Content Map Terms
There are some combinations to always avoid if you choose to drink. These “red light” combinations are important to remember.
When you choose to drink, it’s always best in moderation and to stick to the low-risk drinking guidelines. Combining alcohol with other substances can cause negative health effects. Put the brakes on when it comes to these “red light” combinations.
Alcohol and Tobacco
Both alcohol and tobacco can be extremely addictive, even in occasional, social use. Many social or weekend smokers experience a sudden craving for a cigarette when they are drinking. Similarly, people who quit smoking often find themselves starting up again during a night of heavy drinking.
Data suggests that:
- smokers drink more than non-smokers
- drinkers smoke more than non-drinkers
- excessive alcohol use is associated with heavy tobacco use
- the vast a majority of alcoholics smoke
It’s best to avoid the combination of alcohol and tobacco altogether.
Alcohol and Drugs
One of the great dangers in combining alcohol and drugs is that the effects are difficult to predict. So many factors can influence what will happen. Among other things, the effects of the mix will depend on the mix itself, the dose, how it is administered, the order in which the substances are taken, as well as the person’s age, sex, weight, physical health and psychological state.
Alcohol and Medication
Drinking and then taking medications, in particular over-the-counter products like painkillers, may slow down the elimination of alcohol , increase or mask their effects, or cause unpredictable reactions including death. It is important to remember that, like alcohol, medications are eliminated by the liver. As a general rule, it is better not to drink while taking medication.
Alcohol and Cannabis
When taken together, the sedative effects of both the alcohol and the cannabis are increased. Judgment, reaction time and co-ordination are all affected at a greater rate than just consuming alcohol alone.
Because cannabis inhibits the part of the brainstem responsible for vomiting, combining it with alcohol can be particularly dangerous and even deadly. When people drink too much and are in danger of alcohol poisoning, the body’s natural response is to vomit. By inhibiting the vomit instinct, cannabis increases the danger of alcohol poisoning.
Purple light: severe danger
The most dangerous alcohol-drug combinations are those in which alcohol – which is a sedative – is mixed with another sedative or painkiller, such as barbiturates, benzodiazepines, antihistamines or opiate painkillers (e.g., codeine, morphine, oxycontin). Sedatives sold in the illicit market include PCP (Mescaline, Mess, Horse, Angel Dust, TH) and ketamine (Special K, Vitamin K, Ket, Ketty).
These types of combinations can severely depress the central nervous system, with consequences ranging from confusion to unconsciousness to death.
© Adapted from Éduc’alcool’s “Alcohol and Health” series, 2014. Used under license.
Resources and Links
Yellow Light Alcohol Combinations
Green Light Alcohol Combinations