Drug overdoses often involve more than one drug. In fact, it is often the “synergistic” effects of drugs that can be especially dangerous, especially when mixing drugs with alcohol consumption. The best way for you to avoid these dangerous combinations is by keeping yourself educated on the effects of some alcohol and drug combinations.

Alcohol + Marijuana — Using alcohol and marijuana together can cause your body to absorb the THC faster, leading to much stronger, and potentially negative, psychological and physical effects, including panic, anxiety, spins and very strong paranoia, dizziness, nausea and vomiting.

Alcohol + Cocaine — The mixing of these two substances is particularly dangerous and unfortunately quite common. When cocaine and alcohol are mixed together, there is an increase in heart rate and blood pressure and a constriction of the blood vessels. This substantially increases the risk of overheating, damaging your brain, suffering a heart attack and possibly dying. Plus, the combination of alcohol and cocaine produces a new substance called cocaethylene that may increase the depressive effects of the alcohol, therefore making your reaction to cocaine even stronger and increasing the possibility for aggressive behavior.

Alcohol + Opiates — Mixing painkillers (Vicodin, Percocet, Oxycontin, Norco, heroin, etc.) with alcohol is dangerous and comes with a very thin margin of error. The mixture of these two substances can lead to intensified sedative effects and respiratory depression to the point where breathing can stop completely. The mixture of opiates with alcohol can also intensify the likelihood of experiencing liver problems, potentially leading to liver disease down the line.

Alcohol + Ecstasy/Molly — Ecstasy can produce both stimulant and hallucinogenic effects when mixed with alcohol. Since the use of each of these drugs can cause dehydration, the combination increases the risk of severe overheating. Ecstasy-related deaths have been caused by excessive heatstroke, usually in situations where people have danced for long periods of time in a hot environment without proper hydration. Also, remember that ecstasy is commonly cut with other chemicals. Even if you think you are taking “pure” molly, it is often not the case. A high percentage of pills, powder or crystals may contain MDA, PMA, ketamine, PCP and DXM, and some pills may be cut with ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, caffeine and other over-the-counter medications and products. These other substances may complicate the synergistic effects of the alcohol and increase the risk dramatically.

Alcohol + Xanax — Xanax is a benzodiazepine (“benzo”) and is generally prescribed to treat anxiety. The combination of alcohol and Xanax may affect individuals differently, but it can certainly impair judgment, induce sedative/muscle relaxant effects and increase the likelihood of blackouts. This risky combination can also depress the central nervous system, resulting in a slower heart rate and diminished rate of breathing.

If you have any further questions or concerns, please contact the UCSB Alcohol and Drug Program (http://alcohol.sa.ucsb.edu/). Counselors are available to offer non-judgmental support. Appointments are free and confidential and available through Student Health Service; call (805) 893-3371 or visit us online at http://studenthealth.sa.ucsb.edu. Additional information is also available on the Life Of The Party website: http://lifeoftheparty.sa.ucsb.edu/alcohol-drugs-101/mixing-alcohol-and-drugs.

Lacey Johnson MFTI, is a counselor with the Alcohol and Drug Program at Student Health.

Lauren Reisman, fourth-year communication major, is an intern with the Alcohol and Drug Program.

Views expressed on the Opinion page do not necessarily reflect those of the Daily Nexus or UCSB. Opinions are submitted primarily by students.
A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, November 25, 2013 print edition of the Daily Nexus.