Alcohol is legal, for people who are at least 21 years old, and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) reports that most American adults have had at least one alcoholic beverage in their lives (over 85 percent as of the 2015 national survey).
Alcohol is fairly cheap and often part of social interactions and situations. It is not uncommon for adults to drink alcohol with friends, at parties, or in the comfort of their homes. Alcohol can be enjoyed responsibly in moderation, although it does interact with chemicals in the brain that can influence thoughts, emotions, and actions.
Other mind-altering substances are classified in "schedules" by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) based on how likely they are to be abused, their medical use, and how addictive they might be. Schedule I drugs are those that are classified as illegal by the DEA, as they have no accepted medical use within the United States and are considered to have a high risk for abuse and for being potentially addictive. Since Schedule I drugs do not have any medicinal value in America, any use of these drugs is classified as recreational drug use or abuse.
Each of these Schedule I drugs have specific side effects and risks when abused. These issues are often compounded when they are mixed with alcohol.
Hazards of Heroin Abuse
Heroin is a dangerous and highly addictive opioid drug that comes from the opium poppy plant. Nearly a half-million Americans were currently abusing heroin at the time of the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).
Heroin causes an intense and quick "high" when it is smoked, injected, or snorted. When you take heroin, it attaches to opioid receptors in the brain and causes a surge of dopamine, the chemical messenger that tells you when to feel pleasure. Heroin is also a central nervous system depressant, which means that it lowers body temperature and slows down breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure. Heroin can mellow a person out and make them feel sleepy, sluggish, and have a "heavy" feeling in their arms and legs. Heroin makes it hard to think straight or focus.
It is easy to overdose on heroin as it can overwhelm the body's systems very quickly and make it hard for a person to breathe. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that heroin overdose deaths have been steadily increasing in recent years, and in 2015, nearly 14,000 people died from an overdose involving heroin.
Heroin is a powerful drug that is very addictive, and the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) publishes that around 600,000 people in the United States battled heroin addiction in 2015. Heroin significantly changes levels of important chemical messengers in the brain, and it doesn't take long for the brain to get used to these changes. A physical dependence on heroin can build up very fast, and when heroin processes out of the brain and the high wears off, intense and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms and cravings can start. Insomnia, depression, anxiety, irritability, agitation, and symptoms that resemble a really bad case of the flu are common heroin withdrawal symptoms.
NIDA reports that other long-term hazards of heroin abuse include infections in the lining of the heart and its valves, kidney and liver disease, pneumonia and other lung complications, menstrual cycle irregularities in women, sexual dysfunction in men, constipation and stomach upset, skin abscesses, and the onset of mental problems, including depression and antisocial personal disorder. People who inject heroin also have more risk of contracting an infectious disease like HIV/AIDS or hepatitis, and for collapsed veins and skin infections. Those who snort the drug may suffer from damaged to the inside of the nose and sinus cavities.
Marijuana Use and Side Effects
Marijuana is the most abused illegal drug in the United States, NIDA reports. Per the NSDUH, in 2016, there were 24 million current marijuana users in America. While many states have legalized recreational and/or medicinal use of marijuana recently, it is still illegal at the federal level, and the DEA maintains it on the Schedule I drug list.
Marijuana is typically smoked or infused into edibles to be drank or eaten. The psychoactive chemical in marijuana, which comes from the cannabis sativa plant, is THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol). THC interacts with cannabinoid receptors in the brain and can make a person feel mellow and happy. Marijuana is a depressant and a hallucinogen, which means that while it works to lower stress and anxiety, makes it harder to think straight, and interferes with memory and movement abilities. It can alter a person's senses, making them to see colors more brightly, and interfere with their sense of time. In high doses, marijuana may cause psychosis and cause a person to see or hear things that aren't really there and to suffer from delusions.
Marijuana may interfere with brain development when teenagers and young people take it before their brain has finished developing, NIDA warns. It can be addictive, and young people have a 4-7 times higher risk for marijuana addiction if they take the drug as a teenager than as an adult. The NSDUH publishes that 4 million Americans battled marijuana addiction in 2016.
