Can Alcohol Lead to the Use of Other Drugs?

How Can Alcohol Lead to the Use of Other Drugs?

When a circle of friends aims to become highly intoxicated, there can be a tendency to incorporate more than one substance. This is done to enhance their good or altered feelings. The practice of combining substances tends to be especially prevalent in the youth population. There are many different reasons for this. They include peer pressure, the desire for acceptance, or the need to experiment. No matter what the reason, however, combining substances is unhealthy and can be dangerous. 

One of the most common combinations, according to a report published in Frontiers in Neuroscience, is alcohol with cannabis. This may seem benign to many people, but there is a higher risk of dangerous levels of intoxication when alcohol and any drug are combined. Health problems can surface, including difficulty breathing, confusion, fainting, and in extreme cases, death. 

What Is Polysubstance Use?

Using alcohol with other drugs is called polysubstance use. Polysubstance use is when multiple substances are used together. When people habitually mix substances, it can have negative outcomes. This can happen innocently. A person may only intend to use alcohol. Suddenly, other substances are introduced, and everyone assumes it’s fine to mix them. No one in the group may realize that this can lead to serious consequences. 

Polysubstance use can involve any two substances, including stimulants and depressants. These can include substances such as alcohol, marijuana, heroin, or other illicit drugs. Using alcohol and other substances is unsafe because the effects can be unpredictable. Because of these risks, polysubstance use should be avoided at all times. Polysubstance use can also happen unintentionally, such as when a drug is laced with another drug or chemical. This can be especially dangerous. 

How To Avoid Using Other Drugs With Alcohol

There are many things a person can do to avoid polysubstance use. When someone is out with friends or at events where the environment is promoting the use of alcohol, it is important to be aware of one’s boundaries. The chances of mixed substances are high at many of these functions. 

Many people accept the reality of social drinking and even encourage it. However, at parties and other venues where alcohol is offered, other substances can be made available. People need to know how to resist this offer and just say no. 

Set Limits

Sometimes this may mean that people need to avoid certain venues and parties. It also may mean setting limits on how much alcohol is safe to consume. When a person drinks too much, their decision-making ability may become impaired, leading to decisions that can dangerous consequences. Deciding on a set number of drinks or sticking with certain types of less-intoxicating drinks can be a good strategy. That way, a person can remain in control of their boundaries and keep themselves out of harm’s way.

Peer pressure may make this decision difficult, but just because other people accept the harm they are causing to their bodies without thinking about it doesn’t make it safe or desirable.

Seek Support

The best way to avoid the unsafe mixing of substances is to receive help for a person’s SUD. The aforementioned studies published In Frontiers in Neuroscience showed that having SUD with one substance greatly increases the chance of developing a dependence on another substance as well. For example, for those with substance use disorder (SUD), the risk of developing a heroin addiction is twofold.

How Is Heath Care Affected By Alcohol And Drug Consumption?

As stated before, many times youth encounter this temptation to mix substances, whether it’s the addition of marijuana cigarettes, vaping, or other commonly available drugs. Unfortunately, choosing to mix substances can lead to poor health. When there is a misuse of drugs and alcohol this can also send individuals to the emergency room. This increases healthcare costs for everyone.

When adults suffer from SUD, many times it began when they were young adults themselves. Addressing drug and alcohol issues in youth and adults is important so that they can seek treatment and avoid the pitfalls of SUD. Early prevention can also lower the number of people that end up in emergency rooms for overdoses and or critical health problems. Doing this would lower healthcare use and create openings for those individuals who are ill for health issues that they cannot control. 

How to Reduce The Risk Of Combining Alcohol with Other Substances

One way to reduce the risk of poor health outcomes and harm is to make safer, better-informed choices. If a person is going to drink alcohol, they should do this responsibly and without the intention to become intoxicated. Additionally, people should always know what they are consuming. For instance, they should know the percentage of alcohol contained in the type of drink they are having. They should read the packages and leaflets for a prescription drug to learn the dosing instructions and whether it can be taken along with alcohol. 

When consuming marijuana or another drug, a person should know the supplier and trust the purity of the product. If this can’t be done, then the person should abstain. People should also educate themselves about any harmful effects of drugs. This includes the harmful effects that marijuana has on the brain. Consuming certain substances can have lifelong consequences when used individually, let alone when two things are combined. People should become aware of how their choices can affect their health and their lives.

Alcohol and drugs are not meant to be combined. The choice to not take drugs recreationally is the safest choice. Treatment and counseling can reduce our risk of using these substances. A person can safeguard their health and lifespan if they can gather the courage to seek help. 


If you or someone you love has fallen prey to polysubstance use, treatment is available. There is help in learning how to make safer choices. If alcohol and drugs have consumed your life, let the staff at Brazos Recovery Center help you restore your health. It’s never safe to mix substances, but you can reclaim your health and make better choices. Our staff has a wealth of knowledge on addiction recovery and is committed to helping people remain sober for life. They know how you are feeling, and they have the life experience and professional training to assist you with healing. Call Brazos Recovery Center today at (254) 232-1550. We are available to take your call.

Medically Reviewed: September 25, 2019

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.