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  • The Effects & Dangers Of Mixing Alcohol With Stimulants

    The Effects & Dangers Of Mixing Alcohol With Stimulants

    Alcohol is a legal substance used recreationally and sometimes mixed with other drugs, including stimulants. Stimulants and alcohol have somewhat opposite effects on the central nervous system—alcohol slows activity and stimulants increase activity.

    However, stimulants may mask the effects associated with alcohol intoxication, which increases the risk of excessive drinking, drug abuse, and alcohol poisoning. In addition, frequent substance abuse may lead to dependence and addiction. 

    The Effects Of Mixing Alcohol With Stimulants

    Alcohol may make you feel more sleepy and relaxed, while stimulants may cause you to feel more awake and alert. Both alcohol and stimulants influence dopamine levels in the brain, which can cause euphoric effects. 

    Dopamine is a neurotransmitter (chemical messenger) in the brain associated with pleasure and reward. The rewarding effects of dopamine increase the risk of substance abuse, dependence, and addiction. 

    The use of stimulants may conceal the effects associated with alcohol use, which can make it difficult to judge the level of intoxication. In turn, alcohol can impair judgment, which increases the risk of drug abuse and other high-risk activities. 

    Mixing alcohol with stimulants can negatively impact your physical and mental health and increase the likelihood of experiencing more intense side effects. 

    Alcohol

    Alcohol slows activity in the central nervous system and, in moderation, can cause someone to feel more relaxed, sociable, and confident. 

    Alcohol abuse can lead to intoxication and side effects can become more harmful. Too much alcohol use can lead to slurred speech, loss of balance, and impaired judgment. 

    Additional short-term side effects of alcohol use include:

    • lowered inhibitions
    • slowed reaction time
    • mood changes
    • dizziness
    • nausea/vomiting
    • blackouts
    • blurred vision
    • lightheadedness

    Stimulants

    Stimulants include illicit drugs like cocaine, as well as prescription stimulant drugs. Prescription stimulants are used to treat narcolepsy and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). 

    Prescription drugs include:

    • Adderall (amphetamine/dextroamphetamine)
    • Ritalin (methylphenidate)
    • Desoxyn (methamphetamine)
    • Focalin (dexmethylphenidate)
    • Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine) 

    Central nervous system stimulants can raise blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing. Initially, stimulants may increase energy levels and alertness. 

    Other side effects of stimulants may include:

    • increased activity
    • decreased appetite
    • euphoria
    • higher body temperature
    • decreased fatigue

    Taking high doses of stimulants or combining alcohol with them can cause heart failure, seizures, and hyperthermia (high body temperature). Long-term stimulant abuse can increase anxiety and eventually cause irritability, anger, paranoia, and psychosis. 

    Dangers Of Mixing Alcohol With Stimulants

    Alcohol impairs judgment, which increases the risk of abusing other substances like stimulants. Stimulants can mask the effects of alcohol use, which increases the risk of drinking too much and experiencing dangerous health effects. 

    Alcohol Poisoning

    If you do not think you’re feeling the effects of alcohol, you may drink a lot in a short amount of time. Alcohol is absorbed quickly but your body takes a while to metabolize and eliminate even a small amount of alcohol. 

    When you mix the two substances, you may continue drinking alcohol to the point of blackout (memory loss), alcohol poisoning, or seizures. Alcohol poisoning is a life-threatening condition that can occur after drinking too much. 

    Signs of alcohol poisoning include:

    • confusion
    • nausea/vomiting
    • seizures
    • slowed breathing
    • blue-tinged skin
    • loss of consciousness
    • coma

    You can still be conscious and experience other signs of alcohol poisoning. If you recognize any of the signs of alcohol poisoning, you should seek medical attention immediately. 

    Drug Interactions

    If you’re prescribed stimulants to treat a mental illness or medical condition, alcohol consumption may interfere with how the medication works. It can make your stimulant medication less effective or worsen harmful side effects of the drug. 

    Potential drug interactions that may occur include:

    • dizziness
    • drowsiness
    • decreased concentration
    • heart attack
    • liver damage

    Dependence & Addiction

    Most prescription stimulants are Schedule II controlled substances in the United States, which means they also carry a high risk of abuse and dependence. 

    If you become dependent on stimulants, you’re likely to experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking them. Withdrawal from stimulants can be uncomfortable and challenging but is generally not life-threatening. 

    However, if you become alcohol dependent, you may require a medical detox program to stop drinking. Alcohol withdrawal can be life-threatening and may cause dangerous symptoms like seizures, tremors, and hallucinations.

    Dependence can also lead to addiction, also known as a substance use disorder (SUD) or alcohol use disorder (AUD). Addiction is a complex disease that can cause uncontrollable cravings and may require professional long-term treatment. 

    Substance Abuse Treatment

    If you or a loved one struggles with substance abuse, inpatient or outpatient addiction treatment may help. 

    Addiction treatment programs help you learn healthy behaviors and how to cope with cravings through therapies and healthy activities. Behavioral therapy, group therapy, individual counseling, and mindfulness activities are services offered at most treatment facilities. 

    If you or a loved one would like more information about substance abuse treatment, please contact our helpline to speak with a specialist. 

    FAQ

    What Happens When You Mix Adderall With Alcohol? 

    Mixing Adderall with alcohol can lead to a higher risk of alcohol overdose, heart attack, long-term substance abuse, and other serious health problems. 

    More studies may be needed to figure out how exactly alcohol and Adderall interact, but official labels warn against mixing Adderall with alcohol.

    Learn more about Mixing Adderall & Alcohol

    What Happens When You Mix Ritalin & Alcohol?

    If misused in combination, alcohol can cause the concentration of Ritalin in the bloodstream to suddenly increase, elevating the risk of negative side effects associated with stimulant abuse. 

    In addition, taking these drugs concurrently can block sensations that would otherwise cause a person to stop drinking or taking further doses of Ritalin, increasing the risk of alcohol poisoning or overdose.

    Learn more about Mixing Ritalin & Alcohol

    What Happens When You Drink Alcohol On Cocaine?

    While alcohol is consumed to increase the effects of cocaine or blunt the discomfort of a cocaine comedown, these substances interact in the liver to form an even more harmful substance known as cocaethylene. 

    Cocaethylene can cause a similar but longer-lasting euphoria compared to alcohol or cocaine alone, while also greatly increasing a person’s risk of sudden death, overdose, and severe long-term health effects.

    Learn more about Mixing Alcohol & Cocaine

    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 (NIAAA) - Harmful Interactions
    National Library Of Medicine - Alcohol Interactions With Psychostimulants: An Overview Of Animal And Human Studies
    University Of Michigan - The Effects Of Combining Alcohol With Other Drugs

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