Marijuana abuse and addiction can make it hard to focus and concentrate, to remember things, and to maintain motivation. Work production and schoolwork can suffer, as it can be harder to keep up with what needs to be done. Relationships with family and friends are often negatively affected as well. Long-term marijuana use can cause breathing and lung problems, heart issues, increased anxiety and depression, paranoia, and worsening of schizophrenic symptoms.
Risks of Ecstasy Abuse
Often called a "club drug" because of its popularity as a party drug at raves and dance parties, ecstasy is a synthetic drug. This means it is made by people in a lab and doesn't come straight from a plant like many other drugs do.
It is both a stimulant and a hallucinogenic drug that changes the way the user thinks, acts, and feels by interacting with sensory and time perception as well as emotions. It can make a person feel emotionally close to others, and it may be taken to enhance sexual experiences and increase arousal. Ecstasy makes it harder to think clearly and can make a person more likely to practice unsafe sex or participate in other risky behaviors, which raise the odds for an unplanned pregnancy, for contracting a sexually transmitted disease (STD), or for getting into an accident or being injured. It can also make a person do things they wouldn't normally do, which they may then regret the next day.
Heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and body temperature all go up when ecstasy is taken. As it is often taken at parties, clubs, and raves where people are pressed together and dancing, it can cause temperature to get dangerously high very quickly, which can be deadly, leading to heart, kidney, or liver failure. NIDA warns that ecstasy abuse can cause nausea, muscle tension, teeth clenching, chills, sweating, and blurred vision.
Ecstasy is also manmade illegally, and you may never know what is actually in the drug that you are buying and taking. It may be "cut" with other things to stretch out the product so drug makers and dealers can get more profit from it. Every dose of ecstasy may be different, and it can be nearly impossible to predict how the drug will react in your body as you don't actually know what might be in the product you are taking. Overdose is a real risk, especially if ecstasy is taken with other drugs or alcohol, which is common.
The "crash" after ecstasy wears off, which takes place 3-6 hours after taking it, can last for several days. A person may feel irritable, depressed, and anxious. They may have trouble sleeping, reduced appetite, less interest and pleasure in sex, and trouble remembering things and focusing. They may also be more impulsive and aggressive.
Ecstasy may be addictive when taken regularly over a period of time.
Abuse of LSD and Hallucinogenic Drugs
Hallucinogenic drugs cause a person to think and feel differently, and often see or hear things that are not actually there, changing the way the senses work and process things. Most hallucinogenic drugs are illegal and classified as Schedule I drugs that have no legitimate uses in the medical field. Example of Schedule I hallucinogenic drugs include LSD, magic mushrooms, and peyote. Most of these come from plants, and some of the effects of hallucinogenic drugs can be long-lasting and intense.
It is often called a "trip" when someone takes a hallucinogenic drug, and not all trips are good. Some are considered to be spiritual, causing a person to feel like they are having some kind of "awakening" while a "bad trip" may induce paranoia, anxiety, fear, panic, aggression, psychosis, or even death.
Hallucinogens often raise body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure while making a person feel as if they are detached from their own body. Senses can often be mixed, and people may report "seeing" sounds or "hearing" colors. Feelings can be intensified, and movements may become uncoordinated. Nausea, dry mouth, tremors, sweating, and loss of appetite may be additional side effects of a hallucinogenic drug.
Hallucinogenic drugs can stay in your body for a long time, and their effects can be hard to predict ahead of time. The DEA warns that an LSD trip may make it hard to tell how far away something is or what its actual shape is, interfering with depth perception, movement, and balance, and making accidents and injuries more likely. A person cannot think clearly or rationally while taking a hallucinogenic drug, which makes them less able to sense danger or use good judgment.
