Drinking & Drugs: A Dangerous Combination

Many people choose to mix drinking alcohol with narcotics, be they medically prescribed or illicit substances.

However, many are unaware of the dangerous nature of mixing drugs and alcohol.

Doing such an act can have disastrous effects on the body and sometimes end in fatality.

Polydrug Usage


People decide to take multiple drugs for many reasons. Be it to lessen the effect of one drug (such as the combination of heroin and cocaine), or others may do it as they feel it enhances the effects.

The mixture of drugs and alcohol remains one of the most common combinations. [1]

Even though many feel it is untrue, alcohol is a drug. When you mix alcohol with other drugs, interactions in the body alter the effect of both substances. This can make the combination unpredictable and dangerous.

It is common for those suffering from addiction to use multiple drugs alongside alcohol. Those who do this risk death as there is the chance of a highly toxic chemical reacting in the body.

According to a report published in 2009, in a study on those who use drugs in a nightclub, 91.7% of participants had combined drugs at one point. It also reported that the drugs they found were most commonly mixed with alcohol were ecstasy, cocaine, LSD, ketamine and methamphetamine. [2]

Combinations & Their Effects


Alcohol and Amphetamines

Amphetamines like speed, crystal meth, meth, ICE, Ritalin and Adderall work by increasing your heart rate, breathing and blood pressure, giving you an elated, euphoric feeling.

Mixing amphetamines and alcohol puts pressure on the heart, leading to death. Amphetamines dehydrate your body and give you a false sense of sobriety, meaning you or your loved one may drink more.

A combination of the two can also give you a feeling of false confidence, aggressiveness and paranoia.

Alcohol and Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines known under the brand names Valium, Xanax, Diazepam, Librium, and Klonopin have a tranquillising effect on the body.

When mixed with alcohol, troubling side effects include memory loss, mood swings, laboured breathing and potentially death.

Those who abuse benzodiazepines often develop a tolerance to their effect, meaning they have to take more to get the same result.

When combining benzodiazepines with alcohol, you have a severe depressant effect on the central nervous symptom. Blackouts caused by the mixture can lead to dangerous risk-taking behaviour and promote a high chance of overdose. [3]

Alcohol and Caffeine

When mixing alcohol and caffeine, like energy drinks, you are tricking your body into thinking it isn’t tired. This can mean you drink more and don’t feel intoxicated, which can lead to alcohol poisoning.

It was reported that those who mix caffeine and alcohol were at least two times as likely to be hurt, need medical attention or take risks compared to those who don’t combine substances.

Alcohol and Cannabis


While a trendy choice for young people, by mixing cannabis and alcohol, you or your loved one may experience heavy vomiting, spinning, extreme paranoia, decreased motor control and a decrease in mental cognition.

Also known as ‘whiting out’, this is sometimes a goal set by young people.

Because cannabis suppresses your reflexes, you may not be able to throw up, even though your body tells you to.

Alcohol and Cocaine

Many people mix these two substances, believing they balance or ‘cancel’ each other out, but this is not true. By combining alcohol and cocaine, your body produces a high amount of a third substance called cocaethylene.

Cocaethylene in large amounts in the body increases the chance of cardiovascular toxicity leading to heart attacks and pressure and stress on the heart.

Mixing the two can also cause a false sense of sobriety, and you may have mood swings like aggressiveness and violent behaviour.

Alcohol and Ecstasy

Ecstasy or MDMA is very popular in the festival and nightclub scene. The drug works by increasing the activity of three brain chemicals: dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin.

This causes a burst of energy as the brain is flooded with happy neurotransmitters.

When mixing alcohol and ecstasy, your body can become very dehydrated, putting pressure on your liver and kidneys, with the chance of them shutting down completely.

Most deaths surrounding ecstasy are because it was mixed with alcohol.

Alcohol and Heroin

The mixture of heroin and alcohol has proven to be fatal. Both substances cause depression in the nervous system, making breathing laboured and a slow heart rate.

The risk of an overdose rises with the combination of these two substances.

Alcohol and Ketamine

Ketamine is an anaesthetic that, when mixed with alcohol, can cause severe reactions in the body and even death.

Those who combine this drug run the risk of memory loss leading to blackouts, slowed breathing, and a coma.

While pharmaceutical ketamine is used in a medical setting, illicit forms of this substance can often be mixed with methamphetamine, cocaine, and ecstasy, making it unpredictable when combined with alcohol.

Alcohol and LSD/Acid

LSD manipulates the serotonin receptors in the brain, leading to a euphoric, psychedelic high.

Many mix alcohol with LSD to slow down the effects of the drug and relax, as many LSD ‘trips’ can include visual and auditory hallucinations.

However, mixing LSD and alcohol can experience a highly dangerous hangover and come down where you risk choking on vomit and passing out.

Alcohol and Mushrooms

Mushrooms or ‘shrooms’ are psychedelic drugs that should never be mixed with other substances. Mixing magic mushrooms with alcohol makes you feel the effect less, making you take more.

Side effects of the combination can include severe vomiting and nausea.

Alcohol and Painkillers

Specifically discussing opiate painkillers like Oxycontin, Vicodin, Codeine and Percocet, the combination of these painkillers with alcohol is extremely dangerous.

Mixing alcohol and opiate painkillers may experience intensified sedative effects and respiratory depression.

A lowered blood pressure, weak pulse and laboured breathing can lead to unconsciousness, coma and potential death. [4]

The Dangers of Combining Alcohol & Drugs

Though there are misconceptions on the subject, mixing alcohol and drugs, even medicines and antibiotics, means you risk severe harm and even death.

Alcohol can increase the likelihood of side effects, change the impact of the drug on the body and increase the risk of an overdose.

It was reported by The Office for National Statistics that the number of deaths from drug misuse in 2020 was 2,830, which was the highest level since records began. [5]

Many believe the combination of drugs and alcohol will enhance the effect of the narcotic or ease the comedown; however, in reality, you can never be sure of the impact of the mixture, as many chemicals of the drugs are unpredictable in the system.

This is because, with illegal narcotics, you are never one hundred per cent sure what you are taking hasn’t been mixed with cheaper drugs and harsh chemicals.

Some drugs have been found to contain:

  • Fentanyl – a drug 50-100 times stronger than heroin that can lead to overdose
  • Levamisole – a medication used to treat worm infections.
  • Caffeine – is usually safe in small portions, the use of drugs increases the adrenaline rush and can lead to heart attacks.
  • Xylazine – Anaesthetic used by veterinarians to induce a relaxing effect
  • Bath salts – Cheaper than MDMA, bath salts are more intense and can cause an overdose
  • Rat poison – is a toxic substance to the human body that can cause death in large doses. [6]

If you or your loved one believes you have a problem with drugs and alcohol, there is help available, either through residential or outpatient rehab.

Between April 2020 and March 2021, there were over 275,000 adults who were in touch with drug and alcohol services.

Over half of these adults completed their treatment and were free from dependence. This is an increase from the previous year. [7]

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[1] https://www.release.org.uk/poly-drug-use

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2683356/

[3] https://alcohol.org/mixing-with/benzodiazepine/

[4] https://shop.ucsc.edu/alcohol-other-drugs/overdose-prevention/common-combinations.html

[5] https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/datasets/drugmisusedeathsbylocalauthority

[6] https://analyticalsciencejournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/dta.220

[7] https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/substance-misuse-treatment-for-young-people-statistics-2020-to-2021/young-peoples-substance-misuse-treatment-statistics-2020-to-2021-report