Cocaethylene, simultaneous alcohol and cocaine use, and liver fibrosis in people living with and without HIV

Javier A. Tamargo, Kenneth E. Sherman, Rafick Pierre Sékaly, Rebeka Bordi, Daniela Schlatzer, Shenghan Lai, Jag H. Khalsa, Raul N. Mandler, Richard L. Ehman, Marianna K. Baum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The simultaneous consumption of cocaine and alcohol results in the production of cocaethylene (CE) in the liver, a highly toxic metabolite. Prior research suggests that cocaine use contributes to liver disease and its concomitant use with alcohol may increase its hepatotoxicity, but studies in humans are lacking. We evaluated the role of cocaine, its simultaneous use with alcohol, and CE on liver fibrosis. Methods: We performed a cross-sectional analysis of the Miami Adult Studies on HIV (MASH) cohort. Cocaine use was determined via self-report, urine screen, and blood metabolites, using liquid chromatography with tandem mass spectrometry. Hazardous drinking was determined with the AUDIT-C and liver fibrosis with the Fibrosis-4 Index (FIB-4). Results: Out of 649 participants included in this analysis, 281 (43.3%) used cocaine; of those, 78 (27.8%) had CE in blood. Cocaine users with CE had higher concentrations of cocaine metabolites in blood and were more likely to drink hazardously than cocaine users without CE and cocaine non-users. Overall, cocaine use was associated with liver fibrosis. CE in blood was associated with 3.17 (95% CI: 1.61, 6.23; p = 0.0008) times the odds of liver fibrosis compared to cocaine non-users, adjusting for covariates including HIV and HCV infection. The effect of CE on liver fibrosis was significantly greater than that of cocaine or alcohol alone. Conclusions: CE is a reliable marker of simultaneous use of cocaine and alcohol that may help identify individuals at risk of liver disease and aid in the prevention of its development or progression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number109273
JournalDrug and Alcohol Dependence
StatePublished - Mar 1 2022


  • Cocaethylene
  • Cocaine
  • Liver disease
  • Liver fibrosis
  • Substance abuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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