Prescription Drug and Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol abuse and drug abuse seem to coexist more and more often these days.  According to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 18.3% of admissions to a publicly funded substance abuse treatment program were a result of people abusing both drugs and alcohol.  Like all substance abuse problems, the reasons for mixing drugs and alcohol may be complex and vary from individual to individual.

Alcohol Abuse or Drug Abuse: Which comes first?

alcohol abuseAlcohol abuse does not result in drug abuse or vice versa.  Many people have heard of so called “gateway” drugs, or drugs that may lead to the use of other “harder” drugs.  Commonly quoted as alcohol, nicotine or marijuana, there is some controversy over the term gateway drugs as each individuals experience and reasons for drug use are different. The scientific research is mixed on the gateway drug theory. While some research shows that many “hard” drug abusers started with marijuana or alcohol, other studies show that other users start with “hard” drugs before moving on to alcohol or marijuana.  In other words, a direct causal relationship between alcohol abuse and drug abuse has not been established. According to the National Institutes of Health, people who are dependent on alcohol are more likely to use drugs and those who are drug dependent are more likely to drink alcohol. This can be a dangerous combination.

Mixing Alcohol and Drugs

When alcohol abuse and drug abuse happen in tandem there are several potential reactions: 1) synergy where the two substances combine to have a greater effect, 2) antagonism where the substances react in such a way that is less effective and 3) addictive, where the substances work together along the same pathway. Alcohol abuse can put someone at risk for a number of health issues.  It is important to remember that alcohol affects women differently.  A woman’s body can absorb and handle less alcohol than a man, creating a more dangerous situation for a woman in a mixed gender social environment Alcohol is a depressant, meaning it depresses the body’s nervous system, effecting motor skills, breathing and digestion.  Long term side effects of alcohol abuse include liver damage, memory problems, a rise in blood pressure as well as coma or death. Mixing other substances with alcohol can result in an increased risk of these short term and long term side effects.  The most simple is a drug interaction.  Mixing any substances can produce a chemical reaction in the body.  Think of drug interactions as poisoning.  There are other physical side effects, such as headaches, drowsiness, difficulty breathing or loss of consciousness.  The range of side effects is great and varies person to person as each individual is different. The bottom line is that mixing drugs and alcohol can be incredibly dangerous.  These dangers cannot be treated lightly, but nor should they frighten someone from getting help.  Those that suffer are not alone, and individuals should know that the moment you stop abusing drugs or alcohol your body starts to heal. If you or someone you love is suffering from alcohol abuse or drug abuse, please call us today at 1-866-808-7111Destination Hope: The Women’s Program is a full service alcohol abuse, drug addiction, and women’s health treatment facility in Florida for women who suffer from substance abuse. Photo Credit: This photo, by Flickr user thedarkthing is licensed by a creative commons attribution license.
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