Mixing Alcohol with Other Drugs

Medically Reviewed by: Charley Allen

Table of Contents

Alcohol, the most regularly used intoxicant in the U.S. and the rest of the world, is highly likely to be combined with several legal and illicit drugs. Because alcohol is a substance that affects bodily systems, it is very likely to interact with other substances in the body.

Mixing Alcohol And Other Substances

When you combine alcohol with prescription medications or over-the-counter medications, there is an interaction in your body where alcohol changes the effects of the drugs. It might be risky to combine the two since it may cause side effects.

Numerous drug-alcohol interactions are hazardous, and you must never mix alcohol with certain drugs without consulting your doctor. You may also need assistance if you take medications yet find it difficult to give up alcohol or if you have substance abuse.

Alcohol and Prescription drugs

When taking medication that your doctor has prescribed for a sickness, you should not consume alcohol. Alcohol might reverse the positive effects that medication has on your body. Taking prescription medicines while drinking poses additional health hazards.

Alcohol and Painkillers

It is risky to combine alcohol and painkillers. These two substances, when combined, can have more potent sedative effects and respiratory depression. When taken frequently, painkillers can cause liver damage, and mixing them with alcohol can make these side effects worse.

Alcohol and Birth Control Pills

Birth control pills take three hours to enter your bloodstream and start working. The efficacy of birth control pills is reduced if you vomit before that three-hour window as a result of drinking alcohol. Some persons may experience nausea and vomiting as a result of using alcohol and birth control at the same time.

Some women who use birth control pills get intoxicated faster because the hormones in the pill are metabolized by their bodies, which makes it more difficult for the ethanol in alcohol to be metabolized.

Alcohol and Sleeping Pills

Combining alcohol with sleep aids can have additive sedative effects from both medications, and the combination can cause an individual to stop breathing, which can lead to death. The labels on sleeping pills caution against drinking alcohol while taking the medication.

Alcohol and Amphetamines

Amphetamines cause an increase in your heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Mixing alcohol with amphetamines strains the heart and may result in death.

Amphetamines can also increase body temperature, causing dehydration, which is exacerbated if you consume alcohol.

Alcohol and Ecstasy (MDMA)

It is widely known that ecstasy should never be used with other substances, particularly alcohol. Most ecstasy-related deaths are known to have been brought on by the drug’s interaction with alcohol. Combining alcohol with toxic substances like ecstasy lessens the effects of the ecstasy high and puts larger damage to the kidneys. Additionally, consuming alcoholic beverages can cause dehydration, which happens more quickly while using ecstasy.

Alcohol and Heroin

Mixing alcohol and heroin is extremely dangerous and is lethal since each alone depresses the central nervous system.

Alcohol and Cocaine

Mixing alcohol and cocaine forms a harmful chemical in the bloodstream called cocaethylene. Cocaethylene is linked to liver problems and can result in life-threatening conditions.

If you use both substances at once, you can also get agitated and act aggressively.

Alcohol and Adderall

Adderall makes you feel less intoxicated than you actually are. Because you are unaware of your state of drunkenness, you may make extremely risky judgments. In addition to the risks of vomiting, dizziness, muscle twitching, and headaches that are more likely to occur when alcohol is combined with Adderall, drinking alcohol while taking Adderall can result in heart disease, cardiac arrhythmias, and panic attacks or psychotic reactions. This is because alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, while Adderall is a stimulant.

Alcohol and Antibiotics

While taking antibiotics, drinking alcohol can have adverse effects such as fatigue, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, convulsions, intense headaches, impaired breathing, flushing, and rapid heart rate. Since the liver is involved in the breakdown of both alcohol and antibiotics, combining the two can cause liver damage. Moreover, the effects of the antibiotics you are taking are diminished by this combination. 

Alcohol and Anticonvulsant Drugs

Anticonvulsant drugs are a group of medications used as mood stabilizers and as a treatment for seizures. The drug’s effectiveness in suppressing seizure activity may be reduced by the effects of alcohol, increasing the likelihood that an individual would experience seizures.

