Alcohol and depressants are a dangerous combination, as these substances can increase the risk of dangerous side effects and lead to an overdose.

Article at a Glance:

Alcohol is a potentially dangerous depressant that should not be mixed with other depressants.

Depressants are used to treat many conditions, including insomnia, epilepsy, anxiety and pain.

Mixing multiple depressants increases the risk of side effects and overdose.

The Dangers of Mixing Depressants and Alcohol

Using alcohol alongside other depressant substances can have catastrophic results. When someone mixes multiple depressants, such as alcohol and opioids, they increase their risk for intoxication, overdose and severe side effects. The following overview covers the dangers involved in mixing alcohol with depressants, why they occur and how to find help.

The Effects of Combining Alcohol With Other Depressants

Although many people use alcohol or other depressants for their relaxing qualities, the negative effects can far outweigh the temporary feelings of calm. Abusing depressants and alcohol can result in both short-term and long-term health consequences, and some are irreversible.

Some of the side effects of abusing depressants and alcohol together include:

  • Low blood pressure
  • Slurred speech
  • Fatigue
  • Impaired coordination and motor skills
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Slowed breathing
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness
  • Coma
  • Death

These physical effects can easily put others at risk, particularly if an intoxicated person gets behind the wheel, operates machinery or engages in other risky behaviors. However, there are also many non-physical effects that stem from depressant abuse. For example, many people who misuse depressants have problems with finances, employment and relationships with friends or family.

What Are Depressants?

Sometimes referred to as “downers,” depressants are drugs prescribed for conditions like pain, anxiety and seizures. However, some depressants don’t require a prescription, such as alcohol. Depressants slow down the action of the central nervous system (CNS). This slows down critical bodily functions, including awareness, and can result in a decreased heart rate, decreased breathing rate and even loss of consciousness at higher doses.

Depressants are among the most widely used drugs in the world, and alcohol is one of the most commonly abused legal depressants. All CNS depressants have the ability to reduce activity in the central nervous system, but the various types differ from each other. Different types of depressants are also prescribed for different reasons; for example, some are prescribed as sleep aids while others are prescribed for anxiety.

Some of the most common depressant brands include:

Why Is Alcohol a Depressant?

Alcohol works by enhancing the effects of a neurotransmitter called gamma amino-butyric acid (GABA). GABA is a chemical produced naturally in the brain that is involved in the regulation of messages sent between brain cells.

Alcohol works by entering cells in the brain and other parts of the body and increasing GABA activity. By enhancing GABA, alcohol slows down the transmission of messages related to breathing, movement, coordination and thought.

Treatment for Depressants and Alcohol

Treatment for alcohol and depressant abuse can be approached in several different ways. At a professional rehab center, the treatment process typically starts with a medical detox program that helps people undergo withdrawal in a safe, comfortable manner. Patients may be given medication to relieve symptoms, as well as behavioral support. Withdrawal from alcohol and other depressants can be dangerous, so it is important to find treatment that provides detox care.

After the detox process ends, the true healing journey begins through inpatient or outpatient care. Outpatient treatment allows a person to continue their day-to-day obligations, such as attending work or school. Inpatient treatment, however, is for more severe cases where these obligations cannot be met.

Our advanced medical care, wellness programs and holistic treatments are aimed toward treating each person as a whole — not just their drug or alcohol addiction. Each center is staffed with a team of caring, experienced professionals who want nothing more than to see each and every patient find long-term recovery.

Our alcohol rehab facilities provide safe, secure treatment alongside a variety of indoor and outdoor amenities. Contact us today to speak with one of our intake coordinators and learn more about treatment programs that can work well for your needs.

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Editor – Jonathan Strum
Jonathan Strum graduated from the University of Nebraska Omaha with a Bachelor's in Communication in 2017 and has been writing professionally ever since. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Conor Sheehy, PharmD, BCPS, CACP
Dr. Sheehy completed his BS in Molecular Biology at the University of Idaho and went on to complete his Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) at the University of Washington in Seattle. Read more

U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Alcohol Use Disorder.” MedlinePlus, November 2017. Accessed October 4, 2021.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Prescription CNS Depressants DrugFacts.” March 2018. Accessed October 4, 2021.

Valenzuela, C. Fernando. “Alcohol and Neurotransmitter Interactions.” Alcohol Health & Research World, 1997. Accessed October 4, 2021.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.