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  • Mixing Alcohol With Other Substances | Polysubstance Abuse

    Mixing Alcohol With Other Substances | Polysubstance Abuse

    Alcohol can cause serious health problems, such as liver damage, alcohol use disorder (also called alcohol addiction), and overdose (also called alcohol poisoning).

    You face a much greater risk of alcohol-related problems if you mix the drug with other substances. 

    Mixing Alcohol With Other Substances

    People mix alcohol with a wide variety of substances, including illicit drugs and prescription drugs. 

    However, the most common substances that are used while drinking alcohol include

    Central Nervous System Depressants

    Central nervous system (CNS) depressants are substances that slow down your central nervous system. The most common CNS depressants are:

    • opioids, which include prescription medications and painkillers like hydrocodone, oxycodone, and codeine, as well as the illegal drug heroin
    • benzodiazepines, which include clonazepam (Klonopin), diazepam (Valium), and alprazolam (Xanax)
    • non-benzodiazepine sleeping pills, which include zolpidem (Ambien), eszopiclone (Lunesta), and zaleplon (Sonata) 
    • barbiturates, which include secobarbital (Seconal), phenobarbital (Luminal), and amobarbital (Amytal Sodium)

    Combining CNS depressants with alcohol is extremely dangerous. 

    That’s because alcohol is a CNS depressant itself. When you use two or more CNS depressants at once, your brain activity, breathing, and heart rate may slow down to a dangerous degree. You may then experience an overdose that can cause brain damage, coma, or death.

    Other potential side effects of mixing alcohol with CNS depressants include:

    • drowsiness
    • dizziness
    • memory loss

    Stimulants

    Stimulants are substances that speed up your central nervous system. There are both prescription stimulants and illegal stimulants.

    Popular prescription stimulants include amphetamine (Adderall), methylphenidate (Ritalin), and lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse). These drugs can treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy. 

    Popular illegal stimulants include cocaine and methamphetamine (meth)

    If you mix stimulants with alcohol, you may experience problems such as:

    • nausea
    • vomiting
    • dizziness
    • high blood pressure
    • loss of control of behavior, which can lead to aggression and violence
    • kidney damage
    • liver damage
    • heart problems
    • seizures
    • stroke
    • heart attack

    You’ll also face an increased risk of overdose. That’s because alcohol can mask the effects of stimulants, while stimulants can mask the effects of alcohol. To heighten the effects, a person may use much larger amounts of the substances than they normally would. 

    Some stimulants pose additional risks of harmful drug interactions. For example, when you mix cocaine and alcohol, your liver forms a substance called cocaethylene. This substance can cause seizures and liver damage. It can also weaken your immune system.

    Hallucinogens

    Hallucinogens are substances that alter your thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. They can make you hallucinate (see, hear, or feel things that aren’t there) and dissociate (feel disconnected from your body).

    Popular hallucinogens include:

    • LSD (also called acid)
    • psilocybin mushrooms (also called magic mushrooms or shrooms)
    • ketamine (also called K or Special K)
    • mescaline (also called peyote)
    • MDMA (also called ecstasy or molly), which also has stimulant effects

    When you mix hallucinogens with alcohol, you may experience:

    • nausea
    • vomiting
    • dizziness
    • drowsiness
    • headache
    • extreme dehydration
    • excessive sweating
    • heat stroke
    • liver damage
    • heart problems
    • seizures
    • stroke

    In addition, since both alcohol and hallucinogens impair your judgment and self-awareness, you may drink much more than you normally would. This increases your risk of overdose.

    Also, alcohol can intensify the effects of a “bad trip” (an unpleasant experience while taking a hallucinogen). These effects may include panic, depression, and frightening hallucinations.

    Over-The-Counter & Prescription Medications

    Many medications interact negatively with alcohol. 

    For example, you may experience drowsiness, dizziness, and increased risk of overdose if you drink alcohol while taking:

    • antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl), hydroxyzine (Atarax), and loratadine (Claritin) 
    • cough, cold, and flu medicines, such as dextromethorphan (Delsym), pseudoephedrine (Sudafed), and guaifenesin (Mucinex)
    • nausea medicines, such as meclizine (Antivert), dimenhydrinate (Dramamine), and promethazine (Phenergan) 

    Other medications that shouldn’t be mixed with alcohol include:

    • antidepressants, as alcohol can make depression worse
    • mood stabilizers, which can cause problems like tremors, irregular bowel movement, and depression when mixed with alcohol
    • blood pressure medications, which can cause arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) when mixed with alcohol
    • diabetes medications, which can cause rapid heartbeat and abnormally low blood sugar levels when mixed with alcohol
    • high cholesterol medications, which can cause liver damage, increased flushing and itching, and stomach bleeding when mixed with alcohol
    • over-the-counter pain medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil), which can cause stomach upset, liver damage, and rapid heartbeat when mixed with alcohol

    Other Drugs

    Another drug that’s often combined with alcohol is marijuana (also called cannabis). 

    When you mix these drugs, you may experience anxiety, paranoia, sweating, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting. You’ll also face a higher risk of alcohol overdose. That’s because marijuana can decrease nausea and prevent you from vomiting alcohol out of your system. 

    Finally, many people mix alcohol with tobacco. 

    This behavior increases your risk of certain cancers, including cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx (throat), larynx, and esophagus. That might be because tobacco contains cancer-causing chemicals, and alcohol can help those chemicals enter cells in your mouth, throat, and esophagus. 

