When you’re caught in the grip of addiction, it can be easy to make poor decisions that endanger your health – like the all-too-common practice of mixing alcohol and drugs. If you’re inebriated, you might combine substances without even thinking about the consequences. However, some people intentionally drink and do drugs at the same time in pursuit of an amplified high. Whether deliberate or accidental, drinking alcohol while under the influence of any type of drug – illicit, prescription, or over-the-counter – can put your life in grave danger.

The risks of mixing alcohol and drugs

Alcohol is a depressant, meaning it inhibits activity in your central nervous system and slows down your brain function. It also has the potential to negatively interact with any other substance you ingest, changing the way your body processes it. This can intensify the impact of certain drugs, create unexpected side effects, and cause you serious harm.

According to a study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 14% of alcohol-related visits to the emergency room involved a drug interaction, and combining alcohol with drugs increased the likelihood of being admitted to the hospital after an ER visit. Furthermore, research suggests that combining drugs and alcohol can raise your risk of a deadly overdose.

How alcohol interacts with different drugs

While all drug and alcohol interactions are dangerous, different drugs generate different side effects. Some drugs that are commonly combined with alcohol include:

  • Benzodiazepines

Anti-anxiety medications, like Xanax and Valium, are also central nervous system depressants. Taking them with alcohol can compound the depressant effect of each, leading to intense drowsiness, labored breathing, or possible coma.

  • Stimulants

Prescription stimulants, like Adderall and Ritalin, or illicit stimulants, like cocaine, can lessen the feelings of intoxication caused by alcohol. Since you can’t feel yourself getting drunk, this can cause you to drink more than your body can reasonably handle, resulting in alcohol poisoning and dangerous heart rate spikes.

  • Sedatives

Also known as sleeping pills, many people knowingly take alcohol with sedatives in order to make the drugs “more effective” and fall asleep faster. This is extremely dangerous, as the combined effect can slow down necessary life-sustaining brain functions, such as blood pressure and breathing.

  • Opioids

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that prescription painkillers, like Vicodin and OxyContin, are responsible for around 68% of drug overdose deaths in the United States. Taking these drugs with alcohol greatly increases the risk of an overdose by depressing the respiratory system and causing irregular heart rhythms.

Signs you may have a problem with drugs and alcohol

Every time you mix drugs and alcohol, you take your life in your hands. If you can’t stop, you may be struggling with a substance abuse problem. Some other signs that you’re battling addiction include:

  • Difficulty completing daily tasks

  • Trouble holding down a job

  • Losing interest in once-beloved pastimes

  • Preoccupation with obtaining and using drugs and alcohol

  • Lying to friends and family members about your drug or alcohol use

  • Stealing or borrowing money to pay for drugs

  • Engaging in risky behavior when on drugs or alcohol

  • Increased tolerance to drugs or alcohol

  • Inability to stop using due to physical discomfort (withdrawal)

Conquer your addiction at Alvarado Parkway Institute in San Diego

The sooner you get help for your addiction, the greater your chances are for a successful recovery. At Alvarado Parkway Institute, we’re committed to helping you overcome your struggles with drugs and alcohol. Through our comprehensive inpatient or intensive outpatient treatment programs, we work with you to design an individualized plan for recovery, providing you with the tools you need to pursue a life of sobriety.

For more information on how Alvarado Parkway Institute can help you conquer your addiction, call us at (619) 485-1432.