Combined Drugs and the Potential for Harm
Combined drugs have a serious potential for harm. In fact, most lethal drug related deaths involve more than one drug. The risk of dangerously combining drugs increases during intoxication when judgment is impaired and inhibitions are lowered. Also, people who have been addicted for some time are at greater risk for combining substances.
Problems can arise with any combination of drugs from any class, including illegal drugs, prescription drugs, and over-the-counter drugs. Even heavily caffeinated energy drinks can combine with other substances to dangerous effect. Problematic combinations can be within the same class of drugs, too, such as more than one opiate taken at a time.
Potentiation and Synergy
Drug combinations can have pharmacological effects such as potentiation and synergy. These interactions cause enhanced or magnified effects than wouldn’t occur if just one of the drugs was taken. Drug interactions are often medically recommended and supervised to beneficial effects. However, polydrug substance abusers often mix drugs with dire consequences including lethal overdose. The reasons for poisoning and toxicity vary depending upon the chemical make-up of the drugs taken.
Drug Poisonings and Combined Drugs
All drug poisonings are not the result of combining drugs. Toxicity can occur for many reasons such as taking too much of one substance, for example, or health issues that prevent adequate absorption of drugs taken. Sometimes, too, a substance is poisonous in any amount.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that drug poisoning deaths have more than doubled since 1999, making it more deadly than auto accidents in the U.S. The opiate and opioid epidemic has been responsible for a great many deaths, and the majority of those involve combined drug use.
Alcohol and Combined Drug Issues
Alcohol is one of the most common substances that when mixed with others can create severe, even life-threatening effects. For example:
- Cocaine and alcohol combined create cocathylene in the body which can cause death. The combination can also raise the level of cocaine in the blood system leading to cocaine overdose.
- Alcohol combined with other stimulants can mask the level of intoxication. This can lead to alcohol overdose.
- Many prescription medications come with warnings not to use alcohol with them because of dangerous effects of the combination.
- Alcohol and sedating medications can result in dangerous levels of sedation, even respiratory and cardiac arrest.