Alcohol and Cocaine
Some people take intoxicants in combination. One of the most common of these is alcohol and cocaine, where alcohol may be the gateway to cocaine as the drug of choice. Psychologically, people taking this combination often experience serious problems with regulating their emotions and actions and wreak havoc on their relationships. Physically, this is like driving your car with the gas pedal to the floor and your other foot on the brakes, and it risks even more devastating chemical addiction. People with this pattern are at much higher risk for serious health problems, troubles with the law, entanglements with criminals and gangs who traffic in cocaine, and the financial cost of a cocaine habit.
Cultural Myths about Alcohol
Several cultural myths about alcohol lead people to minimize its drug effects. Here are a few of them unmasked.
- Alcohol is natural, so it can’t be harmful. Alcohol is created in an age-old process of fermenting sugar with yeast. If it’s a naturally-occurring chemical, our bodies must be able to accommodate this, right? Well, consider other modes of food spoilage. If sugar is broken down by other organisms, such as salmonella, our bodies don’t handle this too well. Alcohol is a potent chemical that can kill in excessive doses.
- If it’s legal, it can’t be that dangerous. Consider the legal sale of cigarettes and the role of tobacco in heart and lung disease and cancer. We don’t need to go back to Prohibition, but let’s face it, some people have troubling controlling their ability to keep alcohol consumption within safe or healthy limits — especially those who self-medicate other problems or whose genetics make them more vulnerable to alcohol addiction. Heavy drinking makes people much more vulnerable to auto accidents, and over time, it can destroy the liver and cause Korsakoff’s dementia, where one can’t store new memories. And drinking doesn’t need to be continuous to cause dementia. We now know that binge drinking accelerates the onset and severity of dementia later in life.
- I can’t imagine celebrating without champagne! Alcohol has taken a central place in celebrations for thousands of years. At weddings, people drink toasts to the happy couple. In our culture, drinking has become a rite of passage into adulthood, when one reaches the “legal age.” People watch sporting events with a beer in hand. Are you able to celebrate without drinking? If not, what does this say about the power of familiarity? What kinds of social pressures would you face if you chose not to drink? And what about when those celebrations are ruined when drunken relatives embarrass themselves at weddings or when fights break out at sporting events?
- In vino veritas (in alcohol is truth). Most of us have seen someone who, after a few drinks, becomes much more emotionally expressive and may say or do things that reflect wishes they had previously hidden. Some incorrectly interpret this disinhibition effect as showing one’s true self. But “true self” is more nuanced and subtle than this. Its expression requires the interaction of many aspects of personality, including the person with a fully functioning brain who plans, organizes, weighs consequences, and chooses among conflicting wishes. To further disprove the contention that the unmasking effects of alcohol reveal one’s true self, consider the fact that alcohol may sometimes unmask positive feelings and sometimes negative ones. This is one of the reasons that couples who drink in order to better connect can easily get caught up in intense arguments.