Drugs and alcohol affect your decision-making abilities, lower your inhibitions, and generally decrease your propensity for healthy living. That’s why being under the influence of one substance may lead to an ill-advised choice to try another.

This combination isn’t just unwise; it could also be deadly.

We’re highlighting a few of the most dangerous (and surprisingly common) drug interactions that could hurt you or a loved one.

Alcohol and Benzos

Benzodiazepines (aka “benzos”) are a classification of meds that include anti-anxiety pills like Valium, Xanax, and Klonopin. They are some of the most widely prescribed medications in the United States, but their usage becomes increasingly problematic when combined with alcoholic beverages.

Benzos are essentially tranquilizers, so chasing them with liquor amplifies the effects of both substances. For example, combining one milligram of Xanax with three cans of beer actually multiplies both dosages to the point where it’s as if you drank twelve beers and ingested ten milligrams of Xanax.

Your liver isn’t equipped to handle such a magnitude of toxicity, and it can fail along with your other bodily functions. The resulting lethargy can be so pronounced that the user experiences respiratory failure. That means that your system becomes so depressed that you literally stop breathing. 

Heroin and Cocaine

One of the most common misconceptions in certain circles is that stimulants and depressants “cancel each other” out. Some people have been known to stay up all night on cocaine and then “come down” with heroin, but this is a downward spiral that allows little to no sense of control.

Dubbed a “speedball”, the combination of cocaine and heroin has been attributed to the deaths of several notable figures. Most famously, Chris Farley and John Belushi were diagnosed with both substances in their systems post-mortem.

Alcohol and Cocaine

This is a surprisingly common concoction, but its usage is uncommonly dangerous. When you imbibe alcoholic beverages while under the influence of cocaine, your liver is under siege. It creates a byproduct known as cocaethylene, which further impedes the body’s ability to process either of the toxic substances being ingested. This multiplies a user’s chances for overdose, which spells heart failure, hospitalization, or even death.

Please note: these consequences don’t just affect someone with a chronic issue with substance abuse; every time you mix cocaine and alcohol, you run the risk of stressing your liver to the point of overdosing. It can happen to the casual user just as easily as someone with a persistent habit.

Ecstasy and Antidepressants 

While MDMA can produce feelings of euphoria in those who experiment with it, the comedown can prompt feelings of depression. This might trigger you to counteract that reaction with antidepressants, leading to a vicious cycle. The combination of the two reduces the effectiveness of both. In other words, ecstasy weakens the impact of antidepressants and vice versa. This might lead you to take more of either or both substances to really feel their effects.

By upping your dosage, you run the risk of suffering from serotonin syndrome. The victim experiences a breakdown of the chemical impulses in the nervous system. In extreme cases, this condition can lead to strokes, shock, hypertension, coma, and eventual death.

Alcohol and Opiates 

As the opioid crisis swells to unprecedented proportions in the United States, we must pay attention to the tangential issues stemming from this national epidemic. Pain meds like Oxycontin and Vicodin are prescribed at alarmingly high rates, but their ramifications are sometimes ignored.

Opiates dull one’s nervous system; that’s the whole point of pain treatment. But when overused, these opioids render our bodies even weaker than before. When combined with alcohol, the effects are disastrous. Your respiration slows and your ability to cough is impaired, which makes it more difficult to expel phlegm and other build-ups. This can lead to respiratory failure and lethal bouts of choking.

By the Numbers

While addiction and abuse are dangerous with any controlled substance, statistics show that combining two or more of them drastically increases your chance of death. For example, in over 15% of lethal encounters with Benzodiazepines, alcohol played a role in the user’s demise. That number increases to over 20% of deaths involving heroin and cocaine.

As alcohol decreases your inhibitions, it increases your propensity to experiment with drugs that your body can’t process. And the numbers are even worse for men than for their female counterparts.

Men and Substance Use

While addiction is a disease that doesn’t discriminate by race, ethnicity, or gender, the statistics prove that men are more likely to succumb to its scourge than are women. Rates of dependence and overuse are two to three times higher in American males than American females.

And it’s not just a matter of who is susceptible to addiction; it’s also a degree of how much of a given substance each individual man ingests. Reported dosages of both legal and illegal drugs are much higher for men than for women. This could be attributed to a male’s increased body mass, or it might owe to the persistent stereotype that guys can “tough it out” no matter how pronounced their addiction becomes. Men often drink more than women due to societal norms and peer pressure, leading to the dangerous possibility of a deadly drug and alcohol combination like one of the scenarios outlined above.

Don’t Be a Statistic

If you or a loved one has experimented with substance combinations in the past, or if you are currently experiencing issues with any sort of addiction, help is here for you. Contact one of our care professionals today to make sure that the next drug combination doesn’t add up to death for the man in your life.