Dizziness, fatigue, and problems with motor functioning, such as slow reaction time, can be common side effects. Suicidal thoughts and depression are also further increased when the two substances are combined.

Alcohol and Antidepressants

When alcohol and antidepressants (such as Zoloft, Prozac, etc.) are combined, the effects of alcohol can be intensified. For instance, one drink may feel like two. Furthermore, the combination may cause unexpected emotions and prevent the antidepressant from functioning as intended.

Alcohol and Antihistamines

If you drink alcohol with antihistamines, it may cause the medicine to be less effective. Your body will prefer to metabolize the alcohol first before the antihistamines. It is important to constantly read the label on any medication since most antihistamine labels advise against drinking alcohol while taking them.

Alcohol and Depressants (Xanax, Valium) 

Alcohol itself has a significant central nervous system (CNS) depressive effect. Meanwhile, the two most popular CNS depressant drugs are Xanax and Valium; the latter is sometimes prescribed for bipolar disorder. The risk of taking alcohol with other CNS depressants is that their effects are intensified. This may heighten the risk of overdosing, severely impair brain regions that regulate vital functions like breathing and heart rate, and considerably impair judgment and motor functioning (response time and motor coordination).

Read moreMixing Alcohol and Xanax

Alcohol and Stimulants (e.g., Ritalin, Adderall, Concerta)

Contrary to how alcohol inhibits CNS activity, a variety of medications actually stimulate it. This effect is seen in several drugs, including Ritalin, Adderall, and Concerta. When stimulants and alcohol are combined, serious neurological issues can occur: an increased risk of seizures or a higher chance of developing psychotic symptoms like hallucinations or delusions.

Alcohol and Illicit and Prescription Opioids (e.g., Vicodin, OxyContin, Tylenol 3 with Codeine, Percocet) 

Opioids like heroin and opioid painkillers Vicodin, Percocet, and others are exceedingly dangerous when combined with alcohol. Alcohol and opioids amplify each other’s depressing effects, causing respiratory failure and sedation that might be fatal. Without adequate oxygen, the brain will start to shut down organ functions, causing brain damage or perhaps death. If an individual mixes alcohol with opiates, it can also result in severe liver damage.

Alcohol and Hallucinogens

It is incredibly harmful to combine alcohol with hallucinogenic substances since the latter’s contents can be adulterated. Negative side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, and stomach bleeding, may result from combining alcohol with hallucinogens. Using alcohol and hallucinogens together frequently results in severe depression. This extreme depression can last longer and lead to suicidal thoughts. The risky behavior often observed in individuals who use hallucinogens is also made worse by alcohol.

Alcohol and Meth

One of the most dangerous combinations is alcohol and meth. Meth and alcohol together dramatically increase blood pressure and place a tremendous strain on the heart. Both of these substances frequently result in aggressive conduct and sexual promiscuity. This combination also harms the kidneys and aggravates hangovers.

Alcohol and LSD/Acid

LSD and alcohol are used to promote relaxation and slow down the system. Alcohol can significantly worsen the effects of the drug’s comedown by causing severe nausea and vomiting.

Alcohol and Mushrooms

As a hallucinogen, mushrooms or “Shrooms,” should never be used with other substances. Because alcohol is a depressant, it is typically used with mushrooms to lessen their impact and high. The desired result is uncertain, but side effects like nausea and vomiting do exist.

Alcohol and Cannabis

Heavy vomiting, dizziness, intense paranoia, impaired motor control, and poor mental concentration can all result from mixing cannabis and alcohol. Additionally, since cannabis suppresses the gag reflex, it’s possible that you won’t be able to vomit alcohol when your body calls for it.

Alcohol and Energy Drinks/Caffeine

Drinking pre-mixed caffeinated beverages like Red Bull or Monster with alcohol may deceive your body into believing it is not exhausted. Your body is intoxicated more than you realize, which might result in alcohol poisoning. Energy drinks cause more dehydration, which worsens hangovers the following day. Those who drank alcohol together with caffeine were at least twice as likely to have an injury, require medical treatment, exhibit risky behavior, and take advantage of another person sexually.

