What Happens When You Combine Alcohol With Other Drugs?

It is not uncommon for people to mix alcohol with drugs, some accidentally and some intentionally. People do so for several reasons, like prolonging the drug’s effects, enhancing the effects, or balancing out the two substances. This practice is extremely unsafe and can be life-threatening.

When consuming more than one substance, the body must determine how to metabolize them. The process delays eliminating one of the substances, causing it to remain in your blood longer, ultimately creating more intense and dangerous effects.

Mixing Alcohol With Over-the-Counter Medicines

Before purchasing over-the-counter medications to treat allergies, colds, mild pain, and the flu, it’s critical to know how they interact with alcohol if you are someone who drinks.

Over-the-counter medications produce varying symptoms, including drowsiness, restlessness, jitteriness, and sweating. When taken in excess, a person may experience nausea, vomiting, confusion, paranoia, and stomach pain.

Some over-the-counter medications increase the effects of alcohol, while alcohol may decrease or increase medicinal effects. Potential risks of mixing alcohol with over-the-counter medications include:

  • Gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Liver damage
  • Impaired ability to function
  • Poisoning

  • Respiratory issues
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of coordination
  • Loss of consciousness

Mixing Alcohol With Marijuana

Alcohol and marijuana produce similar effects, such as initial pleasure or euphoria and sedation. They also impair cognition and motor functions.

Misuse of either of these substances can lead to an increased tolerance, meaning someone must use more of the substance to achieve the same effects. Increasing use of alcohol and marijuana alters healthy brain development in teenagers and young adults.

Anyone mixing alcohol and marijuana can experience symptoms of each substance as well as symptoms that result from their combination. Examples of common symptoms include:

  • Slower reaction time
  • Slurred speech
  • Paranoia
  • Distorted vision and perception

  • Lower inhibitions
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Blackouts
  • Withdrawal symptoms

Studies from the Drug and Alcohol Dependence Journal show combining alcohol and marijuana can also increase external risks, such as:

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Mixing Alcohol With Cocaine

Cocaine is a stimulant that produces symptoms of rapid heartbeat, paranoia, and several other negative side effects. The effects typically only last about half an hour.

The combination of cocaine and alcohol creates a psychoactive metabolite called cocaethylene. A mixture of these two substances is the only combination that creates a new substance within the body. A person can expect more intense and longer-lasting psychoactive effects, which also increase the chances of a cardiovascular event.

It takes the body much longer to metabolize the combination of alcohol and cocaine. Initial use of the mixture may produce pleasurable, euphoric results. However, eventually, a person may experience:

Mixing Alcohol With Opioids

Prescription opioids aid in pain relief and can be highly addictive in a short period. One reason is that tolerance and dependence can develop quickly. Although a person needs more of the opioids to feel the effects, their doctor is not likely going to prescribe a higher dose. Many people begin misusing their prescriptions to achieve the desired results.

Mixing alcohol with opioids is dangerous because both drugs are central nervous system depressants. When taken together, a person experiences double the effects of:

  • Drowsiness
  • Slurred speech
  • Loss of motor functioning

  • Nodding in and out of consciousness
  • Slowed breathing and heart rate
  • Itching or scratching behaviors

The potential for accidental overdose increases drastically when mixing alcohol with opioids.

Mixing Alcohol With Hallucinogens

Hallucinogens may include psychedelic and dissociative drugs. Examples include LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, ketamine, and ecstasy. They are often known as club drugs.

Many people choose to misuse hallucinogens and sometimes do not know how much of a substance they are consuming. For some, the effects are extreme and dangerous, especially when mixed with alcohol. People may experience symptoms of alcohol misuse and the following:

  • Intense sensory reactions
  • Hallucinations
  • Disconnection from the body
  • Extreme emotional responses

  • Altered perceptions and thought patterns
  • Digestive problems
  • Headaches
  • Confusion

Although rare, long-term misuse can lead to kidney failure, heart valve disease, urinary tract issues, and Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD).

Mixing Alcohol With Amphetamines

Amphetamines refer to illicit drugs like methamphetamine and prescription stimulants for attention deficit hyperactivity disorders. Mixing alcohol with amphetamines may confuse the brain since amphetamines tell it to produce stimulant effects, while alcohol signals sedating effects.

Amphetamines and other stimulants increase heart rate and breathing, resulting in excessive sweating and the inability to relax or sleep. Additionally, a person may become aggressive, easily agitated, hostile, or psychotic.

Mixing alcohol with amphetamines can lead to the following:

  • Serotonin syndrome
  • Tics
  • Circulation problems
  • Heat intolerance
  • Violent behavior
  • Sexual promiscuity
  • Overdose

Mixing alcohol with methamphetamine can be life-threatening, as the combination puts extreme pressure on the heart and dramatically raises blood pressure.

Mixing Alcohol With Caffeine

Some people may consume energy drinks in hopes of having more energy. They contain a high amount of caffeine, which increases heart rate and breathing and reduces fatigue temporarily. Noticeable effects of mixing alcohol with energy drinks containing caffeine include:

  • Restlessness
  • Increased saliva
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Insomnia
  • Decreased coordination

  • Muscle twitching
  • Rambling thoughts and speech
  • Chest pain
  • Cardiac arrhythmias
  • Motor skill impairments

Other effects include a false perception of intoxication, meaning a person feels less intoxicated than they are. This may make a person want to drink more alcohol than they can handle, leading to dire consequences.

Mixing Alcohol With Antidepressants

Alcohol and antidepressants magnify the impacts of each other, meaning someone may feel more intoxicated than they would otherwise. Alcohol can also negate the effect of the antidepressant, eliminating the desired outcomes and possibly limiting the success of treatment. This combination can also cause unexpected and extreme emotions due to how the substances alter neurotransmitter communication in the brain.

Treating Co-Occurring Addictions

In many cases, a person may be addicted to alcohol and other substances at the same time. This poses extra challenges during treatment because the patient will have more specialized needs. In particular, detox can be especially challenging and dangerous, as withdrawal symptoms from both substances can be exaggerated. It is critical that patients who are addicted to alcohol and other substances detox under the supervision of a professional because of the many serious and potentially fatal impacts that can occur.

These individuals may also benefit from an inpatient or outpatient treatment program, where they can create support systems and learn coping skills necessary for long-term recovery.

Find Treatment Today

If you are mixing alcohol with other drugs and are worried about the effects, help is available. Search our rehab directory or contact a treatment provider to explore your treatment options.