The Dangers of Mixing Alcohol and Hallucinogens
Author: Greg Basham
Last Updated: 2/01/2023
Alcohol is a popular substance. However, when mixed with other mind-altering substances, alcohol can intensify serious side effects and cause severe damage. One of the most dangerous substances to mix with alcohol is hallucinogenic drugs. The combination can provoke health complications that can prove serious in the short term but also can cause co-occurring addictions which are extremely dangerous and may cause long-term damage.
Hallucinogens are serious drugs that should not be considered lightly. While some might consider hallucinogens to be a safe and fun drug to take, they come with a litany of dangerous side effects the result of which might damage the mind in such a way that their recovery is impossible. Couple this reality with the fact that mixing hallucinogens with alcohol is an extremely destructive combination and the potential for a dangerous outcome skyrockets. Still, people believe that mixing alcohol with hallucinogens will improve both experiences.
What Are Hallucinogens?
Hallucinogens are a term for the group of mind-altering drugs which can cause hallucinations. Hallucinations are, put simply, false perceptions of reality that can appear to be perfectly real at the moment due to the influence of the hallucinogenic drug that has been ingested. For some, this escape from reality has been expressed as being therapeutic. Additionally, some hallucinogenic drugs tend to be disassociative, causing individuals to experience a detachment from reality that coincides with visual or audible hallucinations. Dissociative hallucinogens have even been known to cause people to behave recklessly, violently, and even to lose control completely.
The most well-known hallucinogens include psilocybin mushrooms, DMT, ayahuasca, LSD, and peyote. These drugs are not considered to be disassociative, and while some people claim healing benefits from taking select hallucinogens in a controlled environment, such medicine alternatives should be considered with extreme care, as these substances are very unpredictable. Those hallucinogens which are considered dissociative include ketamine, salvia, and PCP. Of all the drugs listed above, none are legal in the United States.
Hallucinogens do distort the mind to the point of becoming addictive. This is because, with repeated use, it is possible to develop a tolerance to hallucinogens. After developing a tolerance, a larger quantity of the hallucinogen is required to reach the desired hallucinatory effects. In turn, when a person who has reached such a dependency attempts to stop taking hallucinogens, it is well known that they might experience intense cravings, psychosis, and depression.
How Do Hallucinogens Work?
The way that hallucinogens work is, like other drugs, interacting with serotonin receptors in the brain. A neurotransmitter that plays an important role in regulating emotion and cognition, it is very important to protect the levels of serotonin in the brain, or one might run the risk of depleting them. The function of glutamine, a chemical in the brain that has a certain amount of influence over sensations of pain, as well as cognition, can also be affected by dissociative hallucinogens.
Although every hallucinogen has a slightly different effect on the brain, so too does every single person react differently to the effects of every hallucinogen. This unpredictability can be dangerous, although some people claim that certain hallucinogens are a constructive experience, making them feel relaxed, energized, and even in some cases, enlightened. The term for being high on a hallucinogen is known as a “trip”, and most trips last anywhere from 2 to 12 hours depending on the drug ingested.
All this being said, the effects of a hallucinogen can be altered when taken while consuming alcohol. These effects can prove extremely dangerous in some instances.
What Are the Side Effects of Mixing Alcohol and Hallucinogens?
While some people who take hallucinogens mix with alcohol in an attempt to augment or amplify the effects of the hallucinogens, and have a more intense trip, it is possible for the two drugs to interact dangerously with one another. Alcohol can reduce inhibitions in a way that causes a person to act recklessly, and take more of the hallucinogen, or drink more alcohol, causing them to end up consuming a much greater dose than they ever intended. Good trips might be improved by the mixture of alcohol, although bad trips can be made far more damaging to the mind when mixed with alcohol.
What Are the Risks of Mixing Alcohol and Hallucinogens?
On their own, hallucinogens have the potential to be dangerous and damaging to oneself due to the risk of what is known as a bad trip. Bad trips have been documented as involving terrifying visual hallucinations, as well as confusion which can be extremely disorienting, serious paranoia, crippling anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts. Some of the people who have taken hallucinogens and then experienced a bad trip describe being traumatized by the horrible experience.
When mixed with alcohol, the chances of experiencing some or all of the effects that correspond to a bad trip skyrocket. It is important to note, before further examination of the side effects of mixing alcohol with hallucinogens, that the potential for dangerous side effects differs from one individual to the next, but in general, it is agreed upon by medical professionals that combining alcohol and hallucinogens are a high-risk mixture.
