Nix The Mix

In the United States, alcohol is legal for people ages 21 and older to drink in moderation. Even though drinking for those over 21 is legal, many people abuse this substance, and some do so by mixing alcohol with other drugs: prescription, over the counter, or illicit. This is a dangerous since alcohol can compound the effects of other drugs, especially other central nervous system (CNS) depressants. Increasing the risk of alcohol poisoning or overdose. 

Alcohol Risks

With alcohol being a CNS depressant it can act on similar areas of the brain as other depressant substances leading to "desired" side effects such as relaxation, lowered inhibitions, decrease in anxiety, and an increase in social activity. We all know the typical side effect of alcohol is a "hangover" which according to Marriam Webster Dictionary means "disagreeable physical effects (as headache or nausea) following heavy consumption of alcohol or the use of drugs." However, when consuming a lot of alcohol there is more to worry about than the typical hangover that we always expect, such as...

  • Increase in blood pressure
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Heartburn
  • Ulcers
  • Fatigue
  • Passing out/blackouts
  • Liver damage
  • Reduced blood-clotting ability
  • Memory loss
  • Poor judgement
  • Slow reflexes
  • Distorted vision
  • Increase risk of some cancers

So, what is the big deal with mixing depressants and stimulants with alcohol?

The first thing to ask yourself is what is a depressant, and what is a stimulant?

Depressants are dugs prescribed by a doctor to calm nerves and relax muscles. While these drugs can be safe when prescribed by a doctor, they can also lead to very serious side effects when misused/abused. Since both alcohol and depressants act on similar parts of the brain, the combination of the two can cause a synergistic effect, or compounding both drugs effects. Which could lead to poisoning or death. 

General side effects of depressants:

  • Amnesia
  • Lowered reaction time
  • Impaired judgement
  • Impaired cognition
  • Confusion/disorientation
  • Physical weakness
  • Headaches
  • Lightheaded
  • Blurry/double vision
  • Vomiting
  • Low blood pressure
  • Slowed breathing

Stimulants, according to the are drugs that are classified as central nervous system stimulants. These drugs are used to treat sleep disorders; to address attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); to treat lethargy that can be associated with traumatic brain injury, stroke, hormonal imbalances, or other metabolic conditions; as aids to help individuals lose weight; and to increase wakefulness or concentration. 

Some of these stimulant medications include:

  • Amphetamines for diet medications or treatment of ADHD
  • Ritalin (methylphenidate)
  • Antihistamines
  • Caffeine
  • Methamphetamine (meth/crystal meth)
  • MDMA (ecstasy)

The use of alcohol with a stimulant medication is done to reduce the effects of the stimulant medication (meaning it takes off the edge associated with stimulants while at the same time maintaining high levels of energy/euphoria). Some individuals may use stimulants to deal with the lethargy associated with heavy alcohol use.

What happens when you mix stimulants or depressants with alcohol?

Mixing depressants and alcohol can make a person more intoxicated more quickly; this can lead to physical harm from falling after losing balance, becoming the victim of a crime like assault or rape, and overdose. Also, mixing other sedative-hypnotics with alcohol increases the risk of parasomnias. 

Mixing stimulants with alcohol negates the medicinal effects of a stimulant drug. When an individual uses a stimulant with alcohol, more of the stimulant is required to experience its medicinal effects. Stimulant medication reduces the effects that are commonly associated with drinking alcohol. Meaning individuals may not feel intoxicated and may continue drinking to the point of developing serious issues, such as alcohol poisoning or an overdose. Using stimulant medications with alcohol in large amounts also increases the potential for seizures, which can be potentially fatal.

*information for this page was obtained from and