Some Medicines May Contain Alcohol 

Alcohol serves as a preservative and sedative in medicinal preparations. Before administering, carefully read the labels on medicines and speak with your doctor to prevent unwanted interactions with any other drugs you may be taking or underlying medical issues. It is still best to avoid alcohol to prevent any untoward symptoms.

Ethanol and isopropanol are active ingredients in some prescription and nonprescription medications, including cough syrup, allergy medications, and pain relievers.

Effects of Alcohol on Different Genders and Ages

Even though males tend to drink more and in larger quantities, most women absorb more alcohol and metabolize it more slowly than men because of the biological variations in body chemistry and structure. Women often have greater blood alcohol levels than men after consuming the same quantity of alcohol. Also, the immediate effects of alcohol typically happen faster and last longer in women than in men. Due to these distinctions, women are more vulnerable than men to the long-term harmful consequences of alcohol on their health.

Alcohol stays in the body for a longer period as people age because they metabolize it more slowly. Age-related health problems, such as cardiac arrest, hypertension, memory loss, and cognitive or emotional issues, are increasingly prevalent in older persons. Moreover, older adults are more likely to take prescription medications than younger people, which puts them at greater risk for interactions that might be harmful or even fatal. Some drugs may become less effective if mixed with alcohol.

Commonly Used Medicines (Both Prescription and Over-the-Counter) That Interact With Alcohol 

Reviewing your medications with your doctor or pharmacist is necessary to look for clinically relevant drug-alcohol interactions. According to National Institutes of Health (NIH) research on medications and alcohol, the most prevalent drugs that interact with alcohol are from the following drug classes:

      • High blood pressure medication

      • Cholesterol medications

      • Diabetes medications

      • Antibiotics

      • Antidepressants

      • Antipsychotics

      • Anxiety medications

      • Skeletal muscle relaxants

      • Pain medications (analgesics)

      • Sleeping pills (sedatives and hypnotics)

    The Potential Dangers of Mixing Alcohol With Other Drugs

    When drugs are used with alcohol, side effects may include fainting, headaches, dizziness, and loss of coordination. You can have trouble concentrating or using your mechanical skills. Driving while under the influence of alcohol can be risky, and the risk increases when you combine it with legal or illicit drugs.

    You may also be at risk for internal bleeding, high blood pressure, and respiratory problems. Some medications can cause falls and serious injuries when used with alcohol, particularly in older adults. Along with these risks, alcohol may also decrease a drug’s effectiveness and increase the drug’s toxicity to your health.

    Getting Drug and Alcohol Addiction Treatment

    One of the most prevalent public health concerns in the United States is alcoholism. Over 14 million individuals aged 18 and older struggle with alcohol use disorder (AUD).

    The good news is that most people with AUD may improve from treatment, regardless of how serious their condition may appear. According to research, one year after receiving treatment for alcoholism, around one-third of patients no longer exhibit any symptoms. Many others significantly cut back on alcohol consumption and report fewer alcohol-related issues.

    Treatment choices for substance use disorder are determined by a number of factors, including the length and intensity of use and the impact on the individual. There are several treatment options and health insurance plans available. The majority of users, especially those with mental illness, undergo a variety of approaches that can help even in managing withdrawal symptoms. Common interventions for substance use disorders could include a mix of inpatient and outpatient programs, psychological counseling, support groups, and medication.

    Frequently asked questions on the dangers of mixing alcohol with other drugs

    What happens when you combine alcohol with drugs?

    Fainting, headaches, dizziness, and lack of coordination are all possible adverse effects when using drugs in combination with alcohol. You can find it difficult to focus or use your mechanical abilities. Driving while intoxicated by alcohol or drugs is dangerous, and the risk doubles when you do so.

    When drugs are combined with alcohol, especially those taken by older persons, it can result in falls and serious injuries. Alcohol can also increase the toxicity of a medicine to your body and diminish its efficacy.

    What is it called when you take drugs and alcohol at the same time?

