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    The Effects of Combining Alcohol with Other Drugs

    Combining other drugs with alcohol can have unpredictable and unwanted consequences. This page will help you understand the dangers and take steps to prevent harm.

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    University Health Service

    University Health Service The Effects of Combining Alcohol with Other Drugs

    Combining medications (prescribed or not prescribed) with alcohol can have unpredictable and unwanted consequences. We can help ourselves, our friends and our community by understanding the dangers and taking steps to prevent harm.

    How Do You Know What Happens? | Josh Levine PSA from Scott Wasserman on Vimeo. (see also Transcription below)

    Depressants (Xanax, Valium) combined with alcohol have a synergistic effect, with potential for dangerous and even lethal consequences, with rapid onset of dizziness, stumbling, loss of sphincter control, memory loss and potential death.Stimulants (e.g., Ritalin, Adderall, Concerta) combined with alcohol conceal  alcohol’s effects, so people cannot gauge their level of intoxication, which can result in over-consumption, e.g. significant impairment of coordination and judgment, black out, pass out and potential death.Prescription opiates (e.g., Vicodin, OxyContin, Tylenol 3 with codeine, Percocet) combined with alcohol can result in slowed or arrested breathing, lowered pulse and blood pressure, unconsciousness, coma, and potential death.Note: It is illegal to misuse prescription medication, that is:

    Continue to use medication when the prescription is no longer valid

    Use prescribed drugs contrary to the prescription

    Use prescription drugs not prescribed to you

    Give or sell prescribed drugs to another person

    Misusing prescription drugs can result in conviction with jail time.

    Potential harm can happen in three ways:

    When people do not know that there are significant drug interactions and are caught by surprise when they inadvertently drink while using prescription medication

    When people knowingly combine alcohol with other drugs because they mistakenly believe it will be a “better” or “enriched” intoxication

    As a tool to facilitate a crime (sexual assault, robbery, etc) by making a victim incapacitated

    If you choose to drink:

    Make your own drink whenever possible, and don’t leave your drink unattended

    If you don’t see your drink being made, don't drink it

    Avoid drinks that come from a common source (e.g. punch bowl, igloo container, jug)

    Stay safe, Go Blue, and Stay in the Blue.

    For more information, see:

    Harmful Interactions: Mixing Alcohol with Medicines from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

    Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs Chart from the National Institute on Drug Abuse

    Alcohol Abuse Makes Prescription Drug Abuse More Likely, from the National Institute on Drug Abuse

    Video transcription:

    Narrator: What do you get when mixing red and blue paint? How about Coca-Cola and Mentos from science class? Then there’s alcohol mixed with prescription drugs. What happens when you mix them together? How do you know what happens?

    Josh's mom: I lost my son Josh Levine because he didn’t know what would happen when he mixed Adderall with alcohol. Don’t be the next one who doesn’t know what will happen. How do you know what will happen? How do you know?

    Source : uhs.umich.edu

    Harmful Interactions

    You’ve probably seen this warning on medicines you’ve taken. The danger is real. Mixing alcohol with certain medications can cause nausea and vomiting, headaches, drowsiness, fainting, or loss of coordination. It also can put you at risk for internal bleeding, heart problems, and difficulties in breathing. In addition to these dangers, alcohol can make a medication less effective or even useless, or it may make the medication harmful or toxic to your body.

    Harmful Interactions

    Harmful Interactions Mixing Alcohol With Medicines

    You’ve probably seen this warning on medicines you’ve taken. The danger is real. Mixing alcohol with certain medications can cause nausea and vomiting, headaches, drowsiness, fainting, or loss of coordination. It also can put you at risk for internal bleeding, heart problems, and difficulties in breathing. In addition to these dangers, alcohol can make a medication less effective or even useless, or it may make the medication harmful or toxic to your body.

    Some medicines that you might never have suspected can react with alcohol, including many medications which can be purchased “over-the-counter”—that is, without a prescription. Even some herbal remedies can have harmful effects when combined with alcohol.

    This pamphlet lists medications that can cause harm when taken with alcohol and describes the effects that can result. The list gives the brand name by which each medicine is commonly known (for example, Benadryl®) and its generic name or active ingredient (in Benadryl®, this is diphenhydramine). The list presented here does not include all the medicines that may interact harmfully with alcohol. Most important, the list does not include all the ingredients in every medication.