NIDA warns that users of a hallucinogenic drug may suffer from long-term side effects like flashbacks that can happen weeks, months, or even years later. A flashback can come on without warning and will cause a person to feel like they are tripping without taking the drug. It isn't clear whether or not these drugs are addictive. Even though their use is highly unpredictable and dangerous, the NSDUH reports that nearly 1.5 million Americans were abusing hallucinogenic drugs at the time of the 2016 survey.
Concerns about Abusing GHB or Methaqualone
Both GHB and methaqualone are depressant drugs that are classified as illegal. There is a product containing GHB, Xyrem, that is prescribed to treat daytime sleepiness and cataplexy; however, in its pure form, the drug is classified as a Schedule I substance. Methaqualone used to be sold legally under the brand-name Quaalude, a sedative-hypnotic medication, but its rampant abuse in the 1970s as a party drug and other concerns caused it to be banned for medical use in the United States, Newsweek publishes.
As central nervous system depressants, both GHB and methaqualone reduce body temperature, slow heart rate, and lower blood pressure. Under the influence of either, a person is likely to feel relaxed, mellow, and generally good. Balance and coordination are thrown off by these drugs, however, as is the ability to think clearly and make good decisions.
Both GHB and methaqualone make people drowsy and can even cause them to lose consciousness. GHB can make a person more open to suggestion and passive. They may not be able to remember things that happen while under its influence, which can then make a person vulnerable to sexual assault or other criminal behaviors, the DEA warns.
Vomiting, seizures, breathing problems, kidney failure, liver damage, nausea, coma, and death are all possible side effects of large doses of depressant drugs like GHB and methaqualone. These drugs may also be addictive. Psychosis, anxiety, depression, insomnia, tremors, raised blood pressure and heart rate, and sweating are potential withdrawal symptoms.
Effects of Alcohol
When you drink alcohol, you tend to feel relaxed and generally happy and loose. The more you drink, the more effect it will have on your brain and body. Alcohol is a depressant that slows down mental and physical abilities. This means that you will have trouble thinking clearly, making rational decisions, and moving normally. Balance, coordination, reflexes, and reaction time are impacted, as is your ability to understand and care about possible consequences for your actions. Accidents, injuries, possible criminal behaviors, and falling victim to a crime like sexual assault or engaging in questionable and unsafe sexual practices that may lead to the transmission of infectious diseases, the contraction of an STD, or an unplanned pregnancy are all potential side effects of alcohol abuse and risky behaviors that may result from excessive drinking. Nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, slurred speech, and tremors are additional physical side effects of alcohol abuse.
Alcohol is addictive, and it is the most regularly abused addictive substance in the US, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) publishes. More than 15 million Americans battled an alcohol use disorder (AUD) in 2016, according to the NSDUH.
Alcohol interacts with dopamine levels in the brain, which is what causes the changes in movement and mood regulation that a person experiences while drinking. The more regularly a person drinks to excess, the more the brain gets used to alcohol. It can then be hard for a person to feel "normal" without alcohol. Cravings and withdrawal symptoms can be difficult when alcohol wears off. Insomnia, depression, irritability, agitation, anxiety, tremors, nausea, vomiting, "clouded" thinking, irregular heart rate and blood pressure, sweating, headache, dizziness, loss of appetite, and even severe mental confusion, delirium, high fever, and seizures are possible.
Alcohol addiction can make it hard to hold down a job, keep up with daily life and household tasks, and interfere with personal relationships and family life. Excessive alcohol abuse and addiction can also be hazardous on a person's physical health, potentially contributing to the following diseases and conditions:
- Liver damage and/or disease, including cirrhosis
- Heart problems and heart attack or disease
- Several types of cancer
- Blood pressure irregularities that can lead to stroke
- Stomach and gastrointestinal problems, including ulcers
- Onset of pancreatitis
- Nerve damage
- Possible respiratory infections
- Appetite problems and obesity
- Malnutrition, including thiamine (vitamin B1) depletion
- Brain damage and possible onset of Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome
- Mental health concerns like depression, anxiety disorders, and suicidal behaviors
- Raised risk for diabetes
- Lowered immune system function and increased vulnerability for infections
Mixing Alcohol with Heroin and Other Depressant Drugs
Since both alcohol and heroin, as well as GHB and methaqualone, are depressant substances, they will act similarly in the body. The effects of these drugs increase when you add in alcohol. This can be really dangerous, as it can cause a person to get drunk or intoxicated faster with less alcohol or drugs than normal; it also makes overdose more likely.
