Mixing Alcohol and Recreational Drugs

Those addicted to recreational drugs and alcohol face a dangerous combination of potentially lethal effects. Alcohol can dramatically increase the effects of many narcotics and psychoactive drugs commonly used for recreational purposes. These drugs include substances that range from depressants to stimulants and hallucinogens. If you suspect that a loved one is addicted to recreational drugs and alcohol, call us at 1-888-287-0471 Who Answers? for more information on this dangerous combination. You can also fill out our confidential contact form for a list of local resources available in your area.

Prevalence

Alcohol contributes to one in 30 deaths worldwide, according to a report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The report also indicates that 21 percent of Americans admitted drinking more than three alcoholic beverages each week on average. Alcohol is not listed in the Controlled Substances Act, and it is regulated by state governments. The drug is readily available as an over-the-counter beverage for anyone in the United States over the age of 21. “Those addicted to recreational drugs and alcohol face a dangerous combination of potentially lethal effects.” Narcotics and psychotropic drugs commonly used for recreational purposes are typically rated on a series of schedules ranging from Schedule I to Schedule V under the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule I drugs are typically illegal to obtain or possess in the United States and have no current medical purpose. Drugs with this classification typically bear very high or unexplored addictive properties. Schedule V drugs may be readily available for medical purposes, but typically have dramatically lower addictive properties when used alone. The use of alcohol can increase the likelihood of dependence or addiction to drugs from all five schedules.

Combination Effects

mixing drugs and alcohol

Alcohol causes a combined drug interaction with most narcotic and psychoactive drugs. It is known to boost the euphoric effects or feelings of invincibility commonly associated with stimulants and some mild psychotropic drugs. It also increases the sedative effects of narcotics that depress the central nervous system, enhancing the feelings of numbness and the pain-suppression aspects of these medications. The combination of alcohol with stimulants, such as amphetamines, can result in a roller coaster ride of highs and lows that may lead to serious physical or psychological harm for those addicted to recreational drugs and alcohol. The combination of alcohol and depressants can result in dramatically increased primary effects as well, leading to respiratory distress or dangerously low heartbeats as the central nervous system responds to the presence of the multiple drugs. Inebriation caused by alcohol can cause those under the effects of hallucinogens or other psychotropic drugs to act out the fantasies created by the secondary substances.

Adverse Effects

The adverse side effects of alcohol and recreational drugs are also enhanced in combination. The typical short-term effects of alcohol include:

  • Shortened attention span
  • Impaired judgment
  • Impaired muscle coordination
  • Blurred vision
  • Emotional lability
  • Analgesia
  • Ataxia
  • Central nervous system depression

These effects typically increase as blood alcohol content levels rise, but they can also be dramatically affected by mixing alcohol and recreational drugs. Depressants may dramatically increase the effects of these adverse effects for those addicted to recreational drugs and alcohol. Stimulants often mask the impaired judgment or muscle coordination, leading to accidental injury. Psychoactive drugs may combine with the blurred vision and emotional lability to create delusional effects that cause an abuser to believe in dangerous fantasies and easily accept hallucinations as reality.

Combined drug intoxication (CDI) is a real risk with all of these combinations. CDI occurs when the negative effects of one or more drugs combines with alcohol to trigger lethal chemical imbalances. The reason for the lethal toxicity may vary based on the specific combination of recreational drugs and alcohol used. For more information on the effects of mixing drugs and alcohol and the side effects associated with many of these substances, please contact our confidential 24-hour hotline at 1-888-287-0471 Who Answers? or fill out our secure contact form.

Treatment

Doctors and other medical professionals should prescribe a detoxification method that directly addresses both the effects of alcohol and the recreational drugs abused by the patient. Most detoxification centers will also perform psychological screenings designed to identify or eliminate the presence of co-occurring disorders that may affect the complicated detoxification and recovery processes faced by those addicted to recreational drugs and alcohol. Rehabilitation may involve vocational and social training designed to help former addicts better adjust to the rigors of society and learn to live a drug-free lifestyle. Some centers may offer outpatient services for rehabilitation that include group therapy or regular visits with a psychiatrist or highly specialized counselor trained to deal with the issues of those addicted to recreational drugs and alcohol.

Factoid:

  • Combining amphetamines with alcohol during strenuous physical activity can trigger lethal adverse effects.
  • Long-term effects of alcohol abuse include heart and blood disease, dementia, tremors, stroke, and liver disease.
  • Combined drug intoxication does not require the presence of illicit drugs. Alcohol may combine with caffeine, tobacco or other less regulated recreational substances in the systems of those addicted to recreational drugs and alcohol.
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