Alcohol and Other Drugs

Reviewed Aug 31, 2017

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Summary

  • Prescriptions and alcohol
  • Street drugs and alcohol

Mixing alcohol with illegal and/or prescription drugs can be very unsafe. Even so, it happens all the time. 

Prescriptions and alcohol

Many medications can make you sleepy, drowsy, or lightheaded. Some come with a warning label about alcohol. There is a good reason for this. Drinking alcohol can intensify the effects of some drugs while blocking the effects of others. Even small amounts can harm your focus, judgment, and coordination. Mixing alcohol with your prescribed medications can be very dangerous.

Sedative hypnotics

Commonly used drugs in this class include Valium®, Xanax®, and Ambien®. Sedative hypnotics are prescribed for anxiety and panic disorders, muscle relaxation and for trouble sleeping. These substances are often misused and can be addictive. Thousands of people overdose and die each year from mixing alcohol with them.

Pain killers

Opioid pain drugs such as hydrocodone (Vicodin®) and oxycodone (Percocet®) are very strong. The overuse of these drugs is now an epidemic in North America. When taken with alcohol they cause drowsiness, dizziness, mental and physical impairment, memory loss, breathing problems and heart failure.

In the United States, overdose on pain pills causes more deaths per year than car accidents. Some painkillers contain Tylenol® or ibuprofen. Examples include Percocet®, Lortab®, and Vicoprofen®. Drinking while taking these medications can cause serious harm to the liver or kidneys. Be sure to talk with your doctor about any alcohol use before taking these.

Street drugs and alcohol

Stimulants

Some street drugs, such as methamphetamine and cocaine, are stimulants. They can raise mental and physical activity, energy and awareness. Being high on these drugs causes changes in perception and behavior. To go against the effects, many people who overuse substances drink alcohol to calm them down. This is not a safe practice because stimulants keep very drunk people from passing out. This lets them use a potentially deadly amount of alcohol.
 
Marijuana

This is the most commonly used street drug in the U.S. When smoked, its results happen right away. The short-term results of marijuana are much like those from drinking:

  • distorted sense (sights, sounds, time, touch)
  • problems with recall and learning
  • loss of coordination
  • trouble thinking and problem solving
  • raised heart rate, reduced blood pressure

When mixed with drinking the risks for accidents, injury, and death increase. Alcohol compounds the effects of marijuana resulting in loss of control, poor decision-making and high-risk actions. Those symptoms linger long after the drugs have worn off. A recent paper published in the British Medical Journal showed that smoking marijuana within a few hours of driving doubled the chance of being involved in a serious car crash.

Finally, compared to those who don’t, people who drink too much and use marijuana are three to five times more likely to drop out of school and be out of work.

Drinking and drugs simply do not mix. If you have questions about your medications or the effects of drinking, talk with a local health care expert.

By Drew Edwards, EdD, MS
Reviewed by Enrique Olivares, MD, FAPA, Director of Addiction Services, Beacon Health Options

Summary

  • Prescriptions and alcohol
  • Street drugs and alcohol

Mixing alcohol with illegal and/or prescription drugs can be very unsafe. Even so, it happens all the time. 

Prescriptions and alcohol

Many medications can make you sleepy, drowsy, or lightheaded. Some come with a warning label about alcohol. There is a good reason for this. Drinking alcohol can intensify the effects of some drugs while blocking the effects of others. Even small amounts can harm your focus, judgment, and coordination. Mixing alcohol with your prescribed medications can be very dangerous.

Sedative hypnotics

Commonly used drugs in this class include Valium®, Xanax®, and Ambien®. Sedative hypnotics are prescribed for anxiety and panic disorders, muscle relaxation and for trouble sleeping. These substances are often misused and can be addictive. Thousands of people overdose and die each year from mixing alcohol with them.

Pain killers

Opioid pain drugs such as hydrocodone (Vicodin®) and oxycodone (Percocet®) are very strong. The overuse of these drugs is now an epidemic in North America. When taken with alcohol they cause drowsiness, dizziness, mental and physical impairment, memory loss, breathing problems and heart failure.

In the United States, overdose on pain pills causes more deaths per year than car accidents. Some painkillers contain Tylenol® or ibuprofen. Examples include Percocet®, Lortab®, and Vicoprofen®. Drinking while taking these medications can cause serious harm to the liver or kidneys. Be sure to talk with your doctor about any alcohol use before taking these.

