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Mixing Alcohol with Other Drugs

Learn how certain drugs and medications interact with alcohol… and just how dangerous these interactions are.

10
minute read

ARTICLE OVERVIEW:This article will guide you through the side effects and potential dangers of mixing alcohol with different kinds of drugs.


ESTIMATED READING TIME: 7 minutes


TABLE OF CONTENTS

Mixing Alcohol and Other Substances

Many substances interact with alcohol. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant and has the potential to negatively interact with all classes and types of substances. This includes prescription drugs, illicit drugs, and over-the-counter medicines. The results? Potentially serious medical consequences.

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When an interaction happens, it changes the way that you process the two substances. It also changes the effects of the two.Basically, many alcohol-drug interactions can be harmful and toxic to your body.To understand the real risks, you need to understand what happens. Basically, there are two main types of interactions possible:

1. A pharmacokinetic interaction, when alcohol interacts with the metabolism, absorption, and excretion of the other substance.
2. A pharmacodynamic interaction, when alcohol intensifies the effects of the substance. [1]

Most prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines are safe and effective when used as directed. But many of these drugs contain an ingredient that can adversely interact with alcohol. How can you be sure you’re safe?

Avoiding alcohol when you’re taking medication is the best protection against possible side effects. Learning about the potential dangers can also help. But if you’re not sure how a medication interacts with alcohol, avoid drinking and consult with a doctor or a pharmacist.If you mix alcohol and other substances… you put yourself or others at risk.

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Is Mixing Alcohol with Drugs Dangerous?

Yes!

It can trigger dangerous interactions and lead to serious physical and psychological consequences

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If someone has mixed alcohol and drugs, they should be closely monitored. Although it can look different depending on the drugs in question, in general, the symptoms that can manifest from mixing alcohol and other substances drugs include:

  • Bluish lips
  • Breathing problems
  • Cold skin
  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Loss of coordination
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting

These are all signs of an overdose.Overdose happens when you have more alcohol and drugs in your bloodstream than your body can handle, and your life supporting functions begin to shut down. [2] If left untreated, an overdose can lead to permanent brain damage,heart failure internal bleeding and death.

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Can Combining Alcohol and Drugs Kill You?

Without a doubt, yes!

Overdose, accidents, risky behavior, are all possible when you combine alcohol with drugs.The deadly interaction between alcohol and drugs generally involves breathing arrest. Even mixing booze with a seemingly harmless over-the-counter medicines like an allergy medicine can lead to overdose. What are the main drugs to be aware of?

  • Anti-anxiety medications
  • Illicit drugs
  • Over-the-counter meds
  • Painkillers
  • Stimulants

…when mixed with alcohol…can all impair you to the point of death.

Basically, any medication which can make you sleepy can have a deadly interaction with alcohol.

Play it safe and don’t mix alcohol with other drugs.

Substances Commonly Mixed with Alcohol

Hundreds of commonly used prescription, over-the-counter medicines and illicit drugs may adversely interact with alcohol.The following list will give you insight about some common drugs mixed with alcohol, and the interactions they have.Have in mind that this list is not inclusive, and many other drugs can interact dangerously with alcohol. Always read the warning labels before you drink.

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Adderall, Ritalin, and Rx Stimulants

Any stimulant mixed with alcohol is unsafe because alcohol is a depressant and stimulants trigger the opposite effect. Simulants make you feel more alert. So, they can conceal the effects of alcohol. When you mix them, you are unable to know when you’ve reached a dangerous level of intoxication.

The main drugs to beware of are Adderall and Ritalin. These are central nervous system stimulants and prescribed to people suffering from ADHD.The common side effects of mixing alcohol with Adderall, Ritalin and other Rx stimulants include:

  • Convulsions
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Heart problems
  • Impaired concentration
  • Liver damage
  • Stroke

Allergy Medicine

Allergy medicines are central nervous system depressants, the same as alcohol. The combination of the two can impair your motor skills, cause increased sleepiness, sedation and increase the risk for overdose. Also, alcohol will decrease the efficacy of the medicine, which will prolong the allergy symptoms.

The side effects include:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Impaired motor skills
  • Increased risk for overdose
  • Sleepiness [3]

Although small amounts of alcohol may not cause harm, the safest way to take allergy medication is to avoid drinking alcohol completely. If you’ve mixed alcohol and allergy medicine you should rest and wait for the effects to subside.Never mix alcohol and antihistamines before driving, because driving requires mental alertness.

