When you go to the doctor's office or the hospital, it is not uncommon for the providers to ask you what medications you take. There is a potentially lifesaving reason for this question.
Many drugs, both prescription and illicit, do not mix well and should not be taken simultaneously. Used together, deadly drug combinations can lead to potentially fatal side effects, including overdose, heart failure, seizures, coma, and more.
All drugs, including prescription drugs and alcohol, interfere with how your neurons send, receive, and process signals throughout your body. When you take a drug, it is absorbed into your body either through your lungs, skin, or blood. 1
Depending on the substance, the drug will travel to your brain or other parts of your body before it is metabolized and then excreted. Your liver and kidneys are responsible for breaking down the drug, so your body can pass it "out" through urine. When you combine drugs, it is challenging for your body to process the substances quickly. This can cause dangerous drug interactions, including overdose. 2
Opioid drugs or prescription painkillers are powerful medications used to address issues related to pain management. Unfortunately, opioids are widely misused, and rates of opioid addiction are high across the nation. On their own, opioid drugs produce intense effects on the user, but they can lead to fatal medication interactions when combined with other substances. 3
Combining opioids and benzodiazepines may lead to deadly drug interactions. Both drugs cause sedation and slow breathing. When combined, the effects of both drugs together may slow breathing to dangerous levels.
Opioids and alcohol are both substances that depress the central nervous system or CNS. Because the CNS is responsible for controlling life-sustaining body functions such as heart rate and breathing, using the two in combination is a potentially deadly combination.
Mixing opioids and cocaine is sometimes called speedballing. In general, a “speedball” consists of heroin (an illicit opioid depressant) and cocaine. Those who combine these substances claim to experience a more intense and longer-lasting high than would be possible with either drug on its own. 4
Opioids are depressants, and cocaine is a stimulant meaning the two drugs have the opposite effect on the body. Combining the two is a deadly combination because the adverse effects of each are amplified, and the risk of overdose dramatically increases.
Gray Death is a lethal drug combination (possibly one of the deadliest drug combinations) and consists of an often-unknown mix of illicit drugs, synthetic opioids, and other synthetic narcotics. It usually contains some combination of heroin, fentanyl, or U-47700, and it is sometimes cut with drugs such as amphetamines or cocaine.5
Because Gray Death is essentially made from “whatever” is on hand, people are often unaware of what they are using, and therefore the risk of overdose and death is high.
Mixing opioids and other drugs can cause deadly drug interactions; however, there are other potentially lethal drug combinations.
Cocaine and ecstasy are stimulant drugs. These drugs "speed up" certain body processes, including your heart rate, unlike depressants. Combining the two can lead to a greater rush for the user and potentially deadly drug interactions, including heart attack and stroke.
Combining drugs or polydrug use is common among those who use drugs and alcohol to manage medical or mental health symptoms through self-medication. It is not uncommon for someone trying to dull the pain of a physical or psychological health condition to combine medications with alcohol or even combine prescription medications leading to lethal medication combinations.
In addition to prescription drugs, cocaine, and ecstasy, drugs such as club drugs and marijuana can be dangerous when mixed with other drugs or with alcohol. Often, this is due to the sedative or hallucinogenic properties of the drug combined with the sedative properties of alcohol. As with depressant medications, combining alcohol (or two drugs) with sedative properties can lead to deadly drug interactions.
While there are many dangerous drug combinations, it is possible to avoid the medical implications of combining substances.
First, it is essential to communicate with your provider. Before you start a new prescription or if a doctor plans to write a new prescription for you, be sure to disclose and discuss any medications you currently use. It is essential to mention all drug types, including prescription, over-the-counter, herbal supplements, and illicit substances. Clear and open communication can help avoid potentially fatal drug combinations.
It is also important to research your medications before taking another drug. If you take a prescription drug, take a moment to call the pharmacy, call your doctor, or search online for how that drug might interact with another over-the-counter medication or herbal supplement.
Additionally, it is crucial to understand what your medications do so that you understand the interactions they might have with another type of drug.
It is essential never to take someone else's medications. Prescriptions provided to others, including family members, and loved ones, have been researched for safety by their medical or mental health providers.
Taking a drug that is not yours can lead to potentially deadly drug combinations, especially if you take another prescription medication. It is also crucial to take medicines prescribed at their recommended dosages. Again, your medical or mental health provider has adequately researched the medication and your specific treatment needs. Taking too much of a drug can lead to overdose or other adverse health effects.
A potential side effect of Polydrug abuse is acute polydrug intoxication. This can occur when you combine drugs, and your body cannot adequately process them. As a result, you may experience symptoms related to overdose or other physical health complications that require emergency medical intervention. If you engage in Polydrug use or use multiple prescription drugs, it is vital to communicate with your provider about polydrug use to ensure any medications prescribed are safe to use.
Combining drugs can lead to potentially deadly medication interactions, whether prescription medications or prescription drugs with illicit substances. The safest and most effective way to achieve sobriety and overcome addictions to multiple substances is at a polydrug use rehab.
At a professional rehab like Genesis Recovery Center, our skilled, compassionate treatment team will help you detox and cleanse your system from the effects of substances. After detox is complete, you will work with an addiction treatment provider to learn more about addiction and how to manage the triggers that caused you to use drugs or alcohol in the past. Successfully managing triggers can help you stay on the road to lasting recovery.
Depending on your treatment needs, addiction therapy may occur in various environments, including inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, and peer support groups. Often, peer support groups are used as part of a comprehensive aftercare plan to help you maintain contact with your treatment provider and like-minded peers who can help you through relapse challenges after treatment ends. If you are ready to begin your journey towards sobriety, contact Genesis Recovery today to learn more about how our programs can help you.