- Increased toxic effects: Cocaethylene is significantly more toxic than cocaine. Once the liver begins producing it, the chemical keeps being released and remains in the body up to three times longer than cocaine, resulting in increased potential for toxic effects such as sudden death. The fact that the purity of cocaine has increased dramatically over the past year heightens this risk.
- Increased risk of cardiovascular issues: Cocaethylene increases heart rate and blood pressure more than if cocaine was used without alcohol. In addition, it impairs the ability of the heart muscle to contract. In many cases individuals will experience this as pains in the chest and may think they are having a heart attack (and some are). The fact that there has been a 30% rise in hospital attendance from situations like this underpins just how prevalent this can be
- Increased risk for stroke: Cocaethylene has been muted and protagonist for increased risks for having a stroke.
- Increased potential for liver damage: Because of its significant toxicity, the presence of cocaethylene in the liver will add to the potential to develop liver damage. As we already know alcohol is well know for damaging the liver, adding cocaine to the mix only heightens this risk.
- One of the features found in using cocaine and drinking alcohol is that you can drink more without necessarily feeling the effects of the alcohol. Individuals who use cocaine and alcohol together will therefore often binge drink. As we have indicated in previous blogs binge drinking is associated with a number of issues, including liver damage, cardiovascular issues, alcohol poisoning and a quicker development of problematic drinking as this takes hold.
- Increased impulsivity: Cocaethylene increases both dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain which in turn increases the risk that an individual will engage in more impulsive behaviours, including potential violence.
How long does cocaine and alcohol stay in your system?
Often cocaine use can be detected in urine 48-36 hours after someone’s last use. When individuals mix cocaine and alcohol the cocaethylene created can stay around for weeks. This very much depends on how much is used and how it’s consumed but also how someone’s liver, pancreas, and kidney are functioning.
Signs of cocaine and alcohol tolerance
Tolerance is defined as a person’s diminished response to a drug that is the result of repeated use. Tolerance is a physical effect of repeated use of a drug, not necessarily a sign of addiction but is an early indication that someone is developing a problem. If you are using more to get an effect, then it’s an indication that you are heading into problematic use and likely addiction.
Signs of problematic cocaine and alcohol use
- Behaviour and mood changes
- Sleep deprivation
- Panic attacks
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weight loss
- Runny nose, nosebleeds
- Increased heart rate or blood pressure
It is commonplace amongst cocaine users to minimise the risks involved but cocaine use can be fatal.
Lucy White, a student from Bristol was just 24 when she died in hospital after a line of cocaine triggered a heart attack and then a coma. Unfortunately, she is one of many whose time ran out and did not have the opportunity to address things until it was too late.
The staff at Help Me Stop have all had problems with drugs or alcohol in the past, so we know first-hand how easy it is for your drinking and use of drugs to get out of hand. Equally we know, as psychotherapists, and through life experience how to beat it. As one of our former clients says we have a programme that helps you deal with your drug and alcohol issues and “deal with real life on life’s terms”.
Help Me Stop offers a free assessment, which we can do face to face or online. We also offer range of effective, intensive face to face and online programmes to address alcohol and drug use. Call us now on 0208 191 9191 or jump onto Live Chat/ contact us here.
Chris Cordell is Help Me Stop’s General Manager and is a senior associate member of the Royal Society of Medicine, Certified International Recovery Specialist, member of the International Society of Addiction Medicine and the Federation of Drug and Alcohol Professionals.