Antibiotics

Antibiotics are used for treating infections. When combined with alcohol they may cause:

  • Convulsions
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Flushing or redness of the face
  • Headache
  • Liver damage
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain,
  • Sudden changes in blood pressure
  • Vomiting

Alcohol can also reduce the effects of the antibiotics. [4] Always read the warning label, and consult with a doctor if you plan to drink while on antibiotics therapy.

Benzos

Benzos are used to treat anxiety disorders. They are usually safe if taken as prescribed, but mixed with alcohol can have profound and dangerous effect. Specifically, alcohol and benzodiazepine have a synergistic depressant effect on the central nervous system, meaning that they increase each other’s effect. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the potentially dangerous effects include:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Impaired motor control
  • Increased risk for overdose
  • Memory problems
  • Slowed or difficulty breathing
  • Unusual behavior

Caffeine

Caffeine can conceal the depressant effects of alcohol, and make you more alert. This can be dangerous because you may not be aware about your level of drunkenness, thus risking alcohol poisoning and injury. Further, it is a myth that caffeine will reduce the effects of alcohol and sober you up, because it doesn’t affect the metabolism of alcohol in the liver. [5]

Cocaine

Cocaine is the ultimate stimulant. It is highly addictive and dangerous by itself. When mixed with alcohol it has a potential for a dangerous interaction, and unpredictable consequences.

Due to cocaine’s ability to mask the perception of intoxication, its use can lead to excessive drinking and alcohol poisoning.This could encourage someone to violence and driving while under the influence, which can be dangerous to the self and other people. While alcohol is a sedative, the stimulant effects of cocaine can increase the user’s heart rate, which could potentially be dangerous.

The side effects of mixing coke and alcohol can include:

  • Aggression
  • Anxiety and paranoia
  • Constricted blood vessels
  • Cravings
  • Dilated pupils
  • Energetic high
  • Heart palpitations
  • High blood pressure
  • High energy and mental alertness
  • Increased body temperature
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Restlessness,
  • Risk-taking behavior

Cold or Cough Medicine

Cold or cough medicines don’t require a prescription and can contain more than one ingredient that can interact with alcohol. The sedative effects of alcohol can be increased with the use of these medicines, and you risk side effects like:

  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Dizziness
  • Liver problems
  • Shortness of breath

Read the label on the medication bottle to avoid unwanted side effects.

Energy Drinks

Mixing alcohol and energy drinks is especially popular among youth. But drinking this combination can be dangerous. Just like the other stimulants, energy drinks can mask the effects of alcohol, and make you more alert and unaware about how drunk you are.

The physical and psychological effects of mixing energy drinks with alcohol include:

  • Anxiety
  • Feeling tense or agitated
  • Heart palpitations
  • Panic attacks
  • Risk of alcohol poisoning
  • Sleeping problems

Gabapentin

The primary use of Gabapentin is treating seizures. Gabapentin affects the nervous systems and when mixed with alcohol, it doubles its depressant effect.

Although death is extremely rare consequence, when taken together, alcohol will limit the effectiveness of the Gabapentin and the combination of the two drugs is likely to result in serious side effects, such as:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Falls and injuries
  • Increased risk of seizures
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Unusual behavior

Avoid or limit alcohol consumption while taking gabapentin, and always consult with your prescribing doctor.

Marijuana

Marijuana and alcohol is one of the most used drug combinations, which in some cases can end fatally.Marijuana and alcohol are both depressants and enhance each other’s effect, having a major impact on the central nervous system. This can lead to unpredictable and different reactions.

If you drink and smoke at the same time you also risk death by alcohol poisoning. Marijuana has an antiemetic properties, meaning that it can prevent vomiting which can be life-saving if you drink too much. [6]

Other side effects include:

  • Anxiety
  • Changes in emotional behavior
  • Compromised judgment
  • Concentration severely drops down
  • Decreased attention, perception and memory
  • Impaired motor coordination, thinking and problem solving
  • Memory loss
  • Nausea
  • Paranoia

Never mix marijuana and alcohol. If you do, and experience adverse side effects, ask for a medical help immediately. Also, this risk – taking behavior may be a sign of a bigger problem like addiction or dependence, so you may also consider some addiction treatment options.

MDMA, Molly, or Ecstasy

Another dangerous and potentially lethal combination.

Ecstasy is a drug that is rarely used alone, and is often mixed with alcohol. It has stimulant and hallucinogen effects. When combined with the depressant effects of alcohol, MDMA sends conflicting messages to the brain, making you unable to determine your level of intoxication or well – being. side effects can be life threatening and require immediate medical attention.