Most hallucinogens are ingested orally, as is alcohol, and combining the two can cause an individual to suffer from vomiting and nausea. Additional symptoms of mixing alcohol and hallucinogens include feeling faint, experiencing headaches, and also panic attacks. Panic attacks can prove extremely dangerous as they might bring out destructive behavior in an individual, potentially causing them to hurt themselves, or another person, which of course comes with a litany of repercussions, not the least of which can be legal. A person’s heart rate can speed up when hallucinogens and alcohol are mixed, and even with some hallucinogens, such as Ecstacy, a person’s body temperature can rise to dangerous levels.
If a bad trip is experienced due to a mixture of alcohol and hallucinogenic drugs, the unpleasant effects during the experience can be so dangerous that a person might make an error in judgment and hurt themselves severely. In some cases, the effects of mixing alcohol and a hallucinogen may not wear off as they would normally without the alcohol, and it is even documented that hallucinogens might affect the mind in such a way as to cause a person to forget how much alcohol they’ve consumed, leading them to drink more than they can process putting them at risk for alcohol poisoning.
What Are the Reasons Why Alcohol and Hallucinogens Should Not Be Combined?
Alcohol and hallucinogens should not be combined because the two of them can interact chemically in very dangerous ways. Hallucinogens can cause damage to the mind and the body and there is no way of knowing how one will react to the impact of hallucinogens. The risk of nausea and vomiting, which can be caused by either substance on its own, can become even more severe when mixing both substances. Most importantly, the influence of both substances can be intensified by mixing the two, which can cause what would be manageable side effects to become disastrous, requiring supervision, in case a person’s hallucinations become so unbearable that they might endanger themselves or others.
Not to mention the fact that a hallucinogenic might make the effects of alcohol appear to be less intense when in truth the alcohol is affecting the body no differently. Without feeling the normal effects of the alcohol, a person might drink too much, risking alcohol poisoning while hallucinating which can be a miserable combination.
Also, the threat of addiction makes alcohol and hallucinogens a dangerous mixture that should be avoided repeatedly. Addiction to such a combination is difficult to overcome and might lead to severe withdrawal, damage to the mind, and a challenging road back to recovery.
How Long After Taking Hallucinogens Can I Drink Alcohol?
The period it takes for a certain hallucinogen to show effects varies depending on what drug is being ingested. In the case of a drug like PCP, the effects may only be intense for a short period, while some people describe their trip on LSD as lasting twelve hours. If a person is considering drinking alcohol, it would be best to wait until the effects stop, or at least twenty-four hours after taking a hallucinogen. Waiting this period would ensure that the drug is not active in the system, avoiding a dangerous interaction between the two drugs.
What Should You Not Mix With Hallucinogens?
Because hallucinogens are extremely psychoactive, it would be best, if choosing to take such an unpredictable substance, to avoid mixing it with any other active substance. Other substances may intensify, alter, or be detrimental to the effects of a hallucinogen, which is why it would be best to avoid mixing anything with hallucinogens. The combination raises the chance of an unpredictable chemical interaction. Regardless, it is not recommended to take a hallucinogen at all, for the same reason of unpredictability. Also, street drugs like hallucinogens are difficult to quality control, and a bad batch, or a bad trip, can prove extremely dangerous in both the short and long term, causing undue trauma.
How Is Alcohol and Hallucinogens Addiction Treated?
Addiction to both alcohol and hallucinogens is a challenging addiction to treat, but recovery is possible. Both substances are addictive, and so combining both can cause a person to become addicted to the combination.
It is generally considered by medical professionals that co-occurring addictions are more complicated to treat than an addiction to a single substance. The reason for this complication is mostly down to the fact that one addiction is connected to the other, and so separating oneself from taking hallucinogens requires that same person to also stop taking alcohol, as one addiction and habit inspires the other. As one substance might spark someone to use another substance, beating the addiction requires cessation of both.
Detox, as well as outpatient and inpatient recovery, are best performed by medical professionals in controlled environments. Professional opinions, and supervision, make the challenging battle against addiction, and the trials of the detoxification process, far safer to survive. Recovery from addiction is possible, and it is always best to seek out help, rather than fight addiction without expert assistance.