Santa Clara University

Wellness Center

Mixing Alcohol with Other Drugs and/or Medications

It is never possible to know for sure the effect that mixing alcohol with other drugs will have on a user. There are so many factors that affect the action of the drugs, that it is impossible to accurately consider them all. They include, but are not limited to, the user's mood, body chemistry, other medications or illnesses, and psychological history. Even a medical professional would not be able to say for sure what the effect of an interaction will be.


The most dangerous thing to mix with a sedative (alcohol) is another sedative or "downer".  The combination can lead to extreme depression of the Central Nervous System and be fatal. When combined with alcohol these drugs have a synergistic effect, meaning that the combined depression of the CNS is greater than the sum of the depression caused by alcohol and that of the sedative. This effect can be expressed with the equation 1+1=3 (the combined effect is more intense than the separate effects combined).



***Consult your physician with more questions about drug interactions. ALWAYS ask about possible drug interactions when taking a medication and drinking alcohol.  



 

Mixing Alcohol with Illegal Drugs

Acid (LSD)
When LSD is combined with alcohol, the visual hallucinations common in a trip often decrease, and the user often finds themselves able to consume more alcohol than normal without experiencing the same level of inebriation.

Cocaine/Crack
In low doses cocaine increases blood pressure and heart rate. When it is combined with alcohol, cocaine increases heart rate three to five times as much as when either drug is given alone. This can lead to heart attacks and heart failure.


Research shows that mixing cocaine with alcohol can have either an additive (the user experiences the highs of both drugs) or antagonistic effects (the effects of the drugs cancel one another out). However, when cocaine is used in high doses, the effects are usually additive, and overdose from either drug is more likely. Remember that when you drink fast, you get more drunk than if you were to drink the same amount slower. Drinking with a stimulant, like cocaine, speeds up metabolism and alcohol reaches the brain faster, as if you had been drinking faster. This leads to an increase in BAL.


Scientists have found that cocaine abuse coupled with use of alcohol leads to more impulsive decision-making and to poorer performance on tests of learning and memory than does use of either cocaine or alcohol alone. When people mix cocaine and alcohol consumption, they are compounding the danger each drug poses and unknowingly forming a complex chemical experiment within their bodies. NIDA-funded researchers have found that the human liver combines cocaine and alcohol and manufactures a third substance, cocaethylene, that intensifies cocaine's euphoric effects, while possibly increasing the risk of sudden death.

Ecstasy
Drinking alcohol while using the enactogen Ecstasy (MDMA) can be very dangerous because it increases dehydration. One of the primary dangers in taking either of these drugs by themselves is the chance of dehydration that could be dangerous. Together, the dehydration effect is compounded and the risk is higher. Further, MDMA decreases the body's ability to regulate body temperature, and alcohol can raise body temperature, increasing chances of death by hypertension.


GHB
GHB has a reputation for being added to alcoholic drinks because it causes black-out periods to the person who drinks it (hence its use as a date-rape drug). GHB can is a CNS depressants and is thus dangerous when used in tandem with alcohol. The combined effect can slow respiration and heart rate to a dangerous level.



Heroin
The heroin high is characterized by the depression of the central nervous system. In an overdose, breathing stops. Because alcohol is also a CNS depressant, it is dangerous to drink alcohol while using heroin as the compounded effect of CNS depressant can potentiate a heroin overdose.


Marijuana
Smoking pot when drinking alcohol can suppress the drinkers sensations of nausea or need to vomit, making overdose more possible. When a person has consumed enough alcohol that alcohol poisoning is a concern, their body needs to vomit. Pot suppresses the instinct to vomit, and excess alcohol is not expelled, making overdose more likely.


Methamphetamine
Use of Methamphetamine with alcohol will not counteract the effects of methamphetamine, but merely mask the effects. This is dangerous because the user will be less aware of the effect that the drug is having on his or her body. In other words, even though the high is lessened, the physical effects such as heart rate, are not affected. Hence, the user's sense of when their body needs them to stop will be skewed.


