If a person who uses cocaine is prescribed an antibiotic, their body cannot fight the infection as well because of the reduced immune system response.

Cocaine lowers the body’s ability to fight infections by harming certain parts of the immune system. Long-term cocaine users are more likely to have hepatitis B and C, HIV and sexually transmitted infections. While some of this is due to increased prevalence of risky behaviors among those who abuse cocaine, it is also caused by a reduced immune system response. The body cannot fight infections effectively when cocaine is used.

Article at a Glance:

Cocaine and antibiotics do not directly interact

However, cocaine can damage the lining of the respiratory system, allowing bacteria to enter the body faster and cause infection

Cocaine also reduces the body’s ability to fight infection by reducing immune response, making antibiotics less effective

Cocaine use is never recommended, but it should be especially avoided during an active infection

Cocaine hinders the ability to fight infection by:

  • Lowering levels of IL-6, an important protein of the immune system
  • Reducing sleep or eating, which lowers immune response
  • Affecting the ability to take the medication as prescribed

Relationship Between Cocaine and Antibiotics

On the other hand, cocaine directly affects our body and how it works by changing levels of neurotransmitters in the brain. Because cocaine and antibiotics work in such different ways, there is no direct interaction between the drugs.

However, it is important to consider the fact that cocaine lowers the body’s immune system which fights infection. If a person who uses cocaine is prescribed an antibiotic, their body cannot fight the infection as well because of the reduced immune system response. Because of this, cocaine should not be used during an infection. Always let your doctor know if you are taking other substances.

Side Effects of Mixing Cocaine and Antibiotics

There is no direct interaction between cocaine and antibiotics themselves. There are no effects that occur with the combination that isn’t present when each drug is used separately. Rather, the issue is that cocaine disrupts the immune system and reduces the ability of antibiotics to treat an infection properly.

The body’s first line of defense against infections is a physical barrier that prevents bacteria from entering the body. This defense is known as the mucous membrane and includes the lining of the mouth, nose, throat, and lungs. Snorting or smoking cocaine damages this lining and increases the chance of infections in the respiratory system. This risk includes upper respiratory tract infections in the nose and throat as well as pneumonia or bronchitis in the lungs.

Cocaine also harms the body’s second line of defense, the immune system, which is a group of cells, organs, and tissues that target infection. Specifically, cocaine reduces how well a protein called interleukin-6, or IL-6, responds to infection. IL-6 is a vital component of the immune system. When a foreign substance such as bacteria enters the body, IL-6 recruits and directs other components of the immune system to attack the foreign cells. With cocaine use, lower quantities of IL-6 respond to the foreign substance, reducing overall immune response. In other words, cocaine prevents your body from producing a strong immune response to the infection.

Cocaine may also keep you from sleeping or eating properly, which harms the immune system. Lack of sleep and malnourishment are known to reduce immune response. Additionally, cocaine could hinder your ability to take the antibiotic as prescribed. Cocaine has strong mental effects which could cause you to miss a dose of the antibiotic or take it incorrectly. This effect can prevent or prolong healing.

Avoid using cocaine because of the drug’s many negative consequences. However, it is especially important to avoid use during an active infection as it lowers the body’s ability to fight infection and may make antibiotics less effective. You should let your doctor know that you use cocaine if you are prescribed an antibiotic.

If you or a loved one live with a cocaine addiction, consider seeking professional help. Contact The Recovery Village to speak to a representative today. Learn how individualized treatment programs work to address addiction and any co-occurring mental health disorders. You deserve a healthier future, call today.

Thomas Christiansen
Editor – Thomas Christiansen
With over a decade of content experience, Tom produces and edits research articles, news and blog posts produced for Advanced Recovery Systems. Read more
Nathan Jakowski
Medically Reviewed By – Nathan Jakowski, PharmD
Nate Jakowski is a clinical pharmacist specializing in drug information and managed care. He completed his Doctor of Pharmacy degree at the University of Wisconsin. Read more

Zickler, Patrick. “Cocaine May Compromise Immune System, In[…]se Risk of Infection.” The Endowment for Human Development, February 2004. Accessed April 15, 2019.

Fox, Helen et al. “Immune system inflammation in cocaine de[…]ications development.” Wiley, March 5, 2012. Accessed April 15, 2019.

Ackermann, K et al. “Diurnal rhythms in blood cell population[…]in healthy young men.” National Institute of Health, July 1, 2012. Accessed April 15, 2019.

Bourke, Claire et al. “Immune Dysfunction as a Cause and Conseq[…]ence of Malnutrition.” Published June 2016. Accessed April 15, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.