The Dangers Of Mixing Alcohol And Certain Drugs Or Medications
Most of us realize that combining drugs and alcohol can have serious repercussions, but not everyone knows the true dangers of mixing alcohol and certain drugs, including prescription medication that has been prescribed for legitimate medical reasons. It is important to understand exactly what you are risking when you mix drugs and alcohol.
- Prescription medications. While there are specific effects tied to ingesting alcohol and each prescription medication, there are some general rules that apply across the board. Mainly, mixing alcohol with your prescription medications can decrease their effectiveness and put you at serious risk. Whether you are taking antibiotics, diabetes medication, or anti-convulsants, alcohol dilutes the potency of these drugs. This means your medical condition is either being under-treated or not treated at all. Depending on the seriousness of your medical issue, this can put you at risk for convulsions, liver damage, and even death. Furthermore, increased sedation, nausea, dizziness, headaches, and impairment of your cardiac and respiratory functions are all common side effects when alcohol is introduced into your system in conjunction with legitimately prescribed medications.
- Anti-depressants. While this falls under the umbrella of prescription medications, anti-depressants demand special attention since it is relatively common that someone will mix anti-depressants with alcohol. The most obvious risk is that it will decrease the effectiveness of your anti-depressant, thus plunging you deeper into depression and increasing the likelihood of suicide. Furthermore, feelings of drowsiness and dizziness are not only unpleasant on their own but they also can significantly impair your ability to function, which means a greater chance of accidental harm to yourself or others. Anti-depressants alone can take their toll on our bodies. Sometimes in small ways, such as dry mouth and constipation, and other times in large ways, such as compromising liver or kidney function. When anti-depressants are combined with alcohol, the chances of damaging these important vital organs, experiencing internal bleeding, or overdosing are vastly increased.
- Stimulants. When it comes to street drugs, there are two main categories: stimulants and depressants. When you mix alcohol with stimulants or “uppers,” such as amphetamines, cocaine, or ecstasy, you run the risk of increased heart rate and blood pressure, muscle tension, excessive perspiration, nausea, psychosis, and disorientation, among other things. Taken separately, both alcohol and stimulants are hard on your internal organs, particularly the liver and kidneys, and can cause permanent damage. Combined they are even more likely to incite organ failure and, in some cases, death. For example, when cocaine and alcohol are consumed together, they produce a chemical in the liver called cocaethylene, which intensifies the effects of both and can lead to a heart attack or sudden death.
- Depressants. On their own, depressants or “downers” can cause drowsiness, dizziness, impaired coordination, and slowed breathing. Most pain relievers fall under this category. Alcohol is itself a depressant and also slows the function of your central nervous system. Combining drugs like oxycodone, morphine, and heroin with alcohol, increases the likelihood and intensity of these side effects and, more importantly, can result in respiratory failure and overdose. In fact, combining alcohol with heroin is quite common in fatal opiate overdoses.
- Over the counter medications (OTCs). Over the counter medications can include everything from allergy medications to pain relievers. The adverse effects of mixing them with alcohol will vary from drug to drug, but can include all of the risks mentioned above. You should always read and follow the instructions and consult your doctor or a pharmacist when mixing medications, even with things that may seem harmless. The truth is that if you are treating an acute condition that is only a short-term issue, you are safest if you abstain from alcohol. If you cannot refrain from drinking for a few days while you treat your allergies, back pain, or other temporary medical condition, then you need to think about your relationship with alcohol and if you have a drinking problem.
Mixing drugs, regardless of whether they are prescribed or legal, with alcohol is a perilous proposition. If you are actually treating a medical condition, you are reducing the effectiveness of your medication, which will prolong your need for treatment and slow the healing process. If you are combining drugs and alcohol recreationally, then you are also playing a dangerous game. Abusing drugs or alcohol separately has a long list of risks and negative consequences, including death. When you consume them together, you increase the likelihood of serious medical complications or fatal overdose. Any temporary high is certainly not worth the risk. Non-addicts will see that and steer clear of these unpredictable chemical combinations. Substance abusers, unfortunately, do not realize how much they are risking when they mix drugs or alcohol.