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Life of the Party is a student-run organization that works to help students and community members make safe, informed decisions about drinking and partying in Isla Vista. LOTP is realistic — we don’t try to force abstinence. We know that the unofficial motto here is, “Work hard, play harder.” We embrace this “social” lifestyle and choose to instead educate our friends and peers about the risks associated with the dangerous use of alcohol and other drugs. It’s a win-win situation. We all get to have fun, and we stay safe while doing it.
Some of the issues and crazy occurrences in I.V. are related to the fact that so many college students live too close together. This proximity also makes I.V. the awesome place that it is: With all of your friends living next to you, you can walk to any class in under 30 minutes and the beach is just next door. Yep, proximity can be great … that is, until people start mixing drugs, creating toxic chemical reactions in the body that aren’t meant to be combined.
In light of all of the tragedies that our UCSB and I.V. family has faced as a result of dangerous combinations of alcohol and other drugs, we took the initiative to find out more about mixing. Dr. Edwin Feliciano shares his insight from his experience as Director of Behavioral Health and a psychiatrist at Student Health:
Q: What combinations of drugs and alcohol do you see most often among UCSB students?
A: I’d say alcohol mixed with Adderall, ecstasy, cocaine, painkillers and, of course, marijuana are the most common combinations. All of these can have negative side effects, but the depressants mixed with alcohol have the most dangerous effects — alcohol and painkillers or other opiates.
Q: What happens in the body that makes mixing these drugs dangerous?
A: When you’re taking any kinds of substances together, they follow the same path in your body, regardless of the intake method. In the liver, competition occurs when your body chooses which substance to metabolize first. Then those substances begin to affect the central nervous system and the brain, where they often compete again, this time for the same receptors. Generally your brain chooses the substance or chemical that is most potent.
Q: What does my metabolism have to do with drugs?
A: Metabolism is really what counts. For example, when you drink, you metabolize the alcohol at a normal rate. When you just take Adderall, it metabolizes at a normal rate. When you take both together, your body only metabolizes one drug at a time. If the body chooses to metabolize the alcohol first, the Adderall accumulates and then may not kick in for several hours. The problem is that students don’t think the drug is working because it has not been metabolized yet, so they take more.
When your body metabolizes a drug, there is a narrow therapeutic index; some refer to this as the “fun” window. This means that the body feels the euphoric effects of the drug, until you reach the limit and cross into levels of toxicity. Again, this window is narrow, and just a small additional dose of a drug can be toxic to the brain, the central nervous system, the respiratory system and the remainder of the body.
Q: What are some signs that someone has dangerously mixed substances?
A: Snoring is a major sign because it means that a person’s respiratory system has been impacted by the drug use. Any signs of irregular breathing — such as slow or shallow breaths — should be a major concern. You should also look for signs indicating that someone is going into a sedative state. These include acting incoherent, showing a lack of coordination, acting confused or seeming drowsy.
Q: What can students do to be safer during their alcohol and drug use?
A: The best way to avoid the most severe consequences is to simply not mix drugs. Using alcohol or other drugs independently will help eliminate some of the tragedies that occur in Isla Vista.
You should also take a look at Life of the Party’s new Just Choose One campaign and if you have any questions about alcohol, drugs or mixing, consult your physician. You can ask me any questions, or you can ask the professionals in the UCSB Alcohol & Drug Program. You will never get in trouble for asking questions. We just want everyone to be safe.
Jason Vego is a fourth-year communication major and Nikole Burg is a fourth-year communication & soiology major.