Street drugs and alcohol

Stimulants

Some street drugs, such as methamphetamine and cocaine, are stimulants. They can raise mental and physical activity, energy and awareness. Being high on these drugs causes changes in perception and behavior. To go against the effects, many people who overuse substances drink alcohol to calm them down. This is not a safe practice because stimulants keep very drunk people from passing out. This lets them use a potentially deadly amount of alcohol.
 
Marijuana

This is the most commonly used street drug in the U.S. When smoked, its results happen right away. The short-term results of marijuana are much like those from drinking:

  • distorted sense (sights, sounds, time, touch)
  • problems with recall and learning
  • loss of coordination
  • trouble thinking and problem solving
  • raised heart rate, reduced blood pressure

When mixed with drinking the risks for accidents, injury, and death increase. Alcohol compounds the effects of marijuana resulting in loss of control, poor decision-making and high-risk actions. Those symptoms linger long after the drugs have worn off. A recent paper published in the British Medical Journal showed that smoking marijuana within a few hours of driving doubled the chance of being involved in a serious car crash.

Finally, compared to those who don’t, people who drink too much and use marijuana are three to five times more likely to drop out of school and be out of work.

Drinking and drugs simply do not mix. If you have questions about your medications or the effects of drinking, talk with a local health care expert.

By Drew Edwards, EdD, MS
Reviewed by Enrique Olivares, MD, FAPA, Director of Addiction Services, Beacon Health Options

Summary

  • Prescriptions and alcohol
  • Street drugs and alcohol

Mixing alcohol with illegal and/or prescription drugs can be very unsafe. Even so, it happens all the time. 

Prescriptions and alcohol

Many medications can make you sleepy, drowsy, or lightheaded. Some come with a warning label about alcohol. There is a good reason for this. Drinking alcohol can intensify the effects of some drugs while blocking the effects of others. Even small amounts can harm your focus, judgment, and coordination. Mixing alcohol with your prescribed medications can be very dangerous.

Sedative hypnotics

Commonly used drugs in this class include Valium®, Xanax®, and Ambien®. Sedative hypnotics are prescribed for anxiety and panic disorders, muscle relaxation and for trouble sleeping. These substances are often misused and can be addictive. Thousands of people overdose and die each year from mixing alcohol with them.

Pain killers

Opioid pain drugs such as hydrocodone (Vicodin®) and oxycodone (Percocet®) are very strong. The overuse of these drugs is now an epidemic in North America. When taken with alcohol they cause drowsiness, dizziness, mental and physical impairment, memory loss, breathing problems and heart failure.

In the United States, overdose on pain pills causes more deaths per year than car accidents. Some painkillers contain Tylenol® or ibuprofen. Examples include Percocet®, Lortab®, and Vicoprofen®. Drinking while taking these medications can cause serious harm to the liver or kidneys. Be sure to talk with your doctor about any alcohol use before taking these.

Street drugs and alcohol

Stimulants

Some street drugs, such as methamphetamine and cocaine, are stimulants. They can raise mental and physical activity, energy and awareness. Being high on these drugs causes changes in perception and behavior. To go against the effects, many people who overuse substances drink alcohol to calm them down. This is not a safe practice because stimulants keep very drunk people from passing out. This lets them use a potentially deadly amount of alcohol.
 
Marijuana

This is the most commonly used street drug in the U.S. When smoked, its results happen right away. The short-term results of marijuana are much like those from drinking:

  • distorted sense (sights, sounds, time, touch)
  • problems with recall and learning
  • loss of coordination
  • trouble thinking and problem solving
  • raised heart rate, reduced blood pressure

When mixed with drinking the risks for accidents, injury, and death increase. Alcohol compounds the effects of marijuana resulting in loss of control, poor decision-making and high-risk actions. Those symptoms linger long after the drugs have worn off. A recent paper published in the British Medical Journal showed that smoking marijuana within a few hours of driving doubled the chance of being involved in a serious car crash.

Finally, compared to those who don’t, people who drink too much and use marijuana are three to five times more likely to drop out of school and be out of work.

Drinking and drugs simply do not mix. If you have questions about your medications or the effects of drinking, talk with a local health care expert.

By Drew Edwards, EdD, MS
Reviewed by Enrique Olivares, MD, FAPA, Director of Addiction Services, Beacon Health Options

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, quizzes, and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, health care, psychiatric, psychological or behavioral health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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