Overdose can be fatal, making it hard to breath, lowering pulse and slowing down blood flow, reducing body temperature, and possibly causing a person to pass out. Alcohol was a factor in close to 20 percent of all emergency department (ED) visits involving opioid abuse in 2010 and in nearly one-quarter of all opioid overdose deaths, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) publishes. While an opioid overdose can usually be reversed with an opioid antagonist like naloxone, alcohol poisoning cannot. When both heroin and alcohol are taken at the same time, it can be more difficult and complicated to overturn the toxic side effects of both.
The DEA warns that when GHB is mixed with alcohol, it can slow down breathing to a dangerous level and cause a person to fall into a coma. GHB and methaqualone may be added to a person's drink without them knowing and used to facilitate sexual assault. Taking both at the same time increases the sedative effects of each and can make a person lose consciousness sooner and then suffer from amnesia as well.
Health complications and long-term side effects of both depressant drugs and alcohol are all amplified when you mix these substances. Respiratory, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, brain, and internal organ damage, infections, and diseases are more likely when you combine alcohol with other depressant drugs. This dangerous combination of substances also raises the risk for addiction and makes drug dependence more significant, which in turn increases the severity of the withdrawal symptoms as well.
Dangers of Drinking and Smoking Pot
Alcohol and marijuana are the most common two drugs that are combined, Medical Daily reports, and they may be taken together to intensify the high that each can produce. Combining marijuana and alcohol use is sometimes referred to as "cross fading" and can make a person more intoxicated faster than taking one or the other alone. Alcohol may make the body absorb the THC in marijuana faster, and this combination may cause a person to feel paranoid, panic, suffer from anxiety, or even experience psychosis. It can make a person more likely to make bad decisions and get into situations that can be dangerous or risky.
Memory is further impaired by the mixture of alcohol and marijuana, and a person may "black out." Both marijuana and alcohol are depressant substances, and using them together can have greater sedative and depressant effects on the central nervous system.
A person is more likely to drink too much and use more weed when they are mixing these substances. This can have toxic results and lead to possible alcohol poisoning, which can be fatal. Marijuana can settle the stomach and control vomiting, which is often a side effect of alcohol poisoning, and Psychology Today warns that if a person cannot vomit out the alcohol successfully, it may build up to dangerously toxic levels in the body and kill them.
Drinking alcohol before smoking pot can result in "greening out" too, which is a sickness brought on by too much marijuana in the body. Side effects of greening out include nausea, feeling the "spins," sweating, paleness, and possible vomiting. It isn't known exactly how alcohol and marijuana interact in the body, which can mean that the side effects of taking them together are highly unpredictable and hazardous.
Consequences of Combining Alcohol with Club Drugs
Drinking alcohol while taking a hallucinogenic or club drug like ecstasy or LSD is common as these drugs are often floating around parties and the club scene. When you are drinking, you may be more open to then trying drugs. Since these drugs are already unpredictable, mixing them with another mind-altering substance like alcohol is even riskier.
Drugs like ecstasy are stimulants that may counteract some of the sedative and mellowing properties of alcohol. It can be harder to tell when you are drunk and how the alcohol is impacting your body and brain, causing you to drink more and to possibly suffer from alcohol poisoning. Dehydration, extreme strain on the heart, overheating, and possible cardiac arrest are possible consequences of mixing a stimulant drug with alcohol. Side effects of both drugs can be compounded when they are mixed. The crash can also be worse after you come down from both alcohol and ecstasy.