    Medications typically are safe and effective when used appropriately. Your pharmacist or other health care provider can help you determine which medications interact harmfully with alcohol.

    Did You Know…


    Mixing alcohol and medicines can be harmful. Alcohol, like some medicines, can make you sleepy, drowsy, or lightheaded. Drinking alcohol while taking medicines can intensify these effects. You may have trouble concentrating or performing mechanical skills. Small amounts of alcohol can make it dangerous to drive, and when you mix alcohol with certain medicines you put yourself at even greater risk. Combining alcohol with some medicines can lead to falls and serious injuries, especially among older people.

    Medicines may have many ingredients

    Some medications—including many popular painkillers and cough, cold, and allergy remedies—contain more than one ingredient that can react with alcohol. Read the label on the medication bottle to find out exactly what ingredients a medicine contains. Ask your pharmacist if you have any questions about how alcohol might interact with a drug you are taking.

    Some medicines contain alcohol

    Certain medicines contain up to 10 percent alcohol. Cough syrup and laxatives may have some of the highest alcohol concentrations.

    Alcohol affects women differently

    Women, in general, have a higher risk for problems than men. When a woman drinks, the alcohol in her bloodstream typically reaches a higher level than a man’s even if both are drinking the same amount. This is because women’s bodies generally have less water than men’s bodies. Because alcohol mixes with body water, a given amount of alcohol is more concentrated in a woman’s body than in a man’s. As a result, women are more susceptible to alcohol-related damage to organs such as the liver.

    Older people face greater risk

    Older people are at particularly high risk for harmful alcohol–medication interactions. Aging slows the body’s ability to break down alcohol, so alcohol remains in a person’s system longer. Older people also are more likely to take a medication that interacts with alcohol—in fact, they often need to take more than one of these medications.

    Timing is important

    Alcohol and medicines can interact harmfully even if they are not taken at the same time.


    Mixing alcohol and medicines puts you at risk for dangerous reactions. Protect yourself by avoiding alcohol if you are taking a medication and don’t know its effect. To learn more about a medicine and whether it will interact with alcohol, talk to your pharmacist or other health care provider.

    Commonly Used Medicines (Both Prescription and Over-the-Counter) That Interact With Alcohol

    Symptom/Disorders Medication (Brand name) Medication (Generic name) Some possible reactions with alcohol

    Allergies/Colds/Flu Alavert® Loratadine

    Drowsiness, dizziness; increased risk for overdose

    Atarax® Hydroxyzine Benadryl® Diphenhydramine Clarinex® Desloratadine Claritin®, Claritin-D® Loratadine

    Dimetapp® Cold &Allergy


    Sudafed® Sinus & Allergy


    Triaminic® Cold & Allergy


    Tylenol® Allergy Sinus

    Chlorpheniramine Tylenol® Cold & Flu Chlorpheniramine Zyrtec® Cetirizine

    Angina (chest pain), coronary heart disease

    Isordil® Isosorbide Nitroglycerin

    Rapid heartbeat, sudden changes in blood pressure, dizziness, fainting

    Anxiety and epilepsy

    Ativan® Lorazepam

    Drowsiness, dizziness; increased risk for overdose; slowed or difficulty breathing; impaired motor control; unusual behavior; memory problems

    BuSpar® Buspirone Klonopin® Clonazepam Librium® Chlordiazepoxide Paxil® Paroxetine Valium® Diazepam Xanax®

    Source : www.niaaa.nih.gov

    Mixing Alcohol With Other Drugs

    As the most commonly used intoxicant in the United States, alcohol is very likely to be mixed with any number of legal and illicit drugs.

    Mixing Alcohol With Other Drugs

    Alcohol is very reactive with other substances, especially both legal and illicit drugs. These reactions can have serious effects on the mind and body and pose an incredible danger in the long and short term.

    Start the road to recovery

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    Mixing Alcohol And Other Substances

    As the most commonly used intoxicant in the United States (and much of the world), alcohol is very likely to be mixed with any number of legal and illicit drugs. Because alcohol is a highly reactive substance that impacts many different bodily systems, it is also very likely to encounter any other substances in the body and react with them.

