Most public information campaigns and education about drug and alcohol use deal with the use of one substance at a time.
However, it’s actually more common for people to engage in polydrug use – mixing two or more intoxicants together in order to get a stronger high or to mitigate the unpleasant side effects of a drug. In the case of combining meth and alcohol, individuals who engage in this behavior are typically going for the latter.
Methamphetamine, commonly called meth, is a powerful and long-lasting stimulant. Alcohol, on the other hand, is a depressant. This means that the effects of one can mask the other. If a person is approaching an overdose from one of the intoxicants, that individual and others may not realize that there’s a problem. Plus, mixing drugs like these can cause unpredictable physical and psychological effects.
Meth and Alcohol Overdose
People who take stimulants while drinking alcohol often do so in order to reduce the unpleasant effects of an alcohol binge, including nausea, drowsiness, and loss of coordination. These individuals report that taking stimulants like meth make them feel as though they can keep drinking for extended periods of time.
However, meth does not make alcohol disappear. Alcohol keeps building up in the blood and affecting the liver. If the stimulant wears off before the alcohol can have a chance to leave the system, an individual can suddenly fall into unconsciousness and possibly stop breathing as the depressant effects of alcohol overwhelm the central nervous system.
Symptoms of alcohol overdose include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Very slow or irregular breathing
- Pale or bluish skin
- Loss of consciousness
An alcohol overdose is a seriously dangerous condition. Over 2,000 Americans die from it each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Slow or stopped breathing quickly results in rapid cell death in the brain, leading to brain damage or death.
Anyone exhibiting signs of alcohol poisoning should be immediately rushed to the emergency room.
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Other Health Effects
The fact that people can drink heavier for longer periods of time if they take stimulants or meth exposes the liver to greater risk of damage. This is a serious concern when it comes to meth as people tend to go on binges with this drug that can last for weeks. If they’re drinking at the same time, developing a condition called fatty liver is likely. Even an alcohol binge lasting only a few days can overload the liver, causing it to produce fat cells to store the excess alcohol in. This can lead to alcoholic hepatitis and scarring of the organ. The scar tissue interferes with liver functioning, and if alcohol abuse continues, it can eventually lead to liver failure.
Meth and alcohol can also both increase blood pressure and body temperature. The combined effects can cause dangerous conditions including hyperthermia, leading to possible stroke or heat exhaustion. On the psychological end, both of these drugs can produce aggression, particularly in long-term users of either drug. They also both reduce inhibitions and promote impulsiveness, resulting in risky behaviors like unprotected sex.
Meth is an incredibly dangerous drug made from a number of toxic chemicals that no one should ingest. While alcohol intake in moderation can be safe, bingeing is also dangerous. Combining these two intoxicants produces such high risks that the behavior should be taken as a sign of substance addiction.