It is not an uncommon practice to mix drugs and alcohol. Many young individuals believe that mixing alcohol and drugs can enhance the effects of both substances. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) warns that drinking alcohol while using other drugs can lead to severe consequences.
What are the potential dangers of mixing drugs and alcohol?
The consequences of mixing drugs and alcohol depend on many factors, including the type of drugs used, the amount of alcohol consumed, and the person’s health history. For instance, some people may be more vulnerable to mixing drugs and alcohol due to underlying medical conditions, such as cardiac trouble or liver damage.
· Alcohol and stimulant drugs
Alcohol is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant. When alcohol enters the bloodstream, it dimishes the function of the brain and nervous system, thus leading to feelings of relaxation and lowered inhibitions.
Stimulant drugs increase activity in the body. They work by affecting the brain and nervous system, resulting in increased alertness, wakefulness, and energy levels. When you mix alcohol with stimulant drugs (drugs that increase activity in the body) like cocaine or amphetamines, you may end up with a condition called excited delirium. The condition is marked by agitation, hallucinations, and an increased heart rate.
· Alcohol and depressant drugs
Depressant drugs slow down the nervous system. They can cause drowsiness and make it difficult to think clearly or move quickly. Unlike alcohol, which is also a depressant, benzodiazepines increase the activity of GABA, a neurotransmitter that further slows down the CNS. Mixing alcohol with other depressants like opioids or benzodiazepines can lead to life-threatening respiratory depression.
· Alcohol and sleeping pills
Sleeping pills are CNS depressants that slow down the brain and nervous system activity. Mixing alcohol with sleeping pills can cause drowsiness, confusion, and impaired motor skills, which can lead to accidents.
· Alcohol and pain killers
Painkillers are drugs that are used to relieve pain. They work by affecting the brain and nervous system. Mixing such prescription drugs with alcohol can increase the risk of liver damage, stomach bleeding, and drowsiness.
· Other dangers of mixing alcohol with other drugs
- Addiction and other mental health disorders.
- Increase levels of certain drugs in your system, which can lead to overdose. For example, mixing alcohol with acetaminophen (Tylenol) can increase the risk of liver damage.
- One may experience difficulty gauging their extent of intoxication, thus leading to risky behavior and accidents.
What are some of the side effects of mixing alcohol with other drugs?
The most common consequence of mixing drugs and alcohol is an effect called “synergism.” It occurs when the combined effects of the substances are greater than the sum of the effects of each substance taken on its own. Synergism can lead to increased heart rate, impaired judgment, and even death. Some common side-effects include,
- Nausea and vomiting
- Blurred vision
- Loss of coordination
- Slowed reflexes
- Impaired judgment
Sometimes, more serious side effects, like coma, seizures, cardiac arrest, etc., may be observed.
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