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Mixing Alcohol And Meth | Effects & Dangers

Published on September 1, 2021
Mixing Alcohol And Meth | Effects & Dangers

Misuse of any psychoactive or habit-forming substance can be harmful, especially at high doses or over a long period of time. 

Polysubstance abuse, or the act of misusing or different substances in combination, can be even more devastating. Mixing alcohol and meth can accelerate the damage of each substance individually and greatly increase the risk of dangerous and unpredictable short-term effects.

Short-Term Effects Of Mixing Alcohol & Meth

Alcohol and methamphetamine, also known as crystal meth, are two very different substances with different, and in some ways, contradictory effects.

Short-Term Effects Of Alcohol Misuse

When a person drinks excessively in a short period of time, known as binge drinking, alcohol can initially act somewhat like a stimulant by triggering the release of dopamine, before shifting and acting as a relatively potent depressant.

Short-term effects of excess alcohol consumption include:

  • impaired decision making, coordination, and reflexes
  • acute inflammation of the liver, stomach, and pancreas
  • irregular heartbeat
  • dehydration and low electrolyte levels
  • inhibited gag reflex
  • hypoglycemia
  • amnesia and blackouts

Once the effects of alcohol intoxication wear off individuals may experience a range of symptoms known collectively as a hangover. These symptoms commonly include:

  • difficulty sleeping
  • fatigue
  • weakness
  • thirst
  • headache
  • muscle aches
  • nausea
  • stomach pain
  • vertigo
  • sensitivity to light and sound
  • anxiety
  • irritability
  • sweating
  • increased blood pressure

Alcohol poisoning is a dangerous potential side effect of drinking alcohol in excess. In some cases, it can result in coma or death due to alcohol’s effects on a person’s breathing, heart rate, body temperature, and gag reflex 

Short-Term Effects Of Meth Abuse

Methamphetamine, which is metabolized by the body into amphetamine, is a powerful stimulant drug that accelerates central nervous system (CNS) activity, even after a small dose. 

This surge trips a surge of dopamine in the brain, which is felt like a euphoric rush and pleasurable high that immediately primes the mind to crave and seek out repeated meth use in the future.

Other short-term effects of using methamphetamine include:

  • hyperactivity and wakefulness
  • bizarre or violent behavior
  • decreased appetite
  • increased respiration
  • rapid/irregular heart rate
  • high body temperature

However, once a methamphetamine high wears off, the physical and mental effects of a meth crash can be profound, with many reporting:

  • total exhaustion, often leading to long periods of sleep or severe sleep disturbances
  • intense drug cravings
  • agitation, restlessness, and confusion
  • anxiety or depression
  • suicidal ideation
  • symptoms of psychosis

Methamphetamine abuse can also be fatal, as the drug is able to cause overdose complications such as heart attack, stroke, seizures, kidney failure, and overheating.

Alcohol/Methamphetamine Effects In Combination

When used in combination, the effects of alcohol and methamphetamine can be unpredictable.

Alcohol can have initial effects resembling those of a stimulant before transitioning to overall depressant effects. 

It is also known to interfere with the body’s metabolism of methamphetamine, increasing the concentration of methamphetamine and amphetamine in the bloodstream following meth use.

These effects may enhance the overall potency of methamphetamine, further impairing a person’s consciousness and increasing the risk of serious side effects such as: 

  • agitation
  • mood disturbances
  • hallucinations
  • violent behavior
  • cardiovascular effects

The stimulant effects of meth may also counteract the depressant effects of alcohol and vice versa, causing a person to overestimate their true condition. This puts individuals at an increased risk of either alcohol poisoning or methamphetamine overdose.

Long-Term Side Effects Of Alcohol Abuse & Meth Addiction

The physical and mental health effects of chronic alcohol/methamphetamine combination substance abuse can be extremely destructive. Each drug enhances the damage done by the other substance individually. These effects are known to include:

  • accelerated development of severe substance use disorder (SUD), comprising both psychological addiction and physical dependency
  • withdrawal symptoms when drug use is discontinued
  • brain damage, including damage to memory, attention, and learning 
  • psychosis, including paranoia, hallucinations, and repetitive motor activity
  • personality changes, mood disturbances, depression, or anxiety
  • aggressive or violent behavior
  • impaired motor skills and coordination
  • tooth decay and severe dental problems
  • dehydration and malnutrition
  • reduced immune function
  • increased risk of harmful infections
  • long-term sleep disturbances
  • unhealthy weight loss
  • organ damage, particularly the heart, liver, and kidneys
  • impotence, reduced fertility, and other sexual dysfunction
  • increased risk of developing cancer
  • miscarriage and developmental abnormalities during pregnancy
  • changes to appearance and overall health and energy
  • drastically reduced life expectancy and quality of life

Treating Polysubstance Abuse

While any form of addiction can be difficult or painful to address, cases of polysubstance abuse likely require professional care and close attention throughout the detox/tapering process and later stages of recovery. 

Ark Behavioral Health treatment providers working in our east coast treatment centers are specifically trained to provide this level of care for cases of polysubstance abuse.

To find out if you or a loved one are a good fit at one of our addiction treatment facilities, please connect with us today.

Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
This page does not provide medical advice.

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) - Methamphetamine DrugFacts
National Institute on Alcohol and Alcoholism (NIAAA) - Binge Drinking
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - Alcohol Use and Your Health
Journal of Addiction Research and Therapy - Alcohol Interactions with Psychostimulants: An Overview of Animal and Human Studies

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