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What is Combined Drug Intoxication?

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Combined drug intoxication (CDI) occurs when a person ingests more than one drug, or substance, at a time. Typically, the effects of combining different drugs tends to be stronger than using just one. For many who struggle with addiction, the heightened effect of combining multiple drugs is exactly what they are seeking. However, combining multiple drugs has dangerous effects, especially depending on the types of drugs in use. Furthermore, it is important to understand that combined drug intoxication is different from an overdose. Overdose occurs when an individual takes too much of one substance, whereas CDI can cause issues due to the nature of how different substances interact. It is also paramount that individuals are aware combined drug intoxication is not limited to illicit substances. This can include legal substances, over-the-counter medicine, prescription medicine, and supplements/vitamins.

Dangers of Combined Drug Intoxication

There are many different dangers that are present when someone is struggling with combined drug intoxication. The greatest danger, of course, is death. When combining multiple drugs, it is all too common to experience a heightening of effects of the substances by their interaction. For example, if alcohol is ingested with pain pills, there is a greater chance of respiratory failure, due to both substances depressing the respiratory system and lowering blood pressure. Because of this, it is paramount that individuals understand the risks they are taking when combining substances.

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Alcohol and Xanax
Now that we’ve covered how alcohol affects the central nervous system, let’s jump right into what Xanax does. To begin, Xanax (Alprazolam) is in the Benzodiazepine class, and is typically a prescription for patients struggling with anxiety and panic attacks. It is an addictive, narcotic substance, and as such should only be prescribed for short-term use. Unfortunately, many individuals have abused the medication and become addicted to its relaxing, euphoric properties.

Xanax works by binding to GABA, a common receptor in the central nervous system. This produces the effects previously described, but also produces issues for individuals, especially when combined with alcohol. Though alcohol and Xanax do not operate pharmacologically in the same fashion, they produce similar effects and outcomes on the central nervous system and brain. It is common for individuals to “black-out” very easily when combining the two substances. Indeed, it is all too common, even in low doses, for the combination to cause respiratory issues, coma, and death.

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Heroin and Cocaine
Up until this point we have talked about legal drugs. The DEA classifies Heroin and cocaine, both illegal drugs, as Schedule I and Schedule II respectively. Heroin is highly addictive and often fatal, as overdose numbers have steadily risen over the past few decades. It works by binding to specific opioid receptors in the brain, which produces a large amount of dopamine (the “pleasure chemical”) to be released. Even though heroin attaches to different receptors in the brain than alcohol or other drugs, it is still considered a depressant, meaning it can slow breathing, heart rate, and contribute to similar complications as with alcohol or Xanax.

Cocaine, on the other hand, is classified as a stimulant. This means that it has the opposite effect as a depressant; stimulants tend to increase heart rate, breathing, neural activity, and place stress on the central nervous system. Many drug users combine heroin and cocaine into what most call a “speedball”; they do this believing that the two drugs will effectively “cancel out” each other’s negative effects. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Instead, users are typically not aware of their level of intoxication when combining the two drugs. Further, the opposite physiological effects compound in terms of stress on major bodily functions, such as the respiratory system and heart. Overdose and death are extremely common with this combination.

Alcohol and Cocaine The last combination we’ll talk about in this article is alcohol and cocaine, simply because the combination is so prevalent. The biggest issue when people combine these substances is that the individual typically feels less intoxicated than they actually are. Cocaine can place unnecessary strain on the cardiovascular system, and if use continues over the course of a few hours or an evening, then the same dangers apply. Overdose, alcohol poisoning, coma, and death are all too common with the combination of these two drugs.

Polysubstance Abuse

A common term you might hear when discussing combined drug intoxication is polysubstance abuse. This essentially describes the same thing, where people habitually struggle with using multiple drugs at the same time. The combinations we have described above are common, but there are many more combinations that people experiment with. If you or a loved one are struggling with combined drug intoxication, or polysubstance abuse, please call us today. Our trained specialists are here to help guide you through the difficult journey of recovery, each and every day.