The Dangers of Mixing Alcohol and Drugs

Mixing Drugs With Alcohol: Effects & Dangers By Drug Type

Have you noticed the sign “Do Not Mix with Alcohol” on the labels of prescription medications? It is a clear warning that you should never do that because it is dangerous. Mixing alcohol and drugs is a bad idea, as it can cause numerous negative side effects.

Sadly, a lot of people overlook this warning. It is possible others are having way too much fun at a party, got drunk, and popped the pills unmindful of the consequences. It is also possible for some to be taking prescription medication and forget they should not consume alcoholic drinks. There is also the possibility that some are struggling with alcoholism and are searching for a stronger high.

No matter what the situation may be, it does not change the fact that the act is dangerous. There are even instances when combining alcohol and drugs become deadly.


Ill-Effects of Mixing Alcohol and Drugs

The effects of alcohol on the brain is quite complex. For example, consuming alcohol can escalate the production of GABA. It is a chemical messenger that is widely spread in the brain. It slows down the brain, so people make smart and rational decisions.

One may argue that the words smart and rational are not generally associated with getting drunk. But when the brain has too much of the brain chemical GABA, it works extra slowly. This is why people who get drunk usually do not move or speak very well.

How much GABA is found in the brain is connected to other organs. As the brain slows down, other organs like the lungs and heart slow down as well. While ingesting alcohol will not stop the lungs and heart from functioning, there are drugs that can. So, when these kinds of drugs are mixed with alcohol, its effects can be exacerbated which can eventually lead to an overdose.

An overdose is just one of the many possibilities that can happen. There are also less severe side effects that can happen, but they can still be unpleasant. For one, mixing drugs and alcohol can partially or fully affect the effectiveness of certain medications. It can also magnify the effects of certain medications and drugs. Additionally, it may lead to serious harm as mixing alcohol and drugs may cause the medication to become a toxin in your body. It is also possible to experience an effect entirely different from either of the original substances.

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Drugs You Should Never Mix with Alcohol

Given the ill effects of mixing alcohol and drugs, people should avoid doing it at all times. Below is a list of drugs that you should NEVER mix with alcohol. Knowing this is essential to raise awareness of its life-threatening effects.

1. Pain Relief Medications

This drug is found in most homes. Some even have Ibuprofen, Tylenol, Aleve, Nyquil or other similar medicines in their bags all the time. One can buy this over-the-counter so many might believe it is generally safe. While it is true, mixing this with alcohol must be avoided as the results can be extremely dangerous

People might argue that mixing alcohol and pain relief medications will not kill anyone. However, it carries a host of negative consequences which side effects depend on the exact drug taken. Among them are:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Nausea
  • Ulcers
  • Stomach bleeding
  • Liver damage

Individuals mixing pain relief medications and booze may not suffer from an overdose, but it can cause long-term effects that can take a toll on your body.

The mix of drugs and alcohol puts much strain on the liver. The organ needs to work extra hard to filter all the toxins and expel them. This is also the reason why most people struggling with alcoholism over a long period of time usually suffer from liver problems. In the same manner, using pain relief medications often can place much stress on the liver. Thus, mixing these substances on a regular basis may cause future liver damage.

2. Muscle Relaxants

Muscle relaxants like Valium, Soma, and Flexeril can also be dangerous especially when mixed with alcohol. Doing so puts you at risk of:

  • Impacted motor functions
  • Lapsed memory
  • Liver damage
  • Respiratory damage
  • Overdose

Valium and other muscle relaxants, while not considered as very addictive being a Schedule IV substances, can also be dangerous. They must be kept as far away as possible from alcohol. Considering that it affects the brain that regulates the central nervous system (CNS), it also means every organ can be affected, as the CNS runs from head to toe.

When the CNS slows down, the respiratory system slows down as well. This can be deadly if it goes to unsafe levels. Adding alcohol in the picture can make things even worse. Breathing should be normal again after the drugs leave the system. But if a person regularly forces their lungs to speed up and slow down, it may suffer over time. It is possible for their respiratory system to completely slow down to a point that it will not be coming back up.

