Intoxication from either alcohol or illicit drugs can be dangerous–that’s not news to anyone. People can make foolish choices with drastic consequences while under the influence of any substance from driving while intoxicated, to engaging in crazy stunts while showing off for friends, to having unprotected sex. The consequences can be immediate, such as death or injury from a car accident, or they can be long-term, such as contracting HIV or hepatitis from shared body fluids. Drug overdose is another unfortunate, immediate consequence from drug abuse, and it can result in death or irreparable damage. When people mix alcohol and drugs, they can enter a state known as combined drug intoxication. Combined drug intoxication can be more severe than intoxication from drugs or alcohol alone, and comes with an increased risk of drug overdose.
What Is Combined Drug Intoxication?
Combined drug intoxication is just what it sounds like, intoxication caused by abusing more than one drug at the same time or abusing drugs and alcohol at the same time. When more than one substance is in the body there can be a negative interaction that can cause serious damage. Sometimes, one of the substances will increase the side effects of the other. Other times, the two will work together to heighten the effects of both. Alcohol can cause serious harm when combined with illicit drugs, with different effects depending on the specific drug combination. Unfortunately, combined drug intoxication caused by drugs and alcohol is a common occurrence because people who “party” with drugs and alcohol tend to regularly abuse both.
Drug and Alcohol Interactions
Alcohol is a depressant, meaning that it slows the body’s systems down. When it is paired with other depressant drugs, it can slow things down to deadly levels. When paired with stimulant drugs, the two may seem to even each other out, but they may also mask the effects of the other. This can make a person feel sober and take even more drugs or alcohol.
Alcohol and Marijuana: The active ingredient in marijuana that causes a person to feel high is known as THC. For reasons that are not fully understood, combining alcohol and marijuana increases blood THC levels, and therefore increase the marijuana high. Side effects include slurred speech, impaired coordination and judgment, and a slowed sense of time. All of these effects can make it dangerous to drive, in fact, the combination of alcohol and marijuana is common in drivers involved in car accidents.
Alcohol and Cocaine: Cocaine is a stimulant, speeding up the body’s processes, and can have deadly consequences when combined with alcohol. One specific danger is that under the influence of alcohol and cocaine, the liver may produce a substance known as cocaethylene. This toxin can cause heart arrhythmia, cardiac arrest, brain damage, aneurysm, and death.
Alcohol and Heroin: Because alcohol and heroin are two depressants, they amplify their depressive effects when combined. Side effects of this combination include depression, anxiety, seizures, mania, delusions, mood swings, confusion, dehydration, coma, and death. Those final effects are caused by the increased depressive effect on the body. The drugs and alcohol effectively slow the body down to deadly levels.
Alcohol and Ecstasy (MDMA): The high produced by ecstasy feels euphoric, an intense happiness that masks the depressive effects of alcohol. People taking ecstasy and alcohol together may not realize how intoxicated they truly are and will continue to drink, leading to alcohol poisoning. Other side effects of this combination include dehydration, anxiety, depression, aggression, insomnia, heart attack, liver, and kidney damage.
Combined Drug Intoxication and Drug Overdose
The greatest risk of combining drugs and alcohol is the risk of overdose. Overdose takes place when the individual takes such a large dose of drugs that the body cannot metabolize it quickly enough. It is especially easy to overdose when combining drugs and alcohol, because on the increased side effects caused by the combination. Drug overdose deaths are a sad reality of combined drug intoxication. According to the CDC, roughly 72,000 people died of a drug overdose in 2017. Others do not die but suffer permanent brain damage. Symptoms include changes in breathing rate, heart rate, temperature, and blood pressure, shortness of breath, abdominal pain, chest pain, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. If you suspect someone is having an overdose, whether as a result of combined drug intoxication or any other reason, call 911 immediately.
If you or someone you love struggles with substance abuse, whether it is drugs, alcohol, or both, help is available. The professional staff at Blu By The Sea is ready to help you get off of drugs and on with your life. Call our toll-free number today.