Using alcohol or drugs separately can be dangerous, but combining the two is a recipe for disaster. The risk of overdose or injury when alcohol is combined with drugs increases significantly. Teens who are experimenting with drug and alcohol use may combine alcohol with other drugs in search of a high without realizing that this can be dangerous or even fatal.

What is Polydrug Abuse?

Polydrug abuse is when two or more drugs are abused at the same time. Polydrug abuse may also include the use of alcohol with other drugs. Polydrug abuse is much more dangerous than abusing a single drug, as the body is unable to process each drug at the rate that it normally would. This combination creates a higher level of each drug in the body, increasing the risk of injury and overdose. Research shows that many fatal drug overdoses involved the use of more than one drug.

Drugs Teens Commonly Mix with Alcohol

Statistics show that about 30% of high schoolers use alcohol each month. The increase in the frequency of alcohol and drug abuse for teens has led to an increase in teenagers combining alcohol with drugs. This increase includes not only recreational drugs, but also prescription drugs that may heighten the effects of alcohol. Some drugs that teenagers commonly combine with alcohol may include:

The effects of mixing alcohol with other drugs, especially in teens, is not well studied. Mixing alcohol with other substances can lead to unexpected and dangerous side effects.

Signs of Teens Mixing Drugs and Alcohol

Knowing if your teen is mixing alcohol and drugs will be hard without outright asking them. Asking may not be a bad idea if you have a reasonable relationship with your teen and express to them that you are not asking from a judgmental or confrontational viewpoint. Besides asking your teen, you may be able to tell by some signs that they are using alcohol or drugs.

Some of these signs include:
  • Poor performance at school or their job
  • Decreased personal hygiene
  • Increased isolation
  • A decrease in social activities
  • Slurred speech
  • Excessive drowsiness
  • Hyperactivity
  • Changes in personality
  • Changes in friends

If your teen has any of these signs, it may be an indicator that they have started using alcohol or drugs or that they have begun to develop an addiction.

Teens Mixing Alcohol and Drugs Likely to Overdose

Teen alcohol overdose is more likely when alcohol is combined with other drugs. The body is unable to process drugs as quickly when there is alcohol in the body, and a previously normal amount of a certain drug may become dangerous when it is mixed with alcohol. Teens are often unaware of this risk, and their peers with whom they drink or use drugs are also typically unaware of the danger. Teens may also be less likely to quickly respond to a dangerous overdose out of fear of the response of their parents or authorities; this increases the risk that an overdose could be fatal.

Drug and Alcohol Treatment for Teens

Teen drug and alcohol use can have lasting consequences on their lives. This risk is why seeking treatment for teens as early and quickly as possible is absolutely necessary. Starting teen drug and alcohol rehab as soon as possible lowers the risks of lifelong addiction and the possible negative consequences that it can create.

Thomas Christiansen
Editor – Thomas Christiansen
With over a decade of editing experience, Tom is a content specialist for Advanced Recovery Systems, where he edits the great research articles, news releases and blog posts that are produced every day. Read more
Benjamin Caleb Williams
Medically Reviewed By – Benjamin Caleb Williams, RN
Benjamin Caleb Williams is a board-certified Emergency Nurse with several years of clinical experience, including supervisory roles within the ICU and ER settings. Read more
Sources

State Library New South Wales. “What is Polydrug Use?” August 22, 2017. Accessed August 25, 2019.

Bellum, Sara. “Alcohol and Drugs Don’t Mix.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, April 8, 2011. Accessed August 25, 2019.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “National Vital Statistics Report.” Accessed October 2, 2019.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Fact Sheets – Underage Drinking.” August 2, 2018. Accessed August 25, 2019.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Harmful Interactions.” 2014. Accessed August 25, 2019.

Ali, Shahid; et al. “Early Detection of Illicit Drug Use in Teenagers.” Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience, December 2011. Accessed August

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.