Concurrent Alcohol and Drug Use

Mixing alcohol with prescription or illicit drugs can be harmful. For example, mixing alcohol with certain medications could lead to or worsen side effects such as nausea, drowsiness, fainting, or difficulty breathing


Because alcohol is a depressant, it can make you sleepy or lightheaded. So when you combine alcohol with another drug—for example, a stimulant such as cocaine—your brain receives conflicting signals. The effects of each individual substance may be somewhat masked, leading to unchecked combined consumption that can quickly overwhelm the person.

If you combine alcohol with another depressant, such as heroin, the two substances work to intensify the depressant effects, putting your brain and your entire central nervous system at great risk for harmful side effects 1.

And mixing alcohol with opioids such as Vicodin, OxyContin, or Percocet can dangerously slow breathing—leading to coma or death 2.

The statistics bear out the dangers of mixing alcohol with various drugs 3,4,5:

  • In 2015, 26.9% of people ages 18 or older reported that they engaged in binge drinking in the past month.
  • In a study of undergraduate students, researchers found that the prevalence for using alcohol and prescription drugs was 12.1%.
  • One study found that 5% of current drinkers reported using drugs other than marijuana in the last 12 months. In this study, several factors were associated with concurrent alcohol and drug use, such as being younger, having less than a high school education, not having a regular partner, and heavier drinking patterns.