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Mixing Different Types Of Alcohol | Is It Really That Bad?

Published on July 16, 2021
Mixing Different Types Of Alcohol | Is It Really That Bad?

Beer, wine, and spirits are the three main types of alcohol. It is common advice to avoid drinking them together and to avoid mixing them together. Many people believe that mixing alcohol can lead to worse hangovers, more intense alcohol poisoning, and other negative effects.

There is evidence both for and against the idea that mixing different types of alcohol is riskier than single types of alcoholic drinks. 

Many studies show that the amount of alcohol consumed has a higher link to negative side effects and that drinking a large amount of alcohol often comes with mixing alcohol types. 

Keeping an eye on how much alcohol you drink, instead of the types, maybe more helpful in the long run.

Effects Of Mixing Alcohol On The Body

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that slows down activity in your brain. Mixing alcohol likely means introducing more alcohol into the body. The effects of alcohol will likely be stronger, similar to drinking more of a single type of alcohol.

The main ingredient in most alcoholic beverages is ethanol, which is responsible for most of the effects of alcohol on your body. The presence of other chemicals in various alcoholic drinks may have led to the belief that mixing alcohol is dangerous.

Congeners & Hangovers

Different types of alcohol have different congeners. Congeners are chemicals in alcohol that are added or created during fermentation and are often linked to symptoms of hangovers. Congeners such as methanol and furfural may be found in some, but not all, types of alcohol.

By mixing different kinds of alcohol, you may be unknowingly drinking higher amounts of congeners, which can lead to a more intense hangover, nausea, and dizziness the next day.

Mixing Alcohol & Drinking Too Much

Mixing alcohol likely involves higher amounts of alcohol consumption in one sitting. This may be true for both the amount and rate of alcohol consumption. Effects that may seem to be caused by mixing alcohol types may simply be due to drinking too much.

Drinking too much alcohol can cause side effects such as:

  • severe impairment
  • ​drowsiness
  • poor decision-making
  • decreased coordination
  • alcohol poisoning

Is Mixing Alcohol Riskier Than Drinking One Type?

Many of the effects of mixing alcohol can just be attributed to drinking alcohol too much. 

Despite common sayings such as “beer before liquor, never been sicker,” drinking different kinds of alcoholic beverages will probably not make you more intoxicated than drinking the same amount of one type.

Congeners can affect how intense your hangover is the next day, but may not affect how drunk you feel or damage your body like ethanol can. Up until now, little research has been done on how different types of alcohol interact with each other, if they interact at all.

Mixing Alcohol With Medication

Mixing alcohol with medications can be much more dangerous than mixing different types of alcohol together. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns patients on their labels not to mix alcohol with known high-risk substances.

Alcohol is known to cause drug interactions with many over-the-counter and prescription medications, including:

  • painkillers (opioids like Vicodin and Percocet and over-the-counter products like acetaminophen)
  • substances for high blood pressure
  • substances to treat high cholesterol
  • amphetamines (Adderall, Ritalin, Concerta)
  • anti-anxiety medications like benzodiazepines
  • antidepressants

Mixing alcohol with these substances can lead to a higher risk of liver damage, irregular heart rate, heart attacks, overdose, and other effects depending on the medication. 

Talking to your doctor about your drinking habits and history of medications can help you avoid these interactions.

Treating Alcohol Abuse

Mixing alcohol can be a sign that you drink large amounts of alcohol regularly. Consistent heavy drinking can lead to an alcohol use disorder in some cases, where your physical and mental health declines due to continued alcohol use.

A variety of treatment programs for alcohol use disorders are out there. These programs likely include undergoing therapy, managing withdrawal, and finding support groups. 

If you suspect yourself or a loved one may need treatment for their drinking habits, contact your healthcare provider or call us today.

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