According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, 5.6% of Americans over age 18 suffer from alcohol abuse disorder, and 0.4% of people in this same bracket are addicted to meth. Crystal meth and alcohol alone can each lead to intense side effects and severe health consequences. However, mixing alcohol and meth can amplify these effects and increase the risk of serious problems.
If you’re worried about yourself or a loved one who might be using these two substances together, knowledge is power. Keep reading to learn the effects of alcohol and methamphetamines separately and how these effects compound each other when used together.
About Alcohol Abuse
A study done in 2016 looked at how much American adults drink alcohol. According to the results, more than half of adults had consumed alcohol in the past 30 days. Of those, more than 6% reported drinking heavily, and almost 17% reported binge drinking.
Alcohol is a widespread problem both in the United States and globally because it’s legal and freely available to those who meet the minimum purchase age.
Effects of Alcohol Abuse
Drinking too much alcohol can have severe effects on your whole body. These effects can occur from drinking over long periods or consuming too much in a short time, which are common in alcohol use disorder.
During intoxication, your senses become numb. This is why the world feels “hazy” when you’re drunk. Among other effects, your critical thinking skills are dampened, and your reaction times are slowed. You’re much more likely to partake in risky behaviors or be involved in an accident when under the influence of alcohol.
If you drink too much, you risk developing alcohol poisoning. This condition happens when you consume more alcohol than your body can filter at once and your blood alcohol volume rises too high. This condition causes vomiting and diarrhea, often alongside a racing or weak pulse and low or high blood pressure. Alcohol poisoning can cause a lack of consciousness and even lead to death.
Other effects on your body from consuming too much alcohol include:
- Changes in behavior or mood
- Increased risk of heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Increased of stroke
- Liver disease
- Swelling and inflammation in the pancreas
- Increased cancer risk
- Weakened immune system
About Meth Abuse
Methamphetamine, or meth, is a highly addictive stimulant affecting the central nervous system. In its pure form, meth is a white powder that can easily be dissolved in alcohol or water. Crystal meth is a popular street drug, with usage levels higher in certain areas or populations. To make crystal meth, street dealers combine the white methamphetamine powder with other substances and “cook” it to form a solid crystal-looking rock that can be smoked.
Effects of Methamphetamines
When used, meth provides a euphoric experience and may numb the senses. But meth is a very potent drug with serious side effects. Moments after use, you could experience dilated pupils, nausea, erratic behavior, panic attacks and psychosis. These side effects often happen alongside increased heart rate, body temperature and blood pressure. In addition, some people experience hallucinations, irritability, convulsions and even seizures.
The long-term side effects of methamphetamine use include:
- Disrupted sleep patterns (including hypersomnia, insomnia and difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep)
- Permanent blood vessel damage in the brain and heart
- Increased risk of heart attack
- Increased risk of stroke
- Severe weight loss and malnutrition
- Tooth decay (which can lead to infections)
- Depression, anxiety and other mental health issues
- Brain damage affecting memory functioning
There can be other side effects depending on how meth is used. Smoking is one of the most common ways to use crystal meth, leading to long-term breathing problems. However, the drug can also be sniffed or injected. If sniffed, the tissues in the nose can be destroyed. If injected, a person is at increased risk of infectious disease and infections like sepsis. Some people wonder if you can drink meth. Generally, the answer is no, as drinking meth would likely lead to vomiting and an increased risk of overdose.
How Alcohol and Meth Interact
Some studies show that alcohol might interfere with meth metabolism. Essentially, mixing meth and alcohol could decrease the body’s ability to filter and eliminate the former. When this happens, a higher concentration of meth remains in the bloodstream (potentially for extended periods), leading to an increased risk of overdosing.
However, the dangers go beyond overdose risk. If bloodstream meth levels are increased through alcohol use, it’s possible the stimulation effects of methamphetamine could also be increased. Even if you don’t overdose on meth from these higher blood levels, your heart rate could further increase. Faster heart rates mean your heart has to work harder, potentially for longer periods, which can weaken the heart muscle. It could also increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Additionally, alcohol causes dehydration, which is one of the reasons you suffer a hangover the morning after intense drinking. The more alcohol you consume, the more your body becomes dehydrated. The same study that showed alcohol affects meth metabolism also showed that consuming these substances together may combat the subjective effects of alcohol. Since you may not feel as drunk, you may consume more alcohol than you usually would. This leads to an increased risk of alcohol poisoning and further dehydration.
The risk of death is significantly increased when the body becomes dehydrated and the heart is simultaneously forced to work harder. The chances of permanent, long-term damage to the heart, brain and liver are also significantly increased.
Get the Help You Need From FHE Today
If you or a loved one is battling alcohol addiction, methamphetamine abuse or a combination of the two, it can feel like life will never change. However, freedom from these addictions is possible. Due to the severity of these addictions and the consequential withdrawal symptoms, it’s crucial you start your sobriety journey in a safe, welcoming setting with constant medical supervision.