Mixing Alcohol and Other Substances

Alcohol is the most widely used and abused intoxicants worldwide.  Because of its social acceptance and availability, alcohol is also the most deadly substance of abuse.  It is responsible for more than 95,000 deaths every year.  

Alcohol-related health problems also damage millions of lives each year.  Conditions such as kidney and liver disease, heart disease, and cancer decrease the quality of life for these individuals and shorten their lifespan by about 29 years. 

Not only is alcohol a dangerous, addictive substance on its own, but it can also cause adverse interactions with other drugs, including prescription meds.  At Design for Change Recovery, we are concerned about the rising number of addictions and overdoses in the US today.  So, this list is provided as a way to help save lives from the dangers of mixing alcohol and other substances.

Substance Most Commonly Mixed with Alcohol

When a person combines alcohol with another substance, it amplifies the effects of those drugs.  But, with some drugs, alcohol can partially or fully negate the intended effects.  In either case, mixing alcohol with any other illicit or legal drug can be life-threatening.

Here are some examples of how mixing alcohol with other substances can cause dangerous interactions.


Alcohol has a depressant effect on a person, especially if large amounts are consumed.  It causes lowered inhibition, sedation, drowsiness, and poor coordination.  Antidepressants can cause side effects such as drowsiness, sleeplessness, agitation, and nausea or vomiting. 

When combined with alcohol, the effects of antidepressants decrease. So, a person who uses medication for depression won’t receive the full benefits.  If their depression persists in spite of taking the meds, they may self-medicate by using more alcohol.  


When alcohol is consumed while taking antibiotics a number of things can happen.  For one, the liver can’t process both substances effectively at the same time.  This problem can lead to liver damage or failure.  The combination can also cause increased heart rate, shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness, and tiredness.


Many people mistakenly believe that cocaine and alcohol cancel each other out.  In truth, the combination forms a third substance known as Cocaethylene.  This substance causes the highest occurrence of cardiovascular stress of any drug available today.  So, combining alcohol with cocaine can lead to cardiac arrest and death.

Club Drugs

Club drugs such as Ecstasy are popular club drugs today.  When Ecstasy is combined with alcohol a person is at a greater risk of alcohol poisoning or overdose.  This happens because alcohol and Ecstasy enhance one another.  For instance, both substances lower a person’s inhibitions.  This effect can lead to risky behavior such as unprotected sex or using other substances.  

When combined, alcohol and ecstasy can cause high blood pressure, heart failure, panic attacks, seizures, unconsciousness, and overdose. 


In the last decade, hallucinogen use has increased substantially.  The drugs are popular because they alter a person’s perception of sound, color, motion, or time.  Large doses of the drug can cause high blood pressure, increased heart rate, and hyperthermia.  

Long-term use can cause persistent psychosis known as Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD).  Additional health risks occur such as respiratory arrest or coma when using hallucinogenic drugs in conjunction with alcohol.  The combination can also cause depression and suicidal thoughts.


Using marijuana and alcohol together is not uncommon.  But, this does not mean it’s safe.  The combined effects of these two substances can cause severe intoxication, dizziness, vomiting, and paranoia.  The person loses track of time and space and is unable to think rationally.  

Other side effects can include changes in emotional behavior, poor coordination, memory loss, and impaired cognitive abilities.


Of all combinations, this is the most deadly.  Mixing alcohol and meth raises blood pressure to a dangerous level, causing pressure on the heart.  Combining meth and alcohol also causes kidney damage. Individuals who use these substances together may also engage in violent behavior or become sexually promiscuous.  


Using alcohol while taking opioids can be life-threatening.  The combination magnifies the depressive effects inherent in each substance.  The effects can lead to respiratory failure and fatal sedation.  When respiration is depressed by these substances, the brain doesn’t get enough oxygen.  So, it will shut down major organs.  The person can suffer brain damage and serious liver damage.


One of the most commonly abused stimulants is Adderall.  When it is mixed with alcohol, all mental and physical systems in the body are affected.  But, the most dangerous effects occur in the heart.  High blood pressure, rapid heart rate, and arrhythmia can happen when these drugs are combined.  These results can be heart attack, heart disease, or stroke.  

Energy Drinks or Caffeine

People who use alcohol while consuming energy drinks increase their risk of alcohol poisoning.  They also suffer severe hangovers.  These effects are the result of high levels of caffeine in the body.  It causes the person to think they are less intoxicated than they truly are.  So, they drink large amounts and are twice as likely to be injured and need medical attention.

Treatment for Alcohol and Substance Abuse

Some people develop an addiction to alcohol and another substance at the same time. This is known as co-occurring disorder or dual-diagnosis.  Overcoming both addictions requires simultaneous treatment in an inpatient rehabilitation program.  

Anyone struggling with an addiction to one or more substances should contact us at Design for Change Recovery. Our comprehensive program can address any addiction while also treating the underlying causes of substance abuse.  In this way, we heal the whole person for more lasting results.

Clients have the option of outpatient or inpatient programs.  We also provide aftercare services for clients.  Aftercare is a program that offers continuing support and guidance for clients as they reintegrate into their families and communities.

How Design for Change Recovery Ends the Cycle of Addiction

Our evidence-based treatment approach helps a person heal the emotional, physical, and spiritual factors that contributed to their substance abuse.  We design a plan for treatment based on each client’s unique situation to ensure the most effective outcome.  Their treatment plan may include the following:  

  • Medically supervised detox
  • Counseling and therapy
  • Holistic therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Medication-assisted treatment

These treatment approaches teach clients how to replace negative thought patterns with positive thoughts and behaviors.  In this way, they have the coping skills and confidence to avoid substance use in the future.  

As part of our holistic therapy, clients benefit from music and art therapy, nutrition and fitness training, bio-sound therapy, and psychodrama therapy.  They gain a sense of wellbeing that improves self-esteem and promotes sobriety.

We believe family therapy is an essential part of an effective treatment program. Each family member takes part in learning how to support their loved one in recovery.  When a client returns home after treatment, love and support from their family are vital to successful recovery.

Learn More About Design for Change Recovery Today

We understand the challenges clients will face during recovery.  They will have good days and bad days.  For that reason, our compassionate, skilled staff and counselors are available to offer encouragement and guidance throughout the treatment process.

With our comprehensive treatment program, addiction becomes a battle won.  The reward is a healthier, happier, sober lifestyle.  For more information about our program, contact us at our Lancaster, CA facility today.  


  • cdc.gov/alcohol – Deaths from Excessive Alcohol Use in the United States

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