Mixing Drugs and Alcohol

In this article, SPACED explore the interactions between alcohol and common drugs used by the student population.


The Students' Union at UWE recognises some students will choose to use drugs and alcohol whilst at university. For some that will be experimental, and for their it might be problematic university. UWE Bristol embraced a harm reduction policy back in 2019, part of that policy means offering students support, advice and information for those who choose to use drugs.
This blog post will help you explore interactions between alcohol and common drugs used by the student population.

If you feel that you are no longer happy with your use or if the negative impacts are outweighing the positives, you can get support to make changes.

Alcohol + Cocaine

Using alcohol whilst on stimulants like cocaine will reduce the sedative effect of the alcohol, this can lead to people drinking excessively as the effects of the alcohol are reduced.   
Cocaine use can result in people consuming high levels of alcohol, far more than they would be able to cope with, without the cocaine on board. This can result is severe hangovers, elevated levels of anxiety and paranoia the next day.  
Using alcohol & cocaine produces a third substance in the liver called Cocaethylene this is far more toxic to the major organs than just cocaine or alcohol used alone, this can greatly increase the risk of heart attacks in young healthy people. 

Alcohol + Ketamine

Alcohol + Ketamine used together can increase the effects of both substances, even in smaller doses, your coordination can be impaired which could result in accidents.   
Using alcohol + ketamine together the risk of falling unconscious increases. Alcohol will increase the risk of vomiting when unconscious and ketamine will reduce the effectiveness of the gag reflex – this can be a deadly combination if you pass out having taken these two substances. If someone you know has used ketamine and alcohol and appears to have passed out, putting them in the recovery position could save their life.  

Alcohol + Benzodiazepines (Diazepam, Xanax, Lorazepam )  

Common side effects of using Alcohol + Benzo's together are blacking out and memory loss, this combination can also lower your inhibitions and your perception of danger which can cause tragic accidents.  
Rebound anxiety can happen from drinking high levels of alcohol, as well as prolonged benzo use. If you are using benzodiazepines to manage symptoms of anxiety, then avoiding alcohol completely would be recommended to prevent the potential for "Hangxiety" the following day and be aware that long term benzo use can make your anxiety worse and is highly addictive and dependency forming.   

Using alcohol & Benzo’s together will increase the effects of both substances.  
Both are central nervous system depressants - by using the two together the risk of falling unconscious is increased. Alcohol will increase the risk of vomiting when unconscious and unless you are in the recovery position this could be fatal.  Some illicit Benzo’s in circulation in the UK are counterfeit, meaning they haven't been made under regulations, this can result in them being stronger or weaker than expected or even an unknown substance. 

If you are choosing to use illicit Benzo’s, be cautious and start with a low dose. Tell your friends what you’ve taken and avoid re-dosing too quickly! Benzo Research Project are a team of students investigating the root causes for recreational Benzodiazepine usage amongst people aged 18-25.  We wish to create a space for those affected to vocalise their experiences (both positive and negative), to evaluate NGO outreach, and the role that education plays. If you would like to share your own experience or read about others, click here! 

 Alcohol + MDMA   

When these two substances are used together the risk of dehydration increases due to overheating, whilst dehydration is a concern, excessive water consumption poses a significant risk to the user as well.  
1. MDMA disturbs saliva production which can cause the user to feel dehydrated when they aren't. This can lead to excessive water consumption which carries its own risks - sucking sweets or chewing gum can help kick-start those saliva glands again.  
2. Sipping a pint of water over an hour (if dancing) is the recommended guide to ensure you don't over or underdo it.  
3. Something to consider.... Drinking alcohol whilst using MDMA can reduce the feeling of euphoria...  
If you choose to use alcohol & MDMA together – do so with caution and always start with a low dose, wait at least an hour before re-dosing and - stick with water.  

If you choose to us MDMA (pills or crystal) always test before you ingest. 

If you have found this blog useful and would like to know more about drug interactions check out Drug and me, interactions. 

Alcohol + SSRI's (Selective Serotonin re-uptake inhibitors)  

Such as Citalopram, Fluoxetine, Sertraline  
Although using SSRI's and drinking alcohol in moderation may not be considered dangerous there are some things to consider.  
Using alcohol can make you feel low and can exacerbate how you are feeling already.  

If you're struggling with anxiety, low mood or depression, alcohol could make this feel worse, especially the next day. See our blog on Hangxiety for more information.  
Using SSRI's & Alcohol could increase the feeling of drowsiness and increase the risk of an accident.  
Use alcohol with caution if you are new to SSRI's and are unsure of how you will react, start slowly and make sure you are in a safe environment. This combination can be really unpredictable.   
Never suddenly stop using SSRI's because you're planning on drinking, stopping antidepressants suddenly can cause withdrawal effects, such as flu-like symptoms, sensations in the body that feel like electric shocks, mood swings and insomnia.