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Some people take different types of substances at the same time in order to get a better high or by accident. In this lesson, we’ll look at why people combine substances, commonly combined substances, and the dangerous side effects.

Combining Substances

Noel just wants to have fun.

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He’s hanging with his friends, and they’re all drinking alcohol. Someone produces a joint and offers it around. Like the others there, Noel smokes the marijuana and then takes another swig of his beer.

Noel and his friends are combining substances. That is, they are mixing different drugs. In the case of Noel and his buddies, the drugs they are combining are alcohol and marijuana.Taking drugs or drinking alcohol can be dangerous anyway, but combining substances can turn a fun night into a deadly time. So, why would anyone take the risk? There are several reasons why people might combine substances:1. New or heightened sensations that they would not otherwise feel if they did not combine the drugs.

For example, Noel and his friends are combining alcohol and pot, which can sometimes produce hallucinations and other sensory distortions. On their own, neither alcohol nor pot usually produce these results.2. It can be cheaper to combine drugs, especially if you combine an expensive, illegal drug with a cheaper version like alcohol.

3. To overcome tolerance for someone who no longer feels the high when they take a drug. Tolerance occurs when an addict no longer gets high from a drug because their system has become used to it. Combining substances can give tolerant addicts the high they’re seeking.4. Accidentally combining substances, like prescription medications and alcohol, can happen when a person doesn’t think about it, or when they think a drug is out of their system, but it’s not.

Despite these reasons, combining substances is never a good idea. Let’s look closer at some commonly combined substances and the dangers of combining substances.

Commonly Combined Drugs

Perhaps the most notorious drugs used together is the combination of heroin and cocaine, commonly known as a speedball. Heroin, a depressant, and cocaine, a stimulant, have opposite effects on the body.

For example, heroin slows down the heart, while cocaine speeds it up.The cocaine wears off faster than the heroin, at which point the heart quickly slows down and sometimes stops. In addition, because the user does not immediately feel the effects of the heroin, they sometimes take another dose, leading to an overdose.Some people combine multiple prescription drugs, especially tranquilizers (also called sedatives) and painkillers. This combination causes the heart and brain to slow down and can lead to unconsciousness, heart failure, and death. In addition, if a person passes out from combining prescription pills, they could regurgitate and drown in their own vomit.

Alcohol and Drugs

In addition to illegal and prescription drug combinations, some people combine alcohol with drugs.

This, too, can lead to serious consequences.Remember Noel? He combined marijuana and alcohol, which can have bad side effects. Noel might feel nauseated, and he might experience anxiety. When alcohol and marijuana are combined, some people experience a much higher level of intoxication, and side effects for both substances can be more intense, so Noel is likely to have worse side effects than if he’d just done one substance or another.Marijuana isn’t the only drug that people combine with alcohol. When people go out to have a good time, many of them combine ecstasy with alcohol.

Unfortunately, both of those drugs cause dehydration, which can lead to serious problems. Not only that, but ecstasy makes it hard for your body to regulate its temperature, and alcohol raises the body’s temperature. This means that you could end up in the hospital with hyperthermia, a condition when a person’s body temperature is too high.

One of the side effects of cocaine is that it elevates heart rate. This, in itself, is dangerous, but when combined with alcohol, cocaine speeds up a person’s heart rate three to five times more than when either drug is taken alone. This increase in heart rate could lead to heart failure and death.Consuming alcohol and heroin, opium, or other depressants is one of the most deadly combinations. Because depressants slow down brain and heart activity, and alcohol (which is a depressant) does the same thing, it is highly likely that the combination of alcohol and other depressants can lead to heart failure.

Lesson Summary

Some people combine substances to try to get a better high, because it is cheaper, to overcome tolerance, or accidentally. Combining drugs with other drugs, including alcohol, can have serious consequences.

Side effects include an increase in heart rate or blood pressure, a decrease in brain and heart activity. In addition, combining substances increases the chance of overdose and death.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of this lesson, you will have the ability to:

  • Realize some reasons why people might combine drugs
  • Describe some common combinations of drugs
  • Indicate the potential consequences of combining drugs or taking drugs with alcohol

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