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Alcohol and Methamphetamine Facts and Trends

Alcohol and methamphetamine (meth) are a common drug pairing with lethal consequences. Meth is a highly addictive stimulant and alcohol remains a dangerous substance. Due to meth’s popularity and ability to cause intense euphoria, the substance is responsible for attracting 1.6 million users in 2017. Roughly 964,000 people aged 12 or older had a meth use disorder in the same year with the average age of use at 23 years old. Those who abuse meth are also more likely to binge drink, and one study demonstrated that 16% of Emergency Department visits involving the misuse or abuse of meth involved combinations with alcohol.

Motives For Combined Alcohol And Meth Abuse

Combining the use of two chemicals, known as polysubstance abuse, occurs for several reasons despite its consequences. Meth can be combined with drugs, like cocaine or fentanyl, to increase the euphoric-like effects or can be combined with substances like alcohol or marijuana to offset the stimulating effects. Crystal meth, which differs from meth due to its crystal form and texture is also commonly abused with alcohol, with dangerous effects.

Meth use can be easy to spot due to side effects like rapid weight loss, extreme dental decay, skin peeling and scarring, and odd behavior that can stem from psychotic episodes. Adding alcohol to the equation creates the illusion of canceling out each substance, encouraging the use of more chemicals to feel a buzz. Other motives for this dangerous drug cocktail include:

  • Intensifying the overall drug use experience.

  • Tapering off one drug with another drug.

  • Appearing more calm from the effects of meth.

  • Having an alcohol use disorder but using meth to increase energy.

  • Offsetting the stimulating effects of meth, balancing it with the depressant effects of alcohol.

The Effects Of Alcohol And Methamphetamine

Meth has stimulating effects, while alcohol has depressant effects. When taken together, both chemicals neutralize the impact of the other chemical. Therefore, some may not feel the effects of either alcohol or meth. Some believe alcohol can bring the energy level of meth’s stimulating properties down, but do not realize the body cannot process alcohol and meth at once. Some commonly-experienced side effects of combined alcohol and meth use include:

  • An increase of cardiovascular related activity.

  • Fewer sleep disruptions than meth.

  • Violent behavior.

  • Seizures.

  • Psychical aggression.

  • Increases in either meth use, alcohol use, or combined use.

  • Unpredictable or risky behavior.

  • Increased heart rate.

  • Increased blood pressure.

With meth abuse likely to cause hallucinations and psychotic behavior, violent behavior is a common effect of this combination. Other side effects related to unstable mental health, such as paranoia, aggression, delusions, and psychosis are not uncommon. These effects are not the only impacts of the combined substances, as individuals still face meth and alcohol tolerances and vulnerability.

Binge Drinking And Meth Abuse

Those who use alcohol and methamphetamine at the same time amplify the risks that both of these substances come with. On one scale, someone may seem as if they are not stimulated by meth and appear less erratic or hyper. On the other scale, someone may not seem intoxicated or buzzed by the alcohol and not fully feel the effects. As a result, he or she may overindulge in alcohol by binge drinking (4 or more drinks for women in a 2-hour timeframe, and 5 or more drinks for men in a 2-hour timeframe).

According to The U.S. Library of Medicine, individuals who abuse meth are more likely to be binge drinkers. Binge drinking can cause an alcohol tolerance, risky behavior due to impaired judgements, and worsen general alcohol-related health conditions. Because of the likelihood of someone who binge drinks having a higher percentage of using meth, and the combination of the stimulant, health risks like kidney and liver failure are more likely.

Moreover, this combination can encourage the likelihood of a fatal overdose. Alcohol combined with other drugs can heighten the risk of a fatal overdose as it is a depressant, proving to be too much for the body to handle. Lastly, individuals indulging in polydrug use to escape mental health challenges run the risk of making it worse, and acting more unpredictably.

Signs Of Alcohol And Meth Abuse

Understanding if someone is battling an alcohol and meth use disorder is helpful in getting them treatment. Some major signs of combined meth and alcohol abuse include but are not limited to:

  • Anxiety

  • Poor coordination

  • Sexual promiscuity

  • An Inability to control drinking

  • Feeling immune to the effects of the drugs

  • An alcohol tolerance

  • Increasing meth usage

  • Blacking out

  • Heavy drinking

  • Weight loss

  • Appetite changes

  • Marks on arm from meth injection sites

  • Isolation to abuse meth and/or alcohol

  • Lying and secrecy about drug use

  • Drug paraphernalia (foil on pipes, needles, empty bottles of alcohol)

  • Befriending people who abuse or sell drugs

  • Talking about experiences that include combined meth and alcohol abuse

At the point of an alcohol and meth use disorder, the individual will endure withdrawal symptoms that can range from depression, vomiting, hallucinations, and other distressing side effects. As a means to avoid the discomfort, it is common for people to continue use as they face the challenges of withdrawal. Medical detox with the ongoing support of professionals provides the crucial guidance and emotional support needed to get life back on track.

Get The Help You Deserve

Enduring the challenges, strained relationships, and isolation of substance abuse does not have to keep you from a life of health and stability. Contact a treatment provider risk-free to discuss treatment options. Treatment centers can range from restorative detox to recreational wellness activities like yoga and meditation depending on the center. Don’t hesitate to contact a qualified treatment provider ; if you have rehab related questions. There is help is out there.