    The term “polydrug use” refers to the simultaneous or sequential use of multiple drugs or substances. Polydrug use includes the use of alcohol, medications, and other drugs.

    Can you drink alcohol with antibiotics?

    While taking antibiotics, drinking alcohol can have adverse effects such as fatigue, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, convulsions, intense headaches, shortness of breath, flushing, and rapid heartbeat. Since the liver is involved in the breakdown of both alcohol and antibiotics, combining the two can cause liver damage. Moreover, the effects of the antibiotics you are taking are diminished by this combination.

    Can you take ibuprofen with alcohol?

    It is risky to combine painkillers like ibuprofen and alcohol. These two substances, when combined, can have more potent sedative effects and respiratory problems. When taken frequently, painkillers can cause liver damage, and mixing them with alcohol can make these side effects worse.

    However, for occasional alcohol intake, it is best to talk to your doctor before combining it with ibuprofen.

    Can you take melatonin with alcohol?

    Combining alcohol and melatonin, which both generally make individuals drowsy, might cause severe sleepiness. This might increase your risk of falling or injuring yourself accidentally.

    What medication can you not drink alcohol with?

    Generally, alcohol and drugs interact with each other, which affects the body system. Research shows that the most prevalent drugs that interact with alcohol are from the following drug classes:

        • High blood pressure medication

        • Cholesterol medications

        • Diabetes medications

        • Antibiotics

        • Antidepressants

        • Antipsychotics

        • Anxiety medications

        • Skeletal muscle relaxants

        • Pain medications (analgesics)

        • Sleeping pills (sedatives and hypnotics)

      Learn more about the dangers of mixing alcohol with other drugs:

      1. Mixing alcohol with other drugs. (n.d.). NIDirect.gov. Retrieved January 18, 2023, from https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/mixing-alcohol-other-drugs

      2. Parker W. A. (1982). Alcohol-containing pharmaceuticals. The American journal of drug and alcohol abuse, 9(2), 195–209. https://doi.org/10.3109/00952998209002622

      3. Erol, A., & Karpyak, V. M. (2015). Sex and gender-related differences in alcohol use and its consequences: Contemporary knowledge and future research considerations. Drug and alcohol dependence, 156, 1–13. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2015.08.023

      4. Weathermon, R., & Crabb, D. W. (1999). Alcohol and medication interactions. Alcohol research & health: the journal of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 23(1), 40–54. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6761694/

      5. Mixing Alcohol With Medicines. (2003). NIAAA.NIH.Gov. Retrieved January 18, 2023, from https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/harmful-interactions-mixing-alcohol-with-medicines

      6. Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help. (2014). NIAAA.NIH.Gov. Retrieved January 18, 2023, from https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/treatment-alcohol-problems-finding-and-getting-help

      Author

      Edited by: David Beasley

      David Beasley - Design for Recovery

      RADT
      David Beasley is a certified RADT (Registered Alcohol/Drug Technician). David, moved to California from North Carolina after many failed attempts to get sober.

      Medically Reviewed by: Charley Allen
      IMG-1545

      LMFT
      Charley earned his Masters of Clinical Psychology from Antioch University, Los Angeles, and is a California Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT).He teaches mindfulness to both adults and children in group setting such as schools, corporate workplaces, and medical treatment facilities.

      We Can Help

      Read More

      Addiction & Recovery

      Sober Living in Los Angeles - Design for Recovery

      About Us

      Design for Recovery empowers men struggling with addiction by providing 24/7 support, mentorship, and teaches them how to live healthy, fulfilling lives.

      Chat with us on Facebook
      relapse prevention

      Are you or a loved one struggling with addiction? We can help!

      Our advisors are waiting for your call: 424-327-4614

      Reach out to us today.

      Design For Recovery is committed to helping you or your loved one live a fulfilling life free from alcohol and drug addiction. Below you can find out what to expect when you contact us for help.

      Call us at (424) 327-4614 or fill out the form below and we will be in touch with you soon.

      Send us a message below and we will reach out to you.