The Dangers of Polydrug Use

The Dangers of Polydrug Use

What does Polydrug use mean?

Polydrug use a term used when a person is under the influence of multiple drugs at once, or also is using multiple substances in a row for varied effects. An example would be adderall to wake up and then xanax to come down while drinking. When people use multiple drugs at once a common example of this would be using alcohol to intensify the effects a pain pill may have. Both prime examples of polydrug use. In today’s day and age, this is a common occurrence, especially with those in their 20s according to statistical findings from SAMSHA.

Polydrug use is a broad term when you are talking about how many different types of drugs and substances are out there. So dependant on what different combination used, the outcomes can vary. There are so many street drugs where people could never know the ingredients that are being mixed with lethal combinations.

The Dangers of Combining Drugs

The risks of polydrug use depend on the types and amounts of drugs mixed. Combining drugs amplifies pleasurable and euphoria perhaps, but it can come with very negative effects. A prime example: mixing stimulants, such as ecstasy and cocaine, can increase the user’s high, but also their risk of heart attack.

The greatest risk of polydrug use is “combined drug intoxication.” Combined drug intoxication is a common cause of emergency room visits and has claimed the lives of countless individuals. The greatest risk of combined drug intoxication is death.

Some of the side effects of combining drugs include:

Brain damage


Heart problems

Liver damage and failure


Suppressed breathing

Respiratory failure


Stomach bleeding

Mixing drugs severely depletes the brain’s feelgood and calming chemicals. This can spark behavioral issues such as depression and anxiety. So the come down from mixing drugs can be much worse than just coming off one substance, you are experiencing multiple parts of your brain that are being deprived the chemical that was just released, this makes mental health concerns more prevalent.

Common Drug Combinations Stats

In 2007, 3.2 million Americans mixed and abused drugs. The consequences of polydrug use vary with each combination.
Mixing Alcohol with Other Substances/Drugs

According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network, a majority of hospital admissions for prescription drugs and another substance also involve alcohol.

Drugs that are often combined with alcohol include:


Alcohol and Cocaine Icon

Individuals who use coke with alcohol often do so to steady their alcohol effects, such as blacking out or becoming a sloppy drunk. People who consume too much alcohol may take cocaine to increase their physical energy and it allows them to drink way more than they usually would be able to without forgetting parts of the night. It also can reduce some of the negative effects caused by alcohol intoxication, making it easier to handle larger amounts of alcohol. In Europe they ran a study and in 50% of cocaine users they were also labeled alcoholics.

When the two substances, alcohol with cocaine are metabolized through the liver simultaneously, it is one of the most dangerous side-effects which is the liver producing cocaethylene, which can build up in the body, resulting in major organ system stress, particularly the cardiovascular system and liver itself. It also temporarily enhances the high associated with both cocaine and alcohol; however, this euphoria increases blood pressure, aggression, violent thoughts, and poor judgment.

It can build up to toxic levels in the liver and has been linked to sudden death. Additional consequences include heart attack, death of blood vessels and brain tissue (leading to brain damage, stroke or aneurysm), intracranial hemorrhage, heart disease, and cardiac arrhythmia. So in reality, there is nothing that is a little bit good about mixing coke and alcohol. It is super dangerous and not enough people understand these consequences until it is too late.

Prescription Stimulants:

Alcohol and Prescription Stimulants Icon

I don’t know what it is with stimulants while drinking but Adderall is another major concern. It isn’t just adderall though, it is this and all other prescription stimulants, because they are producing similar effects to cocaine when mixed with alcohol. A user’s heart rate can spike when mixing alcohol and stimulants. This can lead to immediate and long-term heart complications.


Alcohol and Benzos Icon

Benzodiazepines, such as Xanax, have effects similar to alcohol. Both substances act on the same neurotransmitters in the brain, creating the combined effect that increases intoxication. Because benzodiazepines and alcohol are central nervous system depressants, combining the two increases the risk of respiratory failure, coma, or death. It is said you can take a Xanax and then a beer and it feels like you’ve drank 10 beers within 20 minutes. That is just dangerous. People black out this way all the time!

Sleeping Pills:

Alcohol and Sleeping pills Icon

Alcohol enhances the sedative effects of sleeping pills. Knowing this, some people intentionally mix alcohol and sleeping pills to make their medication more “effective.” Sleepwalking injuries, coma and death are more likely when mixing alcohol and sleeping pills.

Opioids and Heroin:

Alcohol and opioids and heroin Icon

Both alcohol and opioids, such as Vicodin, depress the respiratory system and lower blood pressure. The risks of mixing these drugs are comparable to heroin and alcohol. Painkillers also contain acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Mixing alcohol with these substances can lead to stomach bleeding and liver damage.

Alcohol and heroin are both central nervous system depressants. Using both heroin and alcohol together enhances the effects of each drug, and at the same time results in different sensations and experiences than using either drug alone. Taking these drugs together raises the chances of respiratory failure. An overdose of heroin and alcohol can also cause a dangerous loss of oxygen and blood to the brain. This can lead to permanent brain damage. Who in their right mind would want to do this? NOT worth the RISK!!!

Moral of the story: Do Not Mix Drugs!

If you are mixing drugs, there is a chance you may be struggling with addiction issues. We can help. The Best Treatment Center offers a Polydrug Use Treatment Program, call now for a free insurance verification.

The Journey to Recovery Starts Here…

Call us:   1-888-4TBTNOW

Medically Reviewed: September 25, 2019

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.