Mixing Prescription Drugs and Alcohol

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When fictional TV character Jessica Jones pours a glass of whiskey to take her pain meds, her secretary admonishes her to “drink it with water.” So Jessica pours a little splash of water in her whiskey and proceeds to down her pain pills. It may be funny on TV, but it’s no laughing matter in real life. Mixing drugs and alcohol is deadly and can have serious consequences. You’ve heard the warnings before, but there is exactly what this combination will do to your body.

Alcohol, Drugs, and Your Liver

First and foremost, any substance you take is filtered through your body’s liver, whether it’s something good or bad. From vitamins to opiates, everything makes its way through the liver.  The liver is powerful and very important in getting toxins and drugs out of our system, but it has its limits. People usually know the effects of alcohol on the liver and the damage it does, but when you put drugs on top of the alcohol, you’re really looking for trouble. And chances are you’re going to find it. Here’s how individual types of drugs interact with alcohol and why you shouldn’t combine them.

Antidepressants and Alcohol

If you’re taking antidepressant medication, it’s important not to counter the effects by using alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant and when you combine an antidepressant and a depressant, they’re going to cancel each other out. In effect, alcohol reduces the effectiveness of any medication taken as an antidepressant, leaving you more vulnerable to depression. There have been many studies on the effects of depression on addiction and recovery. But studies aside, you need treatment for depression and combining your medications with alcohol is a losing situation.

Central Nervous System Depressants and Alcohol

Another form of drugs or medications often taken with alcohol is depressants. These include anti-anxiety medications such as Xanax, Ativan, or Diazepam. The side effects of mixing them with alcohol can be very serious. You’re combining depressants with alcohol, which is another depressant, and the effects on your central nervous system have a synergistic effect. That means the total of the two depressants equals a reaction greater than the total of the two parts. 

As far as illegal drugs, using heroin and alcohol together, for example, greatly increases your chance of an overdose because alcohol lowers the amount of heroin needed to exceed your limits. In other words, when you drink and use heroin, it takes a lot less heroin to overdose. The same is true for other pain meds, whether legal or illegal, such as opioids.

Finally, one more reason to protect whatever you’re drinking when you’re in a club or on a new date? Gamma-Hydroxybutyic acid (GHB) is also known as the “date rape” drug for its illicit use and frequency of abuse to aid in sexual assault. People can slip it into your drink so you can’t resist sexual assault, so that alone is reason enough to always protect your drink and keep it in your sight. But along with the trauma of the sexual assault, as a depressant, mixing GBH with alcohol–as is frequently done–can be deadly.

Alcohol and central nervous system depressants are a deadly combination and they kill. That’s the bottom line.

Stimulants and Alcohol

On the other end of the spectrum, when you combine stimulants and alcohol, you once again have a counteractive effect, but this time it’s much more serious than combining alcohol with an antidepressant. Stimulants make the heart beat faster and strain harder, but they also mask the effects of alcohol, encouraging people to drink more. Before you know it, the liver is overwhelmed and you risk alcohol poisoning.

Unfortunately, combining stimulants and alcohol is much more common among college students who are pushing to stay up late writing papers or studying for exams. They may abuse stimulants and alcohol recreationally or they just want to take “the edge off.” Common stimulants that are abused include Adderall and other ADHD drugs. 

Then there are the non-prescription drugs. Combining meth and alcohol is a particularly deadly combination as alcohol enhances the effects of meth and can put a deadly strain on your heart, even if you’re young and relatively healthy. Cocaine? Cocaine users like to “even out” by combining cocaine and alcohol, but the two chemicals mix together in the body to form a deadly substance that makes you 20 times more likely for fatal effects than either substance used alone, not to mention you’re more likely to engage in violence.

You may be thinking that other drugs are safer to use with alcohol. But even substances such as Ecstasy mixed with alcohol can be lethal because Ecstasy already makes you prone to dehydration and overheating. Combine that with the dehydrating effects of alcohol? You may be surrounded by drinks but your body feels like it’s in the Sahara.

Beware of substances that many wouldn’t consider “drugs” that can be abused. Beware of interactions with espresso or energy drinks that are loaded with caffeine and act as stimulants.

Other Drugs and Alcohol

While the effects of alcohol with hallucinogenic drugs such as LSD are rarely fatal, combining the two often causes paranoia, fear, and negative hallucinations. Also, you may suffer from physical effects such as nausea or vomiting. Speaking of which, did you know that combining alcohol with antibiotics, particularly Metronidazole (Flagyl), can cause severe vomiting? Combining alcohol with antibiotics or over-the-counter medications such as antihistamines can have serious side effects. To be safe, don’t combine illegal drugs and prescription medications with alcohol, period.

Combining alcohol with prescription medications creates side effects that can be as deadly as using illegal drugs and alcohol. Using both together makes you more likely to overdose, become violent, or even display psychotic behavior. Also, beware of over-the-counter drugs such as antibiotics or antihistamines that can create uncomfortable side effects as well. If you are abusing drugs and alcohol, it’s critical that you get help to avoid potentially deadly side effects from this combination. Everlast Recovery Centers offer you the help you need, including medically assisted treatment (MAT) for alcohol and drug withdrawal symptoms and in-patient counseling that can assist you in continuing your sobriety after detox. You should never withdraw from alcohol alone and without medical intervention. Get the help you need and get sober with our detox programs and follow-up treatment in a home-like atmosphere, including professional counselors and in-patient treatment. Counselors are available right now when you call Everlast Recovery at 866-DETOX-25.

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