Danger Of Mixing Drugs And Alcohol

Danger Of Mixing Drugs And Alcohol

Whether in the party scene or as part of an attempt to escape difficult emotions, polysubstance use is not uncommon among people facing drug and alcohol addiction. Mixing drugs and alcohol can prolong the high or deepen the effects of a drug, but it also poses serious risks to your health and safety. Many substances have life-threatening interactions when combined with alcohol, so understanding the risks can help to prevent a tragedy.

Mixing Alcohol And Medication

A 2020 study found that nearly six percent of Americans aged 12 or older admitted to misusing a prescription psychotherapeutic drug within the past year. Just over three percent of the same population admitted to misusing prescription opioid painkillers, a major contributor to the ongoing overdose crisis affecting the country. Despite being voluntarily reported by millions of people, this is only a small fraction of the real scope of prescription drug abuse. This harsh reality makes it all the more important to educate the public on the dangers of mixing alcohol and medications. 

Even over-the-counter medications, such as acetaminophen (commonly known as Tylenol) can lead to dangerous effects on the body if mixed with alcohol. For example, because both substances are broken down and processed by the liver, using both simultaneously can overwhelm your system and lead to liver failure.

A general rule of thumb is to avoid alcohol use while on any medication. However, for some this is more difficult to manage than others. If you have an alcohol use disorder or struggle with problem drinking, it’s even more important to be careful with medications, even those you can purchase without a prescription. Always read the label instructions on the package carefully, and ask your doctor or pharmacist about potential interactions for any medication with alcohol.

Negative Interactions with Drugs and Alcohol

Other drugs that are dangerous to mix with alcohol include:

  • Allergy medications
  • Heart medications containing nitroglycerin
  • Anti-anxiety or antidepressant medications
  • Cough syrup
  • Diabetes medication
  • High blood pressure medication 
  • Pain medications
  • High cholesterol medications
  • Mood stabilizers, and more

Alcohol And Depressants

What happens when you combine alcohol with a depressant like barbiturates or Benzodiazepine? 

Combining alcohol and depressants is a common but incredibly dangerous practice that results in thousands of hospitalizations and medical emergencies each year. Because Alcohol is also a depressant, drinking while on certain medications can compound the effects of these substance, causing serious symptoms like:

  • Slow or labored breathing
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Unconsciousness and difficulty remaining conscious
  • Slurred speech
  • Pale skin and low body temperature
  • Lack of coordination
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Excessive sweating
  • Seizures

Using alcohol and depressants can greatly increase your risk of a fatal overdose. In some cases symptoms may not be immediately apparent or occur during your sleep, greatly diminishing your chances of receiving life-saving care. This is especially true for those who may live alone or who are hiding their drinking to conceal an alcohol use disorder. If you are struggling to stop drinking even when you know the risks of using alcohol while taking your medication, it may be time to seek help from a licensed and accredited alcohol addiction treatment center like Discovery Point Retreat.

Alcohol And Cocaine

Alcohol and cocaine is another common combination, especially among young people. This is due to the ready  availability of both substances in the club or night-life scene where they’re often used to liven up the party and kick things up a notch. Using alcohol can trigger cravings in cocaine users who then fall into a cycle of abuse with potentially lethal consequences.

Why do people use cocaine and alcohol at the same time? The high of cocaine use can cut through the drunken haze of alcohol consumption, helping users to ‘sober up’ a bit before they indulge in more alcohol. Some also believe using cocaine after heavy drinking helps to stave off the withdrawal effects of a hangover the next day. In reality, cocaine does nothing to actually purge your system of alcohol but can actually increase your risk of developing alcohol poisoning. Additionally, when cocaine and alcohol are used simultaneously they combine in the bloodstream to create Cocaethylene, which causes serious stress on the heart and liver and may cause brain damage. 

People under the effects of both cocaine and alcohol may be more prone to violence or reckless behavior which may lead to serious legal consequences or a dangerous altercation. They may also report ‘blacking out’ and being unable to remember anything for large chunks of time, leaving them vulnerable to assault, robbery, or worse.

Alcohol And Benzos

As previously mentioned, benzodiazepines are categorized as a depressant, primarily used to treat anxiety disorders, seizures and epilepsy, and assist with insomnia. Ironically, benzodiazepines can also be used to treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms. However, this must be done under careful observation in an addiction treatment setting as drinking alcohol while using benzodiazepines can be a lethal combination.

Using both alcohol and benzos at the same time can increase your risk for adverse affects like:

  • Seizures
  • Heart attack or stroke
  • Psychosis
  • Suicide
  • Delirium Tremens
  • Hallucinations
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Gastrointestinal distress

Even if you’ve never experienced any of the symptoms before while using alcohol and benzodiazepines, that doesn’t mean you’re out of the clear. Long-term effects include organ damage, cognitive impairment, neurological conditions, and increased risk of developing dependence. If you are already experiencing signs of alcohol addiction or benzo dependence, this risk is further increased. Getting professional help through proper addiction treatment can help mitigate your risks of further physical or psychological damage.

Alcohol And Marijuana

Alcohol and marijuana is also a common combination. Although marijuana is considered much safer than the other substances on this list, mixing marijuana and alcohol can lead to concerning side effects such as:

  • Increased paranoia and anxiety
  • Impaired coordination
  • Delayed reaction time
  • Increased risk taking behaviors
  • Poor decision making, such as drinking and driving or unprotected sex
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Increased risk of developing dependence

While these may not seem particularly dangerous when compared to other potential drug interactions, it’s important not to minimize the risks of drinking and marijuana use. One impaired decision can easily derail the rest of your life– or end it. Your future is never worth the risk.

Staying Safe

Harmful interactions from polysubstance can present serious health risks. If you find yourself struggling with drinking and drug use and you need help, reach out to us today.


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