Mushrooms
There are no known dangerous physical interactions between alcohol and mushrooms. However, mushrooms are unpredictable, and mixing them with anything makes them more unpredictable.



PCP/Special K
The most dangerous substances to mix with PCP and Special K are alcohol and other sedatives. Make no mistake, this combination can kill you.



CNS Depressants
Using alcohol with other depressants and narcotics compounds the depression of the CNS and can be fatal. These include heroin, morphine, opium, and barbiturates.

Mixing Alcohol with Prescription Drugs/Medications

Accutane
Consuming alcohol occasionally while on Accutane is considered ok. There are no reported contraindications or warnings associated with the ingestion of alcohol and Accutane simultaneously.



Acetaminophen
Using acetaminophen (active ingredient in Tylenol) when drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can result in liver damage.



Alprazolam (Xanax)
Xanax is a sedative and is thus dangerous to combine with alcohol. Using alcohol while taking a sedative hypnotic could interfere with normal breathing and may lead to coma. This interaction may be fatal.



Anti-Diabetics
Mixing alcohol with anti diabetic drugs can cause a severe drop in blood sugar level which may lead to nausea and coma. Alcohol can increase hypoglycemic effects and alter glucose metabolism.

Antihistamines
Alcohol and antihistamines affect one another additively, meaning that they make the effects of one another stronger and this potentiate overdose. However, they do not potentiate one another as much as synergisitc combinations, such as narcotics.


Anti-Infection drugs
When used with anti-infection drugs like Mandol, Cefobid, Cefotan, Furoxone, INH, Flagella, Metrical, Protostat, and Moxam, alcohol can cause rapid heart rate, nausea, and liver damage.


Aspirin
Mixing alcohol and with a daily use of Aspirin may result in torn stomach lining and internal bleeding.


Ativan
Drugs like Ativan, Equagesic, Equanil, Miltown, Serax, Centrax, Doral, Restoril, Halcion cause dizziness, forgetfulness, coma, and heart failure when used with alcohol.


Barbiturates
Barbiturates (Amytal, Butisol, Nembutal, Seconal, Luminal, Pentothal and Tuinalare) are CNS Depressants. When combined with alcohol these drugs have a synergistic effect, meaning that the combined depression of the CNS is greater than the sum of the depression caused by alcohol and that of the barbiturate. This effect can be expressed with the equation 1+1 = 3 (the combined effect is greater than the effects combined). This can lead to dizziness, forgetfulness, coma and death.


Benzodiazepines
Drinking alcohol while taking Benzodiazepine sleeping medications is detrimental because it can increase drowsiness, decrease normal breathing, and result in coma.


Catapres
The anti hypertensive drug Catapres may increase drowsy effects when used with alcohol.


Elavil
Antidepressant drugs such as Elavil, Endep, Adapin and Sinequan will increase the intoxicating effects of alcohol.



MAO Inhibitors
Antidepressants that are MAO inhibitors have a deadly reaction when mixed with the chemical tyramine, that is found in some wines and beers. The mixture will cause a release of the neurotransmitter Norepinephrine, which can cause a dramatic rise in blood pressure, leading to brain hemorrhage and death in extreme cases.



Narcotics
Mixing alcohol with narcotic drugs such as Dilaudid can result in increased intoxication, coma, and death. The effect of combining a narcotic and alcohol is synergistic.


Sedatives/Anti-anxiety/Sleep medications
(Drugs like Xanax, Seconal, Amytal, Butisol, Nembutal, Noctec, Librium, Valium, Prosom, Dalmone, and Tranxene) When combined with alcohol these drugs have a synergistic effect, meaning that the combined depression of the CNS is greater than the sum of the depression caused by alcohol and that of the barbiturate. This effect can be expressed with the equation 1+1 = 3 (the combined effect is greater than the effects combined). This can lead to dizziness, forgetfulness, coma and death.


Tagamet
The gastro-intestinal drug Tagamet will increase the bodies BAL, making overdose, or alcohol poisoning, more likely.



Verapamil
The heart drug Verapamil may increase intoxication when mixed with alcohol.



 
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