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Have you been prescribed a depressant for anxiety management or insomnia? If so, you may not be aware of the dangers of drinking alcohol while taking these types of drugs.

Although the medications come with warnings to avoid alcohol, not everyone reads the inserts. Others may be all too aware of the dangers but wish to enhance the effects of either or both substances. Keep reading to learn more about the risks involving the combination of other depressants with alcohol.

What Are Depressants?

Depressants are substances that affect the central nervous system by slowing down nerve activity. This causes you to feel deeply relaxed and somewhat drowsy. These sedating effects are the result of the drug causing GABA activity to increase. When GABA increases, it causes brain activity to slow down.

Some of the effects of depressant medications include:

  • Slowed pulse.
  • Slowed breathing rate.
  • Lowered blood pressure.
  • Relaxation
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble concentrating.
  • Lowered inhibitions.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Memory loss.
  • Loss of coordination.
  • Impaired judgment.

Here is a list of depressants by drug class:

  • Barbiturates: Seconol, Amytal, Luminal, Nembutal
  • Benzodiazepines: Xanax, Ativan, Valium, Klonipin
  • Hypnotics: Ambien, Lunesta, Sonata, Restoril

It is important to be aware that alcohol is itself a depressant. Just like the above drugs, alcohol causes the same types of effects. Also, some over-the-counter meds, like sleep aids and certain cough syrups, have sedating properties.

What Happens When You Combine Other Depressants with Alcohol?

Alcohol has a powerful effect on the brain and the central nervous system. It, too, binds to the GABA receptors and causes sedation. While it may not seem dangerous to have one drink after having taken a sleeping pill, it can be.

It is risky to drink alcohol while taking depressants. It is easy to lose track of how much you are drinking while under the influence of narcotic drugs. The depressive effect of both substances on the respiratory system can result in an overdose or even death.

The CDC reports that, of over 400,000 emergency room visits that involved depressants, 27% of them also involved alcohol. Also, like the combination of depressants and alcohol, E.R. opioid visits, and drugs that are sedating, had similar rates involving alcohol.

What to Do When Overdosing on Depressants

When alcohol and other depressants are combined in the system, it can overwhelm the body’s ability to process the substances. If a toxic level of either substance is ingested, it may result in an overdose.

Signs of overdose include:

  • Shallow or stopped breathing.
  • Gurgling sounds, or snoring.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Severe drowsiness.
  • Unconsciousness
  • Floppy limbs or muscle weakness.
  • Loss of balance.
  • Stupor
  • Fainting
  • Unresponsive to stimuli.
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Hallucinations

If an overdose has occurred it is crucial to receive immediate medical care. First responders will arrive at the scene to assess the needs of the person who has overdosed on a combination of depressants and alcohol. If it is deemed an emergency, they will transport the person to the hospital.

Once admitted to the hospital, the patient can receive more targeted care. This includes gastric lavage, I.V. fluids, and drugs that help the person restore their normal breathing.

Do You Have a Poly-Substance Use Disorder?

If you or someone you care about routinely ingests alcohol along with other depressants, you may suspect they are addicted. Just being aware of the substance abuse is a huge step in the right direction.

When alcohol and depressants are abused, there is a much greater risk of overdose or even death. Here are ten common signs and symptoms of substance use disorder:

  1. You notice increased tolerance, which leads to higher consumption.
  2. You begin to neglect your responsibilities and obligations.
  3. Your appearance changes, such as weight gain or loss.
  4. You begin doctor shopping to get more refills for benzos or barbiturates.
  5. You withdraw from friends and family and avoid social events.
  6. Substance use becomes your focus in life.
  7. Your performance at work or school declines.
  8. You keep using the substances, despite mounting negative consequences.
  9. You have legal problems due to the substance abuse.
  10. Withdrawal symptoms emerge when substances wear off.

Addiction Recovery Options

When you come to realize you have a substance problem, you may wonder what are the next steps. These decisions depend to a large extent on how severe the substance abuse is.

If you have a long history of combining alcohol with other depressants, you will need a higher level of care. Someone who has only recently abused alcohol and pills may be a candidate for outpatient treatment.

Here are the main distinctions between inpatient and outpatient treatment:

  • Outpatient Treatment. Outpatient treatment offers a more flexible schedule, with sessions that meet three to five times a week. The sessions are offered in the evening and on Saturdays, making it a good option when you can’t leave work. For those with little or no insurance, outpatient is a less costly option.

Outpatient programs are available in two levels of care, the intensive outpatient program (IOP) and the partial hospitalization program (PHP). Participation varies based on which level of care is needed. Outpatient programs last about 3-4 months. The focus is group therapy, life skills, and 12-step programming.

  • Residential Treatment. A residential treatment program provides housing for an extended period. These programs are set in upscale private homes, and they have a limited number of beds. This type of intensive treatment provides 24-hour support.

Residential treatment programs offer a broad range of treatment activities, including:

  • Detox. At the outset of the recovery journey, you will need to complete the detox process.
  • Psychotherapy. You will meet in private with a licensed therapist for talk therapy sessions. These help you identify problematic thought patterns that have led to the substance abuse.
  • Group therapy. Group therapy involves meeting with peers in treatment to share feelings and experiences.
  • Education. New coping skills are taught, and relapse prevention plans are created.
  • Dual diagnosis treatment. At least 25% of those struggling with substance use disorder also have a co-occurring mental health disorder. The program will provide psychiatric treatment as well as addiction treatment.
  • Holistic therapies. Holistic methods, like yoga and meditation, help to reduce stress and teach you how to relax.

LifeSync Malibu Leading Provider of Substance Use Treatment

LifeSync Malibu is a trusted dual diagnosis residential treatment program. If you have become concerned about your use of a combination of alcohol with other depressants, we can help you. Call us today at (866) 491-4426.