Recreational drugs and alcohol

Explains the mental health effects of recreational drugs, what might happen if you use recreational drugs and also have a mental health problem, and suggestions for where to find support.

Can recreational drugs and medication affect each other?

When two or more drugs are taken at the same time (whether they are legal or illegal) they are likely to interact with one another, so that one drug changes the effects of the other. This means:

  • one or both of them may become toxic
  • their effects may be decreased or increased.

Your age, weight, genes, general health and liver or kidney function will make a difference to the way the drugs work. However, there are some common interactions that many people experience. This page has information about:

Interactions between different recreational drugs

Mixing different drugs, or mixing drugs with alcohol, is always dangerous. The effects can be hard to predict, but there are some known interactions:

  • Two or more depressants – e.g. heroin plus a benzodiazepine or alcohol: the depressant effect will be increased, slowing your heart and breathing – this may be fatal.
  • Two or more stimulants – e.g. cocaine plus ecstasy: can cause your heart to race (and can be very frightening) – this may be fatal.
  • Depressant(s) and stimulant(s) – can put a strain on your heart. This can be fatal.
  • Cocaine and alcohol – produces a substance called coca-ethylene, which is poisonous. Alcohol may also suppress the effect of cocaine, so you may take more and overdose.
  • Ecstasy and cannabis – can make you anxious and paranoid.
  • Heroin and cannabis – very dangerous and easily fatal.
  • Pregabalin – can increase the euphoric effects of other drugs (such as opiates).

Interactions between recreational drugs and prescribed medication

These are some of the known interactions between drugs and psychiatric medication.

Drugs may also interact with any other type of prescribed medicines, as well as those bought over the counter.

This information was published in November 2016. We will revise it in 2019.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

Share this information

arrow_upwardBack to Top