What Are the Effects of Mixing Methamphetamine and Alcohol?

When someone uses a stimulant such as methamphetamine, the drug may counter some of alcohol’s sedative effect, leading the person to drink more than he or she intended.

Methamphetamine is a highly addictive drug that acts as a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant. In rare instances, pharmaceutical methamphetamine was once prescribed by physicians (as Desoxyn). However, the overwhelming majority of methamphetamine that is abused today is manufactured illegally and sold on the street. The illicit drug is commonly referred to as meth and crystal meth.

Those who abuse methamphetamine may experience intense cravings for continued use, which serves to promote a fast-growing addiction. Often, those who abuse methamphetamine also abuse alcohol, and combining these two substances may have serious side effects.1

The Side Effects of Using Methamphetamine with Alcoholic Drinks

Methamphetamine can be snorted, injected, smoked, or swallowed. No matter the method of ingestion, though, methamphetamine is highly addictive and often produces feelings of energy and excitement during the initial stages of use. Users then begin to feel irritable, angry or fearful.

Users may also suffer a variety of side effects such as:2

  • Severe dry mouth that can lead to dental problems and rotting teeth.
  • Severe itching.
  • Emotional problems.
  • Extreme rise in body temperature that causes the user to pass out, and may lead to organ failure in extreme cases.

Many people who use methamphetamine also concurrently abuse alcohol. While the general effects of each substance may, to some extent, counteract those of the other, the combination of methamphetamine and alcohol is extremely ill-advised and dangerous.

Research on the effects of combining stimulants and alcohol together has revealed more negative consequences compared to using each of the substances independently. Alcohol acts as a CNS sedative while methamphetamine, a stimulant, leads to feelings of increased energy, euphoria, and excitement.

When someone uses a stimulant such as methamphetamine, the drug may counter some of alcohol’s sedative effect, leading the person to drink more than he or she intended. In turn, this can cause the person to make poor decisions and engage in risky behaviors. A person who takes both of these substances is at increased risk of injury and other serious side effects.3

Treatment for Addiction to Methamphetamine and Alcohol

methamphetamine

Treatment for concurrent addiction to methamphetamine and alcohol may be more complicated than that of a singular substance addiction, but it can still be done effectively. In general, those in recovery will first need to have a period of withdrawal from both substances prior to committing to more longitudinal substance abuse treatment efforts.

Methamphetamine withdrawal is difficult. The vast majority of users have reported the following withdrawal symptoms:2

 

  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Aggression
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Overeating
  • Extreme daytime sleepiness

These symptoms can last 5 days to 2 weeks. The lengthy withdrawal period from methamphetamine increases the risk of relapse since people may begin to use again to relieve their withdrawal symptoms. Thus, recovery from meth addiction often requires intense oversight.

Detox

Additionally, when a person who abuses methamphetamine also abuses alcohol, treatment in a detox center is advised since the sudden cessation of alcohol use may result in seizures and other adverse medical consequences. A detox program typically consists of an evaluation by a substance abuse professional to assess the form of treatment that would best suit the person’s needs.

Once the person is admitted to a detox program, a nurse provides an assessment and begins to monitor the person’s medical and behavioral withdrawal symptoms. A physician usually provides a comprehensive medical assessment within 24 hours. A variety of staff members, including counselors and assistants, provide emotional support throughout the recovering person’s stay.

Most detox programs last just a few days. Some have support groups, but these detox programs are not intended to be treatment for methamphetamine and alcohol addiction. Rather, detox is a brief stabilization period. The person who completes detox is admitted to an outpatient program for treatment several hours per week, or an inpatient treatment program that can last from a few days to a few weeks.

If you’re concerned that the co-abuse of alcohol and meth is impacting your health, or that of someone close to you, substance abuse treatment programs can help. Call us at 1-888-919-3845  to speak with a treatment support advisor about your recovery options.

Sources

  1. The National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2012). Methamphetamine.
  2. Mancino, M. J., Gentry, B. W., Feldman, Z., Mendelson, J., & Oliveto, A. (2011). Characterizing methamphetamine withdrawal in recently abstinent methamphetamine users: A pilot field study. The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse37(2), 131–136.
  3. State Government of Victoria. (2012). Know the facts: Alcohol and other drugs
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