Using methamphetamine (meth) and alcohol together may cause dangerous side effects which can lead to hospitalization. In the final year of the Drug Abuse Warning Network, alcohol was one of the top two drugs associated with methamphetamine-related emergency department visits. One-sixth of these visits were reported to involve alcohol.
The Physical Dangers Of Polydrug Methamphetamine And Alcohol Abuse
Methamphetamine is a potent central nervous system (CNS) stimulant. When taken alone it gives a person bursts of energy, a sense of extreme excitement, and intense euphoria. Alcohol, on the other hand, is a CNS depressant. Despite the fact that alcohol produces a sense of well-being and euphoria, it actually slows down the systems in the body that meth speeds up.
Depressants and stimulants produce opposite effects. Because of this, they often appear to “cancel out” the effects of the other when taken together. For instance, if a person is drinking and taking meth they may not feel buzzed or intoxicated as quickly as they would consuming only alcohol. This may cause them to party and binge drink for a longer period of time. It is misleading, however, to believe these substances cancel each other out.
Even if a person doesn’t feel the side effects as intensely as when the drug is used alone, the body and brain are still being adversely affected by it. In these instances, a person could binge drink at dangerous levels causing alcohol poisoning. Alcohol poisoning is an overdose which can cause coma and death. This phenomenon can go the other way, too. Alcohol could cancel out some of the stimulating properties of meth, leading a person to take more and overdose.
When using these two substances together a person may incorrectly gauge their level of alcohol intoxication and engage in risky behaviors. For example, if a person drives while intoxicated they could cause accident, injury, or death to themselves or those around them.
When a person takes these two drugs their central nervous system is being instructed to function in opposite directions simultaneously. This can cause an immense strain on a person’s cardiovascular system, possibly increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Other physical health effects include respiratory problems, complications of the organs, and meth mouth.
Certain people find that meth increases their libido. The impaired judgment caused by concurrent meth and alcohol abuse can lead to an increased number of sexual partners and greater instances of unprotected sex. These behaviors raise the risk of a person having an unwanted pregnancy or contraction a transmissible disease like HIV or hepatitis.
Using Meth And Alcohol Together Causes Mental Problems
Both of these drugs exert a very powerful effect on a person’s psychological state. Combining these substances can cause unpredictable behaviors, extremely variable moods, and even intensified symptoms of mental illnesses like depression or anxiety. Certain people may experience suicidal impulses or behaviors.
Additional dangers of combining meth and alcohol include:
- acts of violence
- violent outbursts
Individuals experiencing mental health problems and a substance use disorder have an increased chance of obtaining sobriety and improving their mental health through a dual diagnosis treatment program.
Why Do People Abuse Methamphetamine And Alcohol Together?
In situations of stimulant and depressant polydrug abuse, there are several reasons why a person mixes these drugs:
- to increase the high or euphoric state of one or both substances
- to create new sensations which neither drug alone produces
- to enable themselves to take more of one drug for longer
- to reduce the depressant effects of one drug while still maintaining its euphoric effects
- to reduce the stimulant effects of a drug if the high is too extreme
- to temper coming off of one drug
As a depressant, alcohol produces effects (like drowsiness and feelings of sedation) which certain drug abusers find undesirable. To counter this, an individual may take meth. On the other hand, if an individual feels uncomfortable by meth’s extreme, stimulating effects they may drink to reduce the high or speeded up feeling.
Due to the potency of meth, drug abusers can feel extremely edgy and out of sorts while they’re coming off a binge. Some individuals may feel anxious or experience insomnia. To calm their nerves or to help them sleep a person may begin drinking.
While these drugs can be very dangerous from their first use together, the longer a person uses them, the greater the risk. Prolonged use ups the likelihood of dependence, tolerance, addiction, and overdose.
Signs Of Methamphetamine And Alcohol Abuse
Spotting the signs of methamphetamine and alcohol abuse provides an opportunity to protect a person’s life and health. With this knowledge friends and family can intercede so that their loved one receives medical and drug treatments.
When a person abuses these drugs they may exhibit side effects of both drugs, some of which may intensify. These may include:
- acting in uncharacteristic ways
- changes in appetite
- changes in breathing (experiencing slowed and/or quickened breathing)
- changes in speech
- disturbed sleep
- problems with their coordination
- risky behaviors
- sexual disinhibition
- unconsciousness (from alcohol intoxication)
Meth is frequently smoked, snorted, or injected. To use the drug this way a person must have paraphernalia. This could include a tin foil or a glass pipe with a long stem and bulb at the end, syringes or needles, or cut-off straws.
While many meth abusers use illicit meth, such as crystal meth, others may abuse the medication version of methamphetamine, Desoxyn. Desoxyn is a stimulant medication for ADHD. Because of this, if a person can’t find meth either in the illicit or prescribed form, they may turn to another stimulant ADHD medication like Adderall or Ritalin. Abusing these medications with alcohol may produce many of the dangerous results we’ve discussed above.
The more a person uses a drug or drugs, the greater the effect on their behaviors and life. Many drug abusers push their close friends and family away and begin spending time with drug-using peers. During this time a person may also act more secretive, begin lying, or become very upset when questioned about their drug abuse.
Drug abuse can quickly cause a person’s priorities to shift. Instead of devoting time to essential responsibilities of work or family life, a person spends increasing amounts of time high or recovering from binges. This can lead to job loss, marital issues, and other difficulties at home.
Finding Better Health After Meth And Alcohol Abuse
Both meth and alcohol can forge strong addictions. Once addicted it is very difficult for a person to break these destructive patterns on their own. Without professional help a person may continue using these substances, increasing the probability of great physical and mental harm and overdose.
Individuals addicted to alcohol may need to undergo a medically-supervised detoxification prior to progressing to rehab. At this time medications may be used to reduce cravings and symptoms of withdrawal.
Addiction can change the way a person thinks and interacts with the world around them. Through therapy and counseling, a person will learn to reduce dysfunctional thoughts and behaviors so that they have a better opportunity for obtaining a sober, balanced life.
Contact AlcoholTreatment.net for more information on meth and alcohol abuse and treatment.
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