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The Dangers of Mixing Alcohol and Drugs

To teens, combining drugs and alcohol — and mixing medications — may seem like double the fun, but in reality, it’s double the risk. The biggest danger of mixing alcohol and drugs is the unknown — what will happen? Often times, the health risks can prove fatal.

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4 min read

Risks of Mixing Drugs

Teens standing around drinking and doing drugs

Teens may hear from their friends that polydrug use enhanced their high or helped them come down from the high easier, but many don’t realize the dangers they expose themselves to when mixing drugs.

Some of the common symptoms of mixing drugs are:

  • Dizziness
  • Stumbling
  • Memory loss
  • Impaired coordination and judgement
  • Passing out or blacking out
  • Slowed breathing
  • Lowered pulse
  • Coma
  • Overdose
  • Death

Celebrity Deaths From Mixing Drugs

Stories of the dangers of polydrug abuse make headlines regularly. Many of the most memorable stories are of celebrities that died from drugs or polydrug use.

One of the most famous cases of celebrity death from mixing drugs is Elvis Presley. Although the King’s 1977 autopsy report cites a heart attack as the singer’s cause of death, a toxicology report later found he had 10 different drugs in his system. While not considered a drug abuser (especially a Valium abuser), he had a combination of Valium, phenobarbital and three other sedatives in his system — as well as 10 times the therapeutic limit of the narcotic codeine. Many scientists believe — especially in retrospect — it was the polydrug use and not the heart attack that killed him.

Mixing drugs also played a role in the suicide of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain in 1994. Cobain and his fellow rock-and-roller wife, Courtney Love, were both famous for their drug abuse and continuing stints in and out of rehab. He had several drug overdoses over the years, but perhaps the most famous one is from March 1994 in Rome. Love discovered Cobain unconscious and Italian hospitals later revealed he fell into an overdose-induced coma after a session of alcohol and Rohypnol abuse. One month later, Cobain fatally shot himself in the head in his Seattle home. Official reports state Cobain had Valium and enough heroin in his system to have been high at the time of the shooting.

According to official reports for the New York coroner’s office, actor Heath Ledger also died from mixing drugs. The 28-year-old was found not breathing in his bed on January 22, 2008. Although an initial autopsy produced inconclusive results, the toxicology report revealed Ledger had opioid pain medications oxycodone and hydrocodone, Valium, Xanax, the insomnia drug temazepam and the allergy drug doxylamine in his system. His death was ruled as an accidental overdose from combining these drugs.

Examples of Mixing Drugs

There is an endless number of ways to combine drugs and alcohol, but some mixtures have proven to be more common than others. The symptoms for each combination vary from mild to fatal effects.

Teenagers drinking and smoking marijuana

Some examples of mixing drugs and/or alcohol include:

Speedballing

Also known as “powerballing” and “chasing the dragon”, mixing cocaine and heroin presents a high risk of overdose because the effects of the two drugs conflict. Heroin slows a person’s breathing rate. Cocaine causes the body to use more oxygen. Combined, heroin and cocaine can cause a person to stop breathing.

Mixing Weed and Alcohol

Smoking marijuana and drinking can cause a user to “green out” or feel sick. Together, the combined effects often cause nausea, vomiting, dizziness, paranoia and other psychotic symptoms. On the streets, slang for mixing pot and alcohol includes “stupor stoning” and “herb and al.”

Mixing Prescription Pills and Alcohol

Young woman feeling ill from pills and alcohol

Combining prescription pills and alcohol is dangerous because of what they have in common. In some cases, alcohol and certain medications both slow breathing and affect the coughing reflex. Other combinations, such as alcohol and Xanax, compete for a certain enzyme in the liver that metabolizes the substances, leaving the drugs in a person’s system for longer periods of time and increasing the chance of an overdose. Still, even against medical advice, many people drink while taking prescription drugs. Researchers from Brown University and the University of Rhode Island found in one 2008 study that 60% of people who take prescription pills also drink alcohol, and 5% of that population has three or more drinks when they do so.

Mixing Cocaine and Marijuana

Mixing cocaine and pot — also known as doing caviar, cocoa puffs, Greek and lace — has proven to significantly raise a user’s heart rate, especially when they are actively doing things as opposed to resting.

Does Your Teenager Need Addiction Help?

If you notice signs of addiction in your child, it’s important that you reach out for help. The dangers of mixing alcohol and drugs in any combination can include serious health risks or even death. Get help for your teen by calling a drug hotline or by contacting an addiction specialist.

At TeenRehabCenter.org, our addiction specialists are available 24/7 to speak with you confidentially. We can help you understand teen addiction and help you choose between customized treatment programs if your child’s drug problems require rehab. We also offer addiction and recovery resources on this site to help answer your questions regarding adolescent drug or alcohol addiction.

The first step is the hardest, but also the most important. Call today. Let’s bring your child back to health.

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