Drinking Alcohol While Using Other Drugs Can Be Deadly

Key points

  • If you drink alcohol while using other drugs, the effects may be stronger and more deadly than using either one alone.
  • To keep yourself safe and healthy, you should not drink alcohol when using other drugs.
Bottles of alcohol and pills crossed out, with text: "Drinking alcohol while using opioids increases the risk of overdose and death."


It can be dangerous to use two or more drugs at the same time, or within a short time of each other.

Alcohol and other drug use

This includes drinking alcohol and taking other drugs, such as:

  • Cannabis (or marijuana)—often used to change mood and perceptions.
    • Cannabis is illegal at the federal level and can have health risks regardless of how you use it.
    • Some cannabis-based medicines are approved to help treat seizures and nausea in people with certain conditions.
  • Opioids—commonly used to reduce pain.
    • Health care providers or pharmacists might give patients oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), morphine, methadone, and fentanyl.
    • Illicit opioids include heroin and illegally made fentanyl.
  • Benzodiazepines—help treat sleep problems, seizures, and mental health conditions like depression and anxiety.
    • Examples include diazepam (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax), zolpidem (Ambien), and eszopiclone (Lunesta).
  • Stimulants (or uppers)—increase your heart rate and blood pressure to dangerous levels.
    • Some stimulants, like amphetamines, can be used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
    • Examples of other stimulants include caffeine, methamphetamine, cocaine, and ecstasy.
  • Psychedelics (or hallucinogens)—change mood, thoughts, and perceptions for some time.
    • This includes drugs like psilocybin (magic mushrooms), LSD, and ketamine.

Over-the-counter or prescribed medicines

Drinking alcohol and taking certain medicines that are over-the-counter or prescribed by a health care provider or pharmacist can cause harm. It could be dangerous if the medicine:

  • Has a label saying there could be harmful effects when combined with alcohol.
  • Is taken in a different way than prescribed.
  • Was not given to you by your health care provider or pharmacist.


If you are taking medicine and are considering drinking, talk to a health care provider or pharmacist first.

Health effects


Drinking alcohol at the same time or within a few hours of using other drugs like opioids or benzodiazepines can cause serious harm. It can make it hard to breathe, which can damage your brain and other organs. This can also lead to early death.

Using alcohol together with other drugs can increase your risk of:

  • Overdose.
  • Injury.
  • Violence.
  • Sex without protection, which can lead to sexually transmitted infections, HIV, or unplanned pregnancy.
  • Chronic disease.
  • Alcohol or other substance use disorders.A

What can be done

You can avoid the harms that come from mixing alcohol and drugs.

To keep yourself safe and healthy, you should:

  • Not drink alcohol when using other drugs.
  • Avoid misusing prescription drugs and using illicit drugs.

Learn about other ways to lower rates of excessive alcohol use and alcohol-related injury and overdose.

  1. This is when a person is not able to control their alcohol or other drug use even though they are facing physical, mental, and social problems.