    In some cases (such as with many Opioids), alcohol magnifies and amplifies the effects of the other medication; this is often to a dangerous level. In other cases (including those of a number of prescription medications), alcohol will partially or fully negate the impact of the other drug; this can have equally drastic consequences. Sometimes, alcohol will react with another drug (a well-known example being Cocaine) and create impacts that are entirely different from either of the original substances.

    Because so many of the interactions between drugs and alcohol are dangerous, it is very important that you never mix alcohol with any drugs without first consulting a physician. If you are on a prescription but find that you are unable to stop drinking in order to take it, you may need help. Find a rehab facility now that can help you deal with an alcohol use disorder.

    Substances Commonly Mixed With Alcohol


    People mix alcohol with Adderall to lessen the depressive symptoms of alcohol. A common myth states that combining Stimulants with Depressants is okay because the 2 “cancel each other out.” This misconception is based on a misunderstanding of how alcohol and Adderall affect the mental and physical systems of the body when used simultaneously. The combined actions of these 2 drugs can actually increase the negative effects that both drugs have on the body, causing severe health risks. Combining Stimulants with alcohol may cause an individual to consume larger amounts of alcohol than the body can manage, resulting in an overdose or other complications. Alcohol and Adderall have negative effects when combined on the heart, including:

    Accelerated heart rate


    Increased blood pressure

    Risk of heart attack, stroke, or other heart disease

    It is highly dangerous and risky to consume Alcohol while taking Adderall.


    There are many different types of Antibiotics, each of which will interact with alcohol differently. It is very important to consult with a physician and carefully read all labels. The biggest risk to mixing alcohol and Antibiotics is liver damage, as both are metabolized in the liver. Other common reactions include nausea, dizziness, vomiting, tiredness, increased heart rate, and shortness of breath. Additionally, many Antibiotics will not work effectively in the body if one consumes alcohol while taking them.


    Antidepressants and alcohol magnify the impacts of each other, making users of both feel more intoxicated than they would otherwise. Alcohol can also negate the effect of the Antidepressant, eliminating the desired impacts and possibly limiting the success of treatment. This combination can also cause unexpected and extreme emotions.


    Alcohol can reduce the effectiveness of Antihistamines if the body chooses to metabolize the alcohol before the Antihistamine. Alcohol may cause more severe side effects when mixed with certain Antihistamine drugs.


    There is a widespread myth that Cocaine and alcohol cancel each other out, but that is far from the truth. Alcohol and Cocaine combine in the body to form a third substance, Cocaethylene. Cocaethylene causes the highest level of cardiovascular activity of any drug, which puts extreme pressure and stress on the heart and often leads to cardiac arrest and death.

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    Energy Drinks/Caffeine

    These drinks trick your body into thinking it is less tired and intoxicated than it truly is, leading to potentially dangerous levels of alcohol consumption. These drinks also dehydrate the body, increasing the risk of alcohol poisoning and the severity of hangovers. Those who drink alcohol with Caffeine are more than twice as likely to be injured, require medical attention, or accept a ride from an intoxicated driver than those who drank alcohol without Caffeine.

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    Alcohol reduces the euphoric feeling that Ecstasy causes, and combining the 2 puts a tremendous strain on the kidneys. Mixing alcohol with Ecstasy causes dangerous dehydration. Most Ecstasy-related deaths are the result of mixing the drug with alcohol. Furthermore, both drugs lower inhibitions on their own — an effect that only increases when taken together. Concurrent use of alcohol and Ecstasy may result in risky behavior like taking additional drugs or having unprotected sex. Since people may feel less impaired on alcohol when combined with Ecstasy, users are at much greater risk of overdose or alcohol poisoning. Users are also more likely to use more of either substance when combined, possibly resulting in heart failure, high blood pressure, seizures, loss of consciousness, panic attacks, and fainting. Ecstasy is especially dangerous because Ecstasy pills are not usually pure MDMA; they are often combined with other substances. Therefore it may be difficult for the user to determine what they are actually consuming with alcohol, which can increase the risk of overdose as well.

    Source : www.addictioncenter.com

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