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3. Opioid Painkillers

Abusing opioids is one of the biggest concerns across the United States. They are deadly with thousands of people dying each year due to overdose.

It is easy for individuals to forget just how dangerous they are as a lot treat them like any other over-the-counter medicines. This should not be the case though.

Mixing these medications with alcohol can result in:

  • Extreme dizziness
  • Severe drowsiness
  • Impacted motor skills
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Liver damage
  • Memory problems
  • High risk of overdose

There is no denying how painkillers are of great help when it comes to coping with chronic pain. But they can be deadly, especially when taken with booze. In the unfortunate event a person mixes opioid painkillers with alcohol, they must be closely monitored for the following symptoms:

  • Cold Skin
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion or deliriousness
  • Bluish lips
  • Seizures
  • Slowed or irregular breathing
  • Unresponsiveness

The above-mentioned symptoms are telltale signs of an overdose. People with these conditions must be treated immediately. Otherwise, they might suffer from prolonged lung and heart problems, brain damage or even death. It is critical that they are brought to the hospital as soon as possible to avoid tragic outcomes.

4. Cough Syrup

This is another medication that is easily accessible. No matter how “ordinary” they seem to be, they also should not be mixed with alcohol. This drug depresses the respiratory system by blocking the cough reflex in the respiratory tract. This allows the user to stop coughing for a certain period of time.

Depressing the respiratory system is dangerous. While using it properly is safe, mixing it with alcohol is definitely unsafe. The latter can lead to:

  • Labored breathing
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Increased risk of an overdose

People might argue that a couple of cough medications have trace amounts of alcohol. While true, they are regarded as an inactive ingredient. This means they have no effect on the body, but they are still necessary components of the drug.

Alcohol is used in cough medications only to dissolve other ingredients. But just because the medicines have trace amounts of alcohol, the same does not mean it is okay to mix it with booze.

5. Sleep Aids

Prosom, Ambien, Sominex, Lunesta, and Restoril are just some of the more common sleeping aids. They are not generally dangerous, except for the fact that people taking the medication should not drive to ensure the safety of everyone on the road.

They should not be taken with alcohol as well, as their side effects will heighten. An overdose may be out of the picture, but it can still yield unwanted side effects such as:

  • Impaired motor skills
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Memory trouble

A person deliberately and regularly mixing sleeping pills and alcohol is a sign of a much bigger problem.

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6. Lithium and Other Mood Stabilizers

Mood stabilizers, which helps regulate moods of people with chemical imbalances, are powerful drugs. They are utilized to treat conditions like manic depression and bipolar disorder. Eskalith, Depakote, and Lithobid are some of the more popular mood-stabilizing drugs. All of these medications also contain chemical lithium.

It must be emphasized that mixing lithium and alcohol is unhealthy. If these chemicals mix, they can lead to:

  • Impaired motor functions
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Joint pain
  • Tremors
  • Restlessness
  • Muscle pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Increased depression
  • Irregular bowel movements
  • Liver damage

Mood stabilizers are given to patients to restore balance in their brain. Mixing alcohol with it gets in the way of this design. In fact, they counterbalance each other which can aggravate the condition of the person.

Other Drugs Not to Mix with Alcohol

Mixing alcohol with the following should always be avoided as well:

  • Wellbutrin and Other Depressants
  • Anxiety Medications
  • Adderall and Other ADHD Medications
  • Arthritis Medications
  • Diabetes Medications
  • Allergy Medications
  • High Cholesterol Medications
  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine

Extreme caution is necessary to ensure one’s overall health. People should always be mindful of what they take and the other stuff they take it with to make sure nothing untoward, detrimental or deadly happens.

Want more information about how Chapters Capistrano can help? Feel free to call 949-276-2886 and one of our addiction specialists will help get the information and help you need.

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Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance use disorder, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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