ClickCease Dangers of Mixing Alcohol & Drugs - Granite Recovery Centers

Dangers of Mixing Alcohol & Drugs

Authored by Granite Recovery Centers    Reviewed by James Gamache    Last Updated: September 4th, 2021


James Gamache Medical Reviewer
Jim is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) and Licensed Masters Level Addictions Counselor (MLADC). He has been working in the field of mental health/addiction treatment since 1995. Jim earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services from Springfield College in 2000, and a Masters Degree in Social Work from Boston University in 2002. In 2002 Jim was hired by the Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester holding the position of Clinical Case Manager. From 2004-2019, Jim was employed at WestBridge Inc. During his time at WestBridge, Jim held the following positions; Clinician, Team Leader, Director, & Chief Operations Officer. In 2019 Jim transitioned employment to GateHouse Treatment Center as the Clinical Director for 10 months. In October of 2020 Jim transitioned to Granite Recovery Centers and is currently serving as the Senior VP of Clinical Services and Quality Assurance.

Alcohol is the most commonly used and abused intoxicant in the world. Many people who drink will drink to excess. It’s also common for these individuals to mix over-the-counter and prescription medications and illegal drugs with alcohol. The decision to mix drugs and alcohol can have long-term consequences up to and including coma and death.

When individuals mix drugs and alcohol, one of three things may happen:

  • The effect of the drug is enhanced
  • The drug and alcohol cancel each other out
  • The drug and alcohol combine to form an entirely different substance

Whether the mixed drug is obtained over the counter, illegally, or prescribed, the results of mixing any drug with alcohol can, in certain situations, be fatal. At the very least, mixing drugs and alcohol damages the human body in different ways. These effects can be biological, physiological, and psychological.

These are some of the effects of commonly used drugs mixed with alcohol and their physiological effects on the body.

Alcohol and Adderall

Many Adderall patients are mistakenly under the impression that taking this substance and alcohol together is generally safe. It is a common misconception that the stimulant properties of Adderall cancel out the depressant qualities of alcohol. In reality, when combined, the harmful properties of both drugs are enhanced, which can cause damage to the heart, leading to increases in blood pressure, an elevated heart rate, arrhythmia, and risk of heart disease, heart attack, or stroke.

Alcohol and Antibiotics

There are more than 100 antibiotics on the market, and each one has a different interaction with alcohol. Since both alcohol and antibiotics are metabolized in the liver, you can put yourself at a high risk of liver damage with this mix. Many antibiotics will fail to work, rendering them ineffective in fighting the infections they were prescribed for. When you mix antibiotics with alcohol, you may experience nausea and vomiting, an elevated heart rate, shortness of breath, dizziness, and fatigue.

Alcohol and Antidepressants

The combination of alcohol and antidepressants is a dangerous mix. The user will feel a higher level of intoxication and might find themselves fighting more intense emotions. Alcohol may also limit the effectiveness of the antidepressant treatment by eliminating the positive effect of the antidepressant.

Alcohol and Antihistamines

When you mix alcohol and antihistamines, alcohol may minimize antihistamines’ effectiveness. Alcohol can also be responsible for exacerbated side effects in some types of antihistamines.

Alcohol and Cocaine

The combination of alcohol and cocaine leads to a rarity. When these two substances are mixed, they produce a third chemical called cocaethylene. Cocaethylene is a dangerous chemical because it causes more cardiovascular over-activity than any other combination of drugs. Ultimately, the stress placed on your heart is so intense that it could lead to cardiac arrest and death.

Alcohol and Caffeinated Energy Drinks

Combining alcohol and highly caffeinated energy drinks can deceive your body into believing that it is less intoxicated and not as drowsy. This deception can lead to a dangerous increase in alcohol consumption. Energy drinks are also known to facilitate dehydration, putting you at risk for alcohol poisoning and significant hangovers. According to the CDC, this combination will leave you more impaired than you feel and put you at higher risk for alcohol-related accidents and injuries.

Alcohol and Ecstasy

Ecstasy, also known as MDMA, brings the user a feeling of euphoria accompanied by some physical impairments. Alcohol reduces both of these effects. When alcohol and ecstasy are combined, the damage to the human body can be substantial. Alcohol and ecstasy together can cause severe dehydration, leading to kidney damage. Ecstasy and alcohol share a significant trait of lowered inhibitions, making the user more prone to risky behavior. The combination of the two gives the user a false sense of being less impaired, which leads them to imbibe in increased quantities of both substances. This increased consumption places the user at a higher risk of alcohol poisoning and ecstasy overdose.

The contents of MDMA change with each person who manufactures it. This variability adds risk because nobody knows the exact components. Various components of MDMA on the street can increase the dangers of the drug and its interaction with alcohol. What is known is that most ecstasy overdose deaths are shown to have alcohol in the system. Ecstasy and alcohol overdoses present as heart failures, seizures, and comas.