Hallucinogenic drugs alter perceptions and moods, and adding in alcohol enhances these effects. A person taking both will be more intoxicated and less able to see things as they really are. Trips may be intensified with the consumption of alcohol.
Hallucinogenic drugs often stay in the body for a long time, and even if a person wants to stop tripping, they can't. Extreme aggression, violent outbursts, paranoia, delusions, and hallucinations may be amplified when consuming alcohol while also taking a hallucinogenic drug.
All of the possible side effects of both alcohol and club drugs are multiplied when combining them. Adding alcohol to an already unpredictable drug can have unintended and disastrous results.
When to Get Help for Problem Drinking and Recreational Drug Use
Recreational drug use is dangerous all on its own, but when you add in alcohol, things often get much worse much faster. If your loved one is abusing an illegal Schedule I drug and drinking alcohol to excess at the same time, they likely need professional help.
You may need to host an intervention in order to get your loved one to agree to enter treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. An intervention is a planned and structured meeting that family and loved ones have, usually without the person knowing, to let them know how their substance abuse is impacting those around them and that it is time to get help. A professional interventionist can plan and carry out the intervention, and help you get your loved into a treatment program.
Listed below is a breakdown to help you decide when it is time to stage an intervention for your loved one's Schedule I recreational drug abuse and combined alcohol consumption.
Heroin is highly addictive and dangerous, and it can be hard to stop taking it on your own, especially if alcohol abuse is an issue as well. When you mix these two substances, the side effects, risk for overdose, and rate of dependence are greater, and this is a potentially deadly drug combination.
Because of the high risk and likelihood for drug dependence and addiction if your loved one is taking heroin and drinking, and refuses to stop doing so, it is time to schedule an intervention. Any combination of heroin and alcohol can be disastrous, and is cause for concern.
Combining club drugs and alcohol is commonplace, and it may just be a one-time or infrequent thing. This doesn't mean that it isn't dangerous, but if your loved one went to a party one time, drank, and dropped X and hasn't done it since, then you probably don't need an intervention. If this becomes a common practice, then it may be time to do something about it.
Most hallucinogenic drugs are not addictive; however, alcohol definitely is. If you notice that your loved one is going out a lot more often, doesn't keep up with their regular obligations, spends more time alone, is less interested in recreational or social activities that don't include the use of drugs or alcohol, and exhibits a change in personality as well as increased physical and emotional health problems, they may be struggling with addiction.
GHB and Methaqualone
These are potentially dangerous sedative and hypnotic drugs that can lead to addiction or cause a toxic overdose when mixed with alcohol. Regular use of GHB or methaqualone is cause for concern, especially when these drugs are mixed with alcohol. If your loved one is taking GHB or methaqualone and then drinking alcohol, they may be doing so to help themselves relax, to relieve stress, or to get high. Using these substances to self-medicate only works temporarily, however; ultimately, it leads to further problems.
If your loved one is prone to suicidal thoughts or actions, suffers from mental health issues, or may become aggressive or violent if you talk to them about their drug and alcohol use, it is beneficial to get professional help before having this conversation.
Marijuana is a little different from the other substances as it is legal for recreational use in several states. Some say it can then be enjoyed responsibly in moderation by adults aged 21 and older, much like alcohol. A person may be able to drink a small amount and smoke a little pot without major issues; however, abusing the substances together regularly can lead to various problems. Homelessness, unemployment, legal and financial troubles, and relationship struggles are all possible side effects of marijuana and alcohol abuse and addiction.
The combination of marijuana and alcohol can make it hard for a person to be motivated to do anything productive, and mental health can suffer. Both marijuana and alcohol may be used to cope with emotional distress, to numb pain, or to escape reality. Regular use of both of these substances can make it hard to function normally without them.
Marijuana and alcohol abuse can become problematic when your loved one spends most of their time under the influence of one or both of these substances, thinking about their next fix, or recovering from the effects of marijuana and/or alcohol. When everyday life is impacted by drug and alcohol use, an intervention may be necessary.