Mixing heroin with alcohol

Effects of mixing heroin and alcohol include heavy sedation and intoxication as well as shallow breathing or slowed/irregular heartbeat. So you should AVOID mixing heroin with alcohol to avoid overdose. More here on harms and warnings for mixing heroin with alcohol.

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Reviewed by: Dr. Manish Mishra, MBBS

ARTICLE SUMMARY: Mixing heroin with alcohol is life-threatening. It can lead to overdose that results in death. More on the potential harms and warnings for mixing heroin with alcohol here.


A Scare Tactic?

Derived from the opium poppy, heroin is a highly addictive illicit drug, classified as a Schedule I narcotic under the Controlled Substances Act. In fact, heroin is one of the most dangerous drugs that can exists on this world. So, even when it is abused on its own, it can lead to numerous health problems. But imagine mixing it with another substance such as alcohol… this becomes a deadly combo.

Why is it so dangerous?

Heroin and alcohol produce similar sedative effects. When combined, they create a chemical synergy, meaning that each substance heightens the effect of other. So, instead ‘one plus one equals two’… it is more like three, four, or more. So, saying that mixing booze and dope is super-dangerous isn’t a scare tactic; it’s a fact.

Are you considering mixing heroin with alcohol? DON’T!

The risks and dangers of mixing heroin with alcohol outweigh the benefits. What happens inside your body when heroin is combined with alcohol? Whether you have snorted heroin, smoked, or shoot it, drinking on heroin affects the brain in significant ways. Keep reading for details!

Effects on the Brain

Alcohol has a chemical reaction with heroin in the body. Alcohol is a legal central nervous system depressant; so is heroin. Heroin mainly causes analgesic effects and euphoria. But it also slows heart rate and breathing, depriving the brain of oxygen. When combined, heroin and alcohol have an additive effect which causes both drugs to be stronger. This can easily cause accidental overdose or alcohol poisoning.

How does these two substances affect the brain? Alcohol increases the effects of relaxation and sedation by enhancing GABA neurotransmitters that acts to calm your central nervous system. Magnetic resonance imaging in recent decades has shown us that alcohol causes cognitive and motor function impairment:

  • Blurred vision.
  • Difficulty walking.
  • Impaired memory.
  • Slowed reaction times.
  • Slurred speech.

Each of these side effects can occur during alcohol intoxication. However, both substances also affect dopamine levels in the brain that are responsible for regulating moods, sleep quality, and movement functions. High dopamine levels create pleasure, while low levels may cause sadness and depression. Alcohol and heroin increase dopamine levels, thus people report feeling happy when under the influence of these drugs.

To sum up, the constant variation of dopamine levels affects the natural way of how brain produces dopamine. In order to achieve chemical balance, the brain will start adjusting to the presence of alcohol and heroin….increasing risk of overdose and death.


When mixed, people have reported some of these effects from taking heroin and alcohol at the same time:

  • euphoria (a sense of extreme well-being)
  • numbness
  • lightheadedness
  • relaxation

Side Effects

When alcohol and a highly addictive opiate such as heroin are mixed, there can be dangerous side effects.
Generally, mixing alcohol and heroin can lead to side effects like:

  • Abnormal behavior
  • Coma
  • Dehydration
  • Dizziness
  • Changes in blood sugar leading to seizures
  • Fainting or passing out
  • Focus problems
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Loss of coordination

Because both alcohol and heroin are depressants, the effects of taking them together can be hard to handle to the body. The combination of alcohol with heroin is a ticking bomb that can lead to overdose death.


Taking alcohol and heroin together can result in serious adverse reactions, due to the additive effects of both central nervous system depressants. Some potentially dangerous effects of mixing heroin with alcohol include:

  • dizziness
  • drowsiness
  • loss of consciousness
  • shallow breathing
  • impaired coordination
  • overdose
  • slowed or irregular heart rate
  • tremors

But alcohol doesn’t just intensify the effects of heroin: heroin works to intensify alcohol effects, too. Alcohol also becomes more dangerous when mixed with heroin, becoming a stronger sedative. Drinking and using heroin can cause trouble concentrating and difficulty with coordination. This makes it more likely you’ll be involved with an accident or injure yourself.

You also experience a greater intoxication from alcohol when mixing it with narcotics, leading to a greater risk of alcohol poisoning. Your alcohol tolerance will always be lower than you would normally expect when mixed with central nervous system depressant drugs.


You risk an overdose on heroin when you mix it with alcohol. Heroin is extremely dangerous as it is, since it’s a street drug and it’s difficult to know if it’s been contaminated and how strong any given dose might be. Adding alcohol on top of this unpredictable drug