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The Risks of Combining Alcohol and Drugs

Whether drugs are prescription, illicit, or over-the-counter, mixing them with alcohol can be extremely harmful and, in some cases, lethal. Alcohol is a depressant and combining it with other drugs or medications can easily disrupt the body’s ability to regulate itself. When combines with other depressants, the threshold for overdose becomes much lower and can quickly lead to respiratory failure and death.

Combining alcohol with other drugs does not give one equal effects of each substance. Rather, the each substance intensifies the effects of the other, leading to severe health problems. According to the University of Michigan’s University Health Services, “Depressants (Xanax, Valium) combined with alcohol have a synergistic effect, with potential for dangerous and even lethal consequences, with rapid onset of dizziness, stumbling, loss of sphincter control, memory loss and potential death.” Combining alcohol with opioids or other central nervous system depressants can severely slow one’s heart rate and breathing, leading to death.

Alcohol and stimulants like adderall or cocaine can also cause heart problems. Strokes and convulsions are common side effects of alcohol and stimulants. According to The Better Health Channel, stimulants can mask the effects of alcohol, meaning “you won’t feel as affected by the alcohol as you really are, and this can lead you to make poor decisions such as drinking much more than you usually would and engaging in potentially dangerous behaviours like driving.” Cocaine and amphetamines also cause the body to use more oxygen, while alcohol can lower one’s breathing rate, resulting in a heightened risk of overdose.

Alcohol and cocaine is a particularly dangerous combination. When the two substances are combined, they create a third substance in the body called cocaethylene. According the Journal of Addictive Diseases, “Concurrent use of cocaine and alcohol produces another psychoactive substance known as cocaethylene which has pharmacological properties similar to that of cocaine but which has a plasma half-life three to five times that of cocaine.” Cocaethylene can cause seizures, liver damage, and disrupt the functioning of the immune system. There is also “an 18- to 25- fold increase over cocaine in risk for immediate death.”

Most fatal overdoses involve more than one substance. Even over-the-counter and prescription medications can cause dangerous reactions when combined with alcohol. Common antidepressants, for example, can cause drowsiness, dizziness, increased feelings of depression, and liver damage when combined with alcohol. Even common pain and fever medications like Tylenol and Advil can cause stomach bleeding, ulcers, and liver damage when taken with alcohol. This is not a comprehensive list of the potential harmful interactions of alcohol and medications. If one chooses to drink, it is extremely important to research any potential complications that may result from medications or other drugs.

Your life can become one of happiness, joyousness, and freedom in sobriety. You can make the decision to seek help now and begin building a brighter future. Resilient House, located in beautiful Shreveport, Louisiana, brings together behavioral and addiction specialists, spiritual guides, and holistic experts to help clients heal from the damage caused by addiction and alcoholism. For information about treatment options, please call today: (833) 242-6431