Alcohol and Heroin
Combining alcohol and heroin is an extremely dangerous practice as both are central nervous system depressants and can cause numerous negative effects, including brain damage and death.
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Mixing Alcohol and Heroin
The use of alcohol and Heroin together has become increasingly common in the U.S. in recent years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people who are addicted to alcohol are twice as likely to become addicted to Heroin at some point in their lifetimes. People who are addicted to one of the substances will often begin to combine it with the other in order to increase the sedative effects of each drug and achieve a stronger high.
Due to the ways that the two substances affect the brain, the intoxication that results from mixing them is much more intense than using just one of them on their own. Both alcohol and Heroin are central nervous system depressants, which can cause similar negative side effects. Combining the two substances raises the odds of a user having an adverse reaction, including a heightened risk of developing drug dependency, certain health complications, and a possibly fatal overdose. In fact, the overwhelming majority of Heroin overdoses are caused by combining the drug with sedatives like alcohol.
What Is Heroin?
Heroin is an extremely addictive opioid drug made from Morphine; a natural substance taken from the seeds of various opium poppy plants. Classified as a Schedule I narcotic, heroin is illegal and considered to have no medical use in the U.S. Heroin can be a white or brown powder or a black sticky substance known on the street as black tar heroin. Heroin can be injected, snorted, or smoked by users. Heroin enters the brain rapidly and binds to opioid receptors on cells in multiple areas, especially those involved in feelings of pain and pleasure. Heroin produces an intense, euphoric high and people who use the drug report feeling a “rush” the second it hits the bloodstream.
Heroin is so addictive because it targets the brain’s opioid receptors, which are involved in pain and reward pathways. These receptors are also found in the brain stem, which control essential functions such as breathing and blood pressure regulation. Heroin overdoses are often fatal because breathing is suppressed and respiratory depression occurs. Over time, regular Heroin use changes the functioning of the brain. Users build up tolerance and need to take more and more of the drug to achieve the same “high” that they once did. Because of this tolerance and the fact that Heroin is so rapid-acting, many users will combine it with alcohol to prolong the high and increase the euphoric side effects. Mixing heroin and alcohol can make a person feel more sociable, less inhibited, and experience heightened feelings of pleasure; however, it also causes significantly more dangerous side effects.
Side Effects of Heroin
Heroin binds to the opioid receptors in the brain that are primarily involved in regulating feelings of pleasure and in controlling heart rate, sleeping, and breathing. In addition to the immediate “rush” that users experience, other initial effects of Heroin include:
- Dry mouth
- Numbing of limbs
- Flushed skin
- Nausea and stomach pain
- Severe confusion
- Impaired mental functioning
Chronic, long-term Heroin users will experience a variety of effects as well that can be severely damaging to both their physical and mental health. These effects are amplified when the drug is taken with other substances such as alcohol. Some of the negative side effects include:
- Collapsed veins
- Infection of the heart lining and valves
- Damaged tissue
- Liver and kidney disease
- Antisocial personality disorder
- Sexual dysfunction
Dangers of Mixing Alcohol and Heroin
Combining alcohol and Heroin is an extremely dangerous practice as the mixture intensifies the effects of both substances, which increases the risk of overdose and long-term health damage. When mixed together, alcohol and Heroin can cause extreme drowsiness, mood swings, uncontrollable vomiting, and a severe lack of inhibitions. Both substances depress the same neurotransmitter within the brain, which can slow down normal bodily functions to the point of failure. Heroin can also intensify the effects of alcohol and lead to a lower tolerance. Users experience a greater intoxication when alcohol is mixed with narcotics, which makes it easier to drink to excess and suffer from alcohol poisoning.
Due to the sedating effects of both central nervous system depressants, taking alcohol and Heroin together can result in a number of serious adverse reactions. Some of the potentially dangerous effects of mixing Heroin with alcohol include:
- Severe fatigue
- Loss of consciousness
- Weak pulse
- Shallow breathing
- Impaired coordination
- Respiratory depression
- Slowed or irregular heart rate
Consuming alcohol with Heroin significantly increases the risk of overdose because of the respiratory depression that can occur. Respiratory depression causes irregular breathing in the user, which reduces the amount of oxygen reaching the brain and body. This deprivation of oxygen can then result in long-term damage to major organ systems and even death. The two substances cause increased shallow breathing, lowered blood pressure and heart rate, and deep sedation that can lead to a coma or brain damage. All sedating medications can cause overdose on their own, however, when the drugs are combined, this risk substantially increases.
Treatment for Alcohol and Heroin Addiction
It is never safe to combine alcohol and Heroin. The two substances are both addictive drugs that impact, mood, behavior, and cognitive function, which can produce a number of negative and potentially life-threatening side effects when abused. When they are combined, the risk of experiencing these dangerous effects is increased.
If you’re someone that is struggling with alcohol and Heroin abuse, contact a dedicated treatment specialist today and find the right rehabilitation center for your needs.
- Medical Reviewer — Last Reviewed: July 15, 2019
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). Heroin Overdose Data. Retrieved on 30th May 2019 from https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/heroin.html
Drug Policy Alliance. (2019). What Happens if You Mix Heroin With Alcohol and Other Drugs. Retrieved on 30th May 2019 from http://www.drugpolicy.org/drug-facts/mixing-heroin-alcohol-drugs
Jaslow, Ryan. (2013). Cory Monteith: How Heroin and Alcohol Form Deadly Combo. Retrieved on 30th May 2019 from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/cory-monteith-how-heroin-and-alcohol-form-deadly-combo/
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Heroin. Retrieved on 30th May 2019 from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/heroin
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