Alcohol and Opioids, Both Legal and Illicit

The classification of opioids includes heroin and the drugs fentanyl, Vicodin, and Percocet. Mixing alcohol with opioids magnifies the depressive properties of both substances. Users find themselves more sedated than they normally would from drugs or the alcohol and can suffer from depressed breathing, leading to respiratory or organ failure, coma, and eventual death. Milder side effects of the combination of alcohol and opioids include:

  • Abnormal behavior
  • Dehydration
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of coordination
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Brazen lack of inhibition
  • Respiratory arrest

In considering the opioid factor, we must recognize a growing problem. A potent form of fentanyl made outside of legal pharmaceutical manufacture is far deadlier than the original legal form. This version of fentanyl has been introduced into other street drugs, including MDMA and meth, and combined with heroin to make it even more lethal. The market for this fentanyl came about as a response to the opioid crisis, reducing access to legal opioids.

Mixing alcohol and drugs

Alcohol and Marijuana

When alcohol and marijuana are mixed, the consequences can be severe, including dizziness, enhanced intoxication, decreased function, and paranoia. Combining these two substances can produce disorientation, leading to an increased rate of accidents and errors due to impaired rational thinking and slowed reflexes. Ultimately, the greatest danger of mixing alcohol and marijuana is the impact on the central nervous system. Other common side effects include memory loss, compromised judgment, impaired coordination and problem-solving, and extreme changes in emotional behavior.

Alcohol and Hallucinogens

The primary danger of mixing alcohol with hallucinogens such as LSD, mescaline, or psilocybin is similar to other substances. The user never really knows what they are taking because other substances can contaminate some drug components. Even if the purity of the hallucinogen is confirmed, hallucinogens mixed with alcohol can cause significant digestive issues such as cramping, nausea, and vomiting. With the hallucinogen factor, the user can behave erratically as they might be visualizing things that do not exist. Users might also suffer from severe depression that can last an extended time and potentially lead to suicide.

Alcohol and Methamphetamine

Methamphetamine, also known as meth, is a dangerous stimulant that gives the user feelings of focus and euphoria. Behaviors such as looser inhibitions, sexual promiscuity, and violence are common with both alcohol and meth. When the two are combined, these behaviors are stronger than when the substances are used alone. While both substances can promote similar behaviors, they differ in one being a stimulant and the other a depressant. As seen with other substances, combining the two can increase the quantities taken of both substances to obtain a better high. Physically, blood pressure and heart rate become elevated. Ultimately, the combination of alcohol and meth can cause severe damage to the kidneys.

The Challenges of Treating Multiple Addictions

It is not uncommon for an individual to enter rehab treatment with an addiction to multiple substances. These cases are complicated because detox protocols are specialized towards specific substances. When multiple substances are involved, withdrawal symptoms are magnified. Detox can be precarious with multiple addictions. Standards for treating detox for one substance might work against the detox for a second substance.

When individuals seeking addiction treatment first arrive at the rehab facility, they will be medically evaluated by licensed physicians. The person will first enter a detox program where they go through medically monitored and supervised withdrawals from the substance of choice. Detox usually lasts for 7 to 10 days; however, it can last longer in certain situations. Trained professionals will set up a specific plan during the intake session. After detox, the individual is moved to the inpatient treatment program, where the more intensive addiction treatment begins. Granite Recovery Centers provides medical detoxification for people who do not need immediate medical intervention, are not a danger to themselves, and are capable of self-evacuation in the event of an emergency.

Granite Recovery Centers

The Granite Recovery Center treatment program is successful in treating many different addictions. We have the facilities and the experienced staff to address the needs of those with multiple addictions. Following time spent in detox, an individual will have support to go every phase of the treatment and drug rehab process, up to and including sober living and aftercare.

Our evidence-based treatment program is successful due to its alignment with traditional 12-step practices. The founders of Granite Recovery Centers bring the knowledge gained from their own experiences in recovery and the desire to help others.

Our facilities are located in tranquil atmospheres that enhance the treatment process. Throughout treatment, the individuals in recovery learn to practice new, healthier behaviors to replace their addiction-related former activities. Our extended staff includes experienced medical, psychiatric, and support personnel to guide each person on a customized path toward recovery. We realize that no two individuals are the same and that each individual has different needs for the amount of time they need to spend in the inpatient program.

Individualized Programs

At Granite Recovery Centers, we believe that everyone’s needs are different, and there should not be a set limit going for how long they will need to spend in the residential program environment. Some patients only need a 28-day program, whereas others might need to be there for 90 days or beyond. While not necessarily recommended as a starting point for multiple addictions, our intensive outpatient program is a strong second step in the recovery process following inpatient treatment.

Once the individual is ready to leave inpatient or intensive outpatient treatment, they will still need organized treatment activities such as attending meetings, counseling, or group therapy. There will still be times of weakness when an individual in recovery is tempted to use drugs or alcohol again. It is in their best interest to be surrounded by others who share a focus on sobriety. Our sober living and aftercare programs are designed to help each person build a foundation toward a sober lifestyle.

If you are struggling with addiction to alcohol, drugs, or both, you deserve professional help to reclaim your life. Get in touch with Granite Recovery Centers today to learn more.

At Granite Recovery Centers, we want to provide accurate information about health and addiction so that our readers can make informed decisions.

We have credentialed medical doctors & clinicians who specialize in addiction treatment review the information on our website before it is published. We use credible sources such as government websites and journal articles when citing statistics or other medically related topics.