Drug Abuse Treatment in South Africa Services

Mixing Alcohol and Drugs or Polydrug Use

Using mixtures of different drugs is called polydrug use. It includes alcohol, medications, cannabis and illegal drugs. Concurrent polydrug use refers to using different drugs at different times.

Alcohol and Polydrug Use

Simultaneous polydrug use refers to using different drugs at the same time. Alcohol is a depressant, meaning it depresses the central nervous system. This is not the same as feeling hopeless. It means it calms you down. This may seem to contradict the use of alcohol for having fun, but fact is that alcohol also suppresses your inhibitions, which is partly what causes the initial perception of energetic bustling. Eventually this wears off and the depressant properties take over.

Alcohol can interact with other drugs to increase the effects of those drugs, as well as its own effects, so it is often used to intensify the performance of drugs.

Other drugs can be either depressants or stimulants. Stimulants increase feelings of being energised and lead to longer periods of intense activity. Depressant drugs have basically the same effect as alcohol.

When different types of drugs are combined, they can interact and this can cause different emotional and physical outcomes. The more drugs a person uses, the higher the risk of something going wrong.

There are many ways in which drugs affect you. Every drug has specific effects and the cumulative effect of alcohol and other drugs can lead to unintended harm.

The effect of mixing drugs also depends on which drugs are involved. Mixing drugs can counteract or augment the effects of either or both drugs. Combining drugs with similar effects is especially dangerous as the compounding effect can be the same as overdosing on one drug.

The Reasons for Mixing Drugs

There are several reasons for polydrug use, for example:

Drugs Often Combined with Alcohol

Popular drugs that are often combined with alcohol include:

Cocaine: Cocaine creates alertness and alcohol can reduce anxiety if taken when coming down from a cocaine high. Combining them can escalate heart rate and blood pressure and also forms cocaethylene, a substance that weakens muscles in the heart.

Heroin: Alcohol and heroin are both depressants. Taking them together increases the risk of respiratory failure. An overdose of heroin and alcohol can also cause a dangerous loss of oxygen and blood to the brain, resulting in brain damage.

Marijuana (Cannabis): A depressant. Mixing it with alcohol results in complex processes and the outcome is unpredictable. It can cause nausea, but can also prevent vomiting and cause alcohol poisoning. It can also cause anxiety, paranoia, irregular heartbeat and overdosing.

Prescription stimulants: Medication that stimulate activity. When mixed with alcohol, the heart rate, blood pressure and risk of respiratory failure increases. It can cause both immediate and chronic heart complications.

Anxiety medications: Medications that reduce anxiety have similar depressant effects as alcohol. The combined effect increases intoxication. Mixing them with alcohol increases the risk of respiratory failure and coma.

Painkillers: Depressants that can lower blood pressure. Comparable to a heroin mix. Painkillers also contain chemicals that, in combination with alcohol, can lead to stomach bleeding and liver damage.

Drug Abuse Treatment in South Africa Services

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