The resulting psychical and psychological side effects of mixing alcohol with ecstasy include:

  • Dehydration
  • Impaired thinking
  • Increased heart rate
  • Liver and kidney damage
  • Memory problems
  • Overheating
  • Risky behavior
  • Sleeping problems

Meth

Meth is a powerful central nervous stimulant that can be swallowed, snorted or injected. It produces euphoria, increased energy and heart rate.Alcohol, on the other hand, is a central nervous system depressant which produces slowed breathing and heart rate, drowsiness and impaired cognitive functions.

Meth and alcohol use can lead to serious, negative physical and psychological consequences, especially if taken in high doses. They include:

  • Breathing problems
  • Confusion
  • Inability to determine the level of intoxication
  • Increase risk of overdose
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Paleness or bluish skin color indicating hypothermia
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting [7]

Mushrooms

Mushrooms are powerful psychedelics and should not be mixed with other mind-altering drugs like alcohol. The effects and potency of hallucinogenic mushrooms varies greatly among users, ranging from positive to extremely negative experiences. But, it is without doubt that, the mushroom “trip” can make profound psychological changes on the person.

Alcohol is sometimes taken to lessen the unpleasant effects of psilocybin, but mixing them together can make you sick and make the whole episode more unpredictable. Commonly reported effects of drinking while taking mushrooms include:

  • Changes to the way that you hear things
  • Changes in the way things look to you
  • Delusions
  • Paranoia
  • Loss of control
  • Sleepiness
  • Nervousness
  • Nausea
  • Unusual tastes in the mouth
  • Feeling like you cannot get up or move
  • Flashbacks

Think twice before you take these drugs together. Although not physically addictive, with time you can build tolerance to mushrooms and become physically addictive. Mixing drugs together may be a sigh of an addiction. If you need help quitting don’t hesitate to call us.

Painkillers

Painkillers are the most abused drugs in the U.S. If you take prescription painkillers regularly, you risk a dangerous drug interaction every time you drink alcohol.The simultaneous use of alcohol and painkillers can be a deadly, because alcohol enhances the opioid effects of painkillers. Both drugs can damage the brain and have numerous side effects, such as:

  • Abnormal behavior
  • Cardiovascular instability
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Coma
  • Dehydration
  • Dizziness or loss of coordination
  • Irregular heart rate and rhythm
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Marked disinhibition
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Respiratory arrest

Always consult with your prescribing doctor before drinking alcohol while on pain killer opioids or opiates.

Sleeping Pills

All sleeping pills labels warn against mixing alcohol and sleeping pills.The sedative effects of both drugs can produce numerous side effects including risk of overdose and death.

Usual side effects include:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Impaired motor control
  • Memory problems
  • Sleepiness
  • Slowed or difficulty breathing
  • Unusual behavior

Is Mixing Booze and Drugs a Sign of a Problem?

Yes, drinking and using drugs is a definite sign of a problem.

Venturing into a risky behavior and making dangerous combinations of drugs can be a sign of a problem. One of the biggest dangers of mixing drugs and alcohol is building up a tolerance. You will need to take more to get the same effects.

Also, you may find yourself thinking about getting your next fix more often, and have problems controlling your impulses. These are signs of an addiction.

If you or someone you know have a drug or alcohol problem, needs help…take hope! Medical treatment exists to get you out of a cycle of drinking and drugging. You don’t need to do it alone. Just give us a call. We’ll explain the features of reputable rehab…and get you started on the road to recovery.

Treating Addictions

The first step to treating an addiction is a successful detox. Many people drink so much that they become alcohol-dependence. Medical detox helps ensure that you stop drinking safely. Once detox is completed, a full continuum of care should follow to ensure your healing from the disease of addiction.

With the right mindset, and a dedicated team of professionals, you can get better.

Give us a call today and get back on the right track.

You deserve a life without the need for drugs.

The Time for Treatment Is Now

Drinking too much can damage the brain. Mixing alcohol with drugs, both legal and illegal, can lead to dangerous side effects and addiction.

Alcohol and substance abuse disorders should not be self-treated.

Instead, a specialized alcohol and drug treatment center can help you achieve a long-lasting recovery. A good treatment center will lead you through the recovery process with the help of professionals. Addiction is a medical condition. It requires medical intervention.

You can get better.

Give us a call today.

We understand addiction. Our non-judgmental operators are waiting for you call. We can help you start the journey to recovery and live the life that you deserve.

Reference Sources: [1] National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism:Alcohol and Medication Interactions
[2] National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: Understanding the Dangers of Alcohol Overdose
[3] National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: Mixing Alcohol with Medicines
[4] National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: Alcohol Alert
[5] The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Fact Sheets – Alcohol and Caffeine
[6] Psychology Today: The Dangers of Combining Alcohol and Marijuana
[7] Addiction Blog: Mixing meth with alcohol
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.

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