Many people do not realize how dangerous it is to mix alcohol with other drugs. Whether they are prescription, over-the-counter or illegal, mixing any other drugs with alcohol can result in a deadly combination, regardless if a person is a heavy or light drinker. If someone takes a time-released medication and consumes alcohol, it is important to note that the alcohol may dissolve the coating, releasing the full dose all at once instead of over time.
There are three types of drug interactions that can occur when mixed with alcohol. They are:
Additive: An effect in which two substances or actions used in combination produce a total effect the same as the sum of the individual effects.
Synergistic: The capacity of two or more drugs acting together so that the total effect of these drugs is greater than the sum of the effects if taken independently.
Antagonistic: The effect of the drug is diminished in the presence of alcohol.
The following drugs can cause antagonistic interactions – that is, they reduce the effectiveness of the drug’s ability to do its job:
- Cardiovascular medications
- All blood-thinning medications (Anticoagulants)
- Medications for seizure disorder
- Medications for diabetes
Drugs to be cautious of when mixed with alcohol include:
- Non-narcotic pain relievers: Medication such as aspirin or ibuprofen can cause stomach bleeding and inhibit blood from clotting. Alcohol use exacerbates these effects.
- Antipsychotic medication: Alcohol use can cause potentially fatal breathing difficulties.
- Antidepressants: Certain types can cause a dangerous rise in blood pressure.
- Sedatives and Hypnotics: When mixed with alcohol, sleeping pills, tranquilizers or anxiety medications (such as Valium or Ativan) can depress breathing function.
- Narcotic pain relievers: When mixed with alcohol, the interaction enhances the drug’s effect, increasing the risk of death from overdose. Thus, the mixture can cause a synergistic effect. These medications are often opium-based (Demerol, codeine, morphine and Percocet).
When assessing the intoxication level of a patron, the server does not need to know the specific effects of drugs, whether legal or illegal. However, you should be aware of signs that a possible reaction is occurring such as: excessive sweating, erratic behavior and becoming intoxicated quickly. What is important to know is that it is illegal to serve someone who is visibly intoxicated, regardless of whether the visible intoxication resulted from consuming alcohol, other drugs or a combination.
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Slide 21: Drug and Alcohol Interactions