Mixing Alcohol with Other Substances: Understanding the Dangers

It is known that alcoholism increases the possibility of developing co-occurring conditions alongside substance use disorder. The effects will be increased, but more importantly, dangerous interactions can be triggered, too. 

When an individual begins mixing drugs and alcohol, it is never a great idea because of the unpredictable side effects. Each drug will present a unique effect but there are main factors it depends on. 

  • How much of the drug was taken
  • What is actually in it
  • What the individual ate
  • Where the person is
  • What’s going on around them
  • How tired the individual is 
  • How the person is feeling

When individuals engage in alcohol, it is more likely that that same individual will engage in substances such as:

  • Prescription drugs
  • Illicit drugs such as:
    • Heroin 
    • Cocaine
    • Marijuana
    • Ecstasy 

When drugs and alcohol are mixed, serious complications can occur in the following categories:

  • Behavioral health
  • Physical health 

What Are Substance Use Disorders?

Substance use disorders involve an individual engaging in the chronic use of drugs and alcohol. When there is a prolonged consumption of alcohol and drugs, the individual’s tolerance is increased. By the individual’s tolerance being heightened, the substance will be more required for the person to reach desirable results. 

Alcohol and substance use starts as a light concern until it gradually becomes a more serious entity. For example, a person might begin by mixing small doses of alcohol with a drug. Their body will become dependent on the released chemicals by each substance over time and begin craving more. 

After this person builds up a tolerance to both substances, the person will in turn increase the amount consumed to avoid experiencing uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. This is when the individual might begin engaging in even more harmful substances, which can result in a more intensified high such as:

  • Cocaine
  • Ecstasy 
  • Heroin 

How To Recognize a Drug or Alcohol Issue

There are many symptoms of drug and alcohol use that are noticeable, but some aren’t as recognizable. Family members must keep an eye out for warning signs, but these signs can go unnoticed when the individual hides the drug and drinking issues. There is a huge negative connotation and stigma associated with drug and alcohol use, so individuals might feel led to deny they have a problem. 

In circumstances similar to this, it’s much more difficult for close family members and friends to arrange an intervention for their loved ones to gain the help that they deserve. There are several questions a family member or friend can use to identify if their loved one needs help.

What Are Common Drugs That People Suffering From Substance Use Disorder Commonly Mix With Alcohol?

Although mixing alcohol and drugs can lead to unpredictable results, there are numerous common examples of what is to be expected:


The combination of mixing alcohol and speed is known to be fatal. When the two forces are taken together, the effect of the speed is exaggerated. Speed can put a strain on an individual’s heart so mixing it with alcohol can add even more pressure on it. 


Ecstasy is a stimulant that can cause severe adverse reactions when paired with other substances such as alcohol. The powerful high that occurs when consuming ecstasy influences the person to drink large amounts in a short amount of time. 

This drug creates a buzz and provides that to the individual seeking the high. From the experience, a lot of energy is given to the person. Ecstasy presents a true danger of dehydration and overheating. 

When an individual engages in alcohol use, they can become dehydrated so combining the two can make matters a lot worse. The other side effects involved with this combination are:

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Heatstroke
  • Excessive sweating


This combination is the most common because of the powerful high both substances produce. 

Cocaine is a stimulant that increases the following factors which helps alcohol reach the brain faster:

  • Alertness
  • Blood pressure
  • Heart rate

When an individual engages in cocaine use along with other drugs or alcohol, the risk of side effects is increased. The combination of cocaine and alcohol is extremely dangerous because the interaction in the body can produce a toxic chemical named cocaethylene. Cocaethylene produces intense feelings of pleasure. 

The three factors that are heightened when these two forces are combined are the following:

  • Heart attack
  • Overdose
  • Death


Both forces are depressants so combining the two can increase the likelihood of an overdose. The following side effects can occur with these two drugs being mixed:

  • Vomiting
  • High anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea

Since marijuana reduces nausea symptoms, it might prevent the individual’s body from throwing up alcohol. From that occurring, this could cause alcohol to remain in the system and lead potentially to alcohol poisoning

mixing drugs and alcohol


The main painkillers heavily prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain in the United States are:

  • Xanax
  • OxyContin
  • Vicodin

When painkillers are combined with alcohol, dangerous health conditions can be produced. Painkillers and alcohol taken separately can already possibly cause liver damage. However, when the substances are combined, the risk of developing liver problems and liver disease greatly increases. 


Individuals who are diagnosed with a mental health condition are typically prescribed antidepressants such as Prozac or Zoloft. When an antidepressant is mixed with alcohol, the main side effect is a potentially dead combination. The main risk factors of this combination are:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Impaired judgment
  • Sleep irritability
  • Irritability 
  • Faintness
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness

There are numerous risks associated with sleeping pills by themselves. When it is combined with alcohol use, sleeping pills’ effects can be life-threatening. If the individual engages in a small amount of alcohol, the sedative effects can be increased. 


This drug creates a sedative effect. When that process occurs, inhibitions are dulled and sleepiness occurs. By itself, GHB can cause unconsciousness, death, or coma. So added with another force, it’s even more dangerous. 


Heroin and alcohol are both depressants that can cause similar side effects. One of the biggest risks of depressants is slowed breathing. When heroin is consumed with alcohol, the breathing issues can become even more life-threatening and serious. 

It’s important to remember that heroin is a highly addictive drug. Heroin is extremely difficult to quit. The two main factors combining these drugs are:

  • Overdose
  • Slow heart rate

If an individual mixes alcohol with heroin, there’s a much higher risk of overdosing. When a person consumes a moderate amount of alcohol, the level of heroin can be lowered. However, this entire process can still lead to a fatal overdose. 

What Are the Effects of Mixing Drugs and Alcohol?

Generally, when an individual mixes drugs and alcohol, the effects of mixing drugs and alcohol are normally exaggerated. The process can be extremely dangerous. For example, if a person combines a depressant drug with a sedative, the body can be at risk of shutting down completely. 

Commonly, individuals assume their safety based on a smooth experience occurring before. 

However, determining the specific reaction that will occur each time is an impossible act to master. Every individual will react differently and results can vary every time. It is a huge risk to take a drug and not be knowledgeable about what is in it. 

What Sort Of Side Effects Occur With Mixing Alcohol With Other Substances?

When an individual begins mixing drugs and alcohol, severe bodily injury and life-threatening side effects can occur. The combination can rapidly spiral out of control, leaving that individual at risk for potentially permanent health complications. When an individual begins to consume excessive amounts of drugs and alcohol for days, weeks, or years, there can be a toll on the person’s body. 

Some effects can be minor, lasting temporarily. Some effects can cause permanent damage. Generally, the type of drug and amount of alcohol consumed will affect the consequences of a person’s health. 

Short Term Effects

  • Muscle control difficulties
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Lack of concentration
  • Decreased or increased heart rate
  • Lowering inhibitions
  • Respiratory problems
  • Heightened emotions of anxiety, sadness, or fear

Long Term Effects

  • Bone and muscle breakdown
  • Lack of coordination skills
  • Coping problems in school or at work
  • Internal organ damage
  • Long-term memory impairment
  • Nasal perforation (in cocaine use)
  • Poor nutrition 

Drugs and drinking can destroy relationships with friends and family. While all hope might feel like it’s lost, we are here to help. Substance and alcohol use are treatable conditions that can be overcome with the assistance of our medical professionals. 

Get Help At Sana Lake BWC Today

If an individual is suffering from an alcohol or substance use disorder, it can not be self-treated. Sana Lake BWC has a compassionate staff eager to help addiction and recovery struggles. Contact us today to get started on life free from substances.