Alcohol and Meth
Combining meth and alcohol can cause heart damage, alcohol poisoning, overdose, and numerous other terrible consequences. Fortunately, there are ways to get support and overcome alcoholism and meth abuse.
Mixing Alcohol and Meth
In recent years, the drug methamphetamine has been causing an increasing percentage of fatal overdoses in the United States. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fatal overdoses on meth tripled from 2011 to 2016. After fentanyl, heroin and cocaine, meth is the fourth deadliest drug in America.
Many people who are addicted to meth also drink alcohol, and some people are even addicted to both substances. Anyone who is abusing alcohol and using meth together is endangering their health and safety. Alcohol magnifies the risks of meth and makes breaking free from meth addiction even more difficult, but there are treatment options to help people overcome co-occurring alcohol and meth disorders.
What Is Meth?
Methamphetamine is an illegal stimulant which is notorious for its disastrous health effects. Meth is also highly addictive. The drug is most commonly synthesized as “crystal,” or white fragments which users burn for smoking. Meth can also be manufactured as pills or powder. “Ice,” “speed,” and “crystal” are some other common names for the drug.
Regardless of the form that it takes, meth functions as a stimulant by forcing the brain and the central nervous system to supercharge the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter which regulates sensations of pleasure and relaxation. The effects of meth are powerful. In fact, the drug results in the release of quantities of dopamine which are three times larger than those released by cocaine. Once someone smokes meth, they experience a “rush” of euphoria, high energy, and confidence. On the physical level, meth causes the heart to beat faster and raises the body’s temperature and blood pressure. A meth “rush” doesn’t last long, so users often “binge” on meth by taking several doses, sometimes over the course of several days.
Why Meth Is Dangerous
Since meth is cheaper than cocaine, it is one of the most prevalent stimulants in the country. Millions of Americans, including teenagers, have used meth at least once. Nevertheless, the drug is definitely not safe. Long-term meth use damages the brain and causes memory loss, impaired thinking, insomnia, and emotional instability (particularly paranoia and anxiety). Meth abusers sometimes behave aggressively and suffer from severe weight loss and tooth decay because they neglect self-care. Meth also corrupts the dopamine system in the brain and quickly causes addiction. Studies even suggest that meth abuse contributes to the development of Parkinson’s disease later in life. Aside from the health effects of meth, the drug is also illegal. Anyone in the United States may be arrested and sentenced to prison for using, possessing, or manufacturing meth.
The Dangers of Mixing Alcohol with Meth
Alcohol generally enhances the effects of meth. For this reason, many people who have a meth addiction often binge drink or become alcoholics. Scientists have shown that alcohol actually slows down the metabolism of meth so that the drug stays in the body longer. Scientific studies have also demonstrated that alcohol bolsters the rate at which the brain absorbs meth. The result is that drinking alcohol amplifies the sensations of euphoria which characterize a typical meth “rush.” This only strengthens meth addiction and increases the possibility that a person may one day suffer an overdose. It is also important to remember that combining alcohol with meth is even more likely to provoke an overdose than merely using meth by itself because the body has a worse reaction to both substances than it has to only one.
The stimulating effects of meth tend to override the effects of alcohol, which is a depressant. That’s why someone who drinks while using meth may not feel the effects of alcohol, so they might continue drinking and risk alcohol poisoning, a life-threatening condition. Additionally, when alcohol and meth are both present in someone’s bloodstream, their heart rate will increase to such an extent that they may suffer heart damage.
Alcohol and meth both impair a person’s judgment and may cause someone to engage in risky behaviors, especially driving under the influence. Just as alcohol amplifies a meth “rush,” it also worsens a meth “crash,” the aftermath of meth abuse. A meth “crash” combined with a hangover often involves suicidal depression and intense discomfort. Research studies even suggest that meth and alcohol, when taken together, impair spatial memory. The combination of the two substances is especially damaging to the brain development of unborn babies.
Treatment for Co-Occurring Alcoholism and Meth Addiction
Someone who is suffering from addiction to meth and alcoholism is suffering from co-occurring disorders. Co-occurring disorders are two or more mental health disorders which thrive on one another. Overcoming one addiction, such as alcoholism, is even more difficult when another addiction is at work. Since there is a correlation between meth abuse and binge drinking, anyone who is struggling with alcoholism will certainly struggle to achieve sobriety while also suffering from meth addiction.
Fortunately, there are many treatment centers which specialize in treating alcoholism as a co-occurring disorder with meth addiction. With the right support from family, friends and recovery professionals, anyone can start to live a life free from co-occurring addictions to meth and alcohol. Everyone will have a different recovery journey, but a typical treatment program for alcohol and drug addiction will involve detox, medication and therapy. If you or someone you know is using meth and drinking alcohol, please contact a dedicated treatment provider today for more information on your treatment options.
- Clinical Reviewer — Last Reveiwed: July 10, 2019
Althobaiti, Y.S. and Sari, Y. (2016). Alcohol Interactions with Psychostimulants: An Overview of Animal and Human Studies. Journal of Addiction Research and Therapy, 7(3): 281. Retrieved on May 22, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4966675/
Bujarski, S. et al. (2014). The relationship between methamphetamine and alcohol use in a community sample of methamphetamine users. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 142(127), 32. Retrieved on May 22, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4157644/
Davis, K. (updated 2018). Methamphetamine: What you should know. Medical News Today. Retrieved on May 22, 2019, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/309287.php
Drug Policy Alliance. (n.d.). What happens if you mix heroin with alcohol or other drugs? Retrieved on May 22, 2019, from http://www.drugpolicy.org/drug-facts/mixing-heroin-alcohol-drugs
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (revised 2019). Methamphetamine. Retrieved on May 22, 2019, from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/methamphetamine
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). What is the scope of methamphetamine misuse in the United States? Retrieved on May 22, 2019, from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/methamphetamine/what-scope-methamphetamine-misuse-in-united-states
Stobbe, M. (2018). Meth playing bigger role in US drug overdose crisis. Medical Xpress. Retrieved on May 22, 2019, from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-12-meth-bigger-role-drug-overdose.html
COVID-19 ALERT:Find Treatment
Make a decision that will change your life.Find a Center
He took control. You can too.See Jerry's Story
Questions about treatment?
Connect with a treatment professional 24/7. All calls are free and confidential.