    If you or someone you love struggles with alcohol abuse or addiction, please contact an Ark Behavioral Health specialist. Our substance abuse treatment centers provide medical detox, mental health counseling, and other recovery-focused services.

    FAQ

    Can You Drink Alcohol While Taking Antibiotics?

    Some antibiotics have very serious interactions with alcohol, and some have no known interaction at all. Always check with your doctor before drinking if you’re on antibiotics.

    Even if you’re taking an antibiotic that isn’t believed to interact with alcohol, here are several reasons you may want to avoid alcohol anyway:

    • alcohol can worsen antibiotic side effects
    • alcohol can decrease antibiotic effectiveness
    • drinking can slow down the body’s healing process
    • alcohol can interfere with how your body breaks down antibiotics

    Learn more about Mixing Antibiotics And Alcohol

    What Happens When You Mix Gabapentin With Alcohol?

    When you combine gabapentin with alcohol, serious symptoms may occur. Because gabapentin and alcohol are both central nervous system (CNS) depressants, they can cause excessive drowsiness, confusion, and significant impairment.  

    Learn more about Mixing Gabapentin And Alcohol

    Is It Safe To Drink Alcohol On Viagra?

    Drinking alcohol and taking Viagra is likely safe for those who drink in small amounts or only in moderation. However, those who engage in excessive alcohol consumption may develop enhanced side effects they experience from Viagra. 

    It is not recommended to drink while taking Viagra, but a glass of wine has shown to pose no threat. Always consult with your doctor before combining medications and alcohol. 

    Learn more about Combining Alcohol With Viagra

    Can You Drink Alcohol On Steroids?

    Drinking alcohol while on steroids is not recommended because it can cause mood swings and increase the risk of multiple health problems like high blood pressure and stroke.

    Learn more about Mixing Steroids And Alcohol

    What Happens When You Mix NyQuil & Alcohol?

    Serious side effects can occur when you mix NyQuil and alcohol together. Some of the side effects include hallucinations, rapid heart rate, and extreme drowsiness.

    Learn more about Mixing NyQuil With Alcohol

    Can You Drink Alcohol While Taking Meloxicam?

    It’s not recommended that anyone drink alcohol while taking meloxicam because of the risk of adverse side effects like gastrointestinal bleeding, high blood pressure, and ulcers.

    Learn more about Mixing Meloxicam And Alcohol

    Can You Drink Alcohol While Taking Naproxen?

    It’s not recommended that you drink alcohol while taking naproxen. It can lead to serious side effects such as stomach bleeding, gastritis, and heart issues.

    Learn more about Mixing Naproxen And Alcohol

    What Happens When You Mix Lithium & Alcohol?

    When Lithium and alcohol are combined, severe sedation can occur in the central nervous system (CNS) since both alcohol and Lithium cause sedative effects. In addition to this, combining alcohol and Lithium can make symptoms of depression worse.

    Learn more about Mixing Lithium And Alcohol

    What Happens When You Mix Alcohol & Accutane?

    Mixing alcohol and Accutane can lead to multiple side effects including dizziness, extreme dryness, and respiratory depression.

    Learn more about Mixing Alcohol And Accutane

    Can You Drink Alcohol While Taking Prednisone? 

    Alcohol may not directly interact with prednisone, but taking both at the same time can still increase your risk for certain serious side effects.

    Learn more about Mixing Alcohol And Prednisone

    Can Baclofen Treat Alcohol Use Disorder? 

    Baclofen may be used to treat alcohol use disorder. However, it is not an approved treatment option in the United States, and the full interactions of baclofen and alcohol are still unknown. Other approved treatments for AUD also exist.

    Learn more about Baclofen And Alcohol

    Can You Mix Keppra & Alcohol?

    Keppra and alcohol should not be mixed together because they intensify the side effects of each other. Mixing the two can lead to suicidal thoughts, dizziness, mood swings, and hallucinations.

    Learn more about Mixing Keppra And Alcohol

    Can You Drink Alcohol While Taking Antidepressants? 

    Drinking alcohol while taking antidepressants is likely not recommended. Specific antidepressants, such as MAOIs, tricyclic antidepressants, and duloxetine, can cause life-threatening side effects when paired with alcohol.

    Learn more about Mixing Antidepressants And Alcohol

    Is It Safe To Drink Alcohol While Taking Sleeping Pills?

    Under no circumstances should you mix alcohol and sleeping pills, as this may cause severe sedation, drowsiness, confusion, dizziness, fainting, and even life-threatening overdose, depending on the specific substance and your dosage.

    Always read the label and use medications only as prescribed and directed.

    Learn more about Mixing Sleeping Pills And Alcohol

    Does Clonidine Work For Alcohol Withdrawal?

    Alcohol withdrawal is a condition that can result in increased heart rate, anxiety, sweats, restlessness, and irritability. These symptoms may be brought on by an overactive sympathetic nervous system. 

    Clonidine targets receptors in the sympathetic nervous system to help lower heart rate and relax blood vessels. It can improve mild to moderate symptoms or be used alongside other medications. 

    However, clonidine does not treat life-threatening symptoms of withdrawal, including seizures and delirium tremens (DTs). 

    Learn more about Clonidine And Alcohol

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2022 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.
    Sources

    National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - Cancer Risk Associated With Alcohol and Tobacco Use: Focus on Upper Aerodigestive Tract and Liver
    National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - Harmful Interactions
    United States National Library of Medicine - Cocaethylene toxicity

    Medically Reviewed by
    Kimberly Langdon M.D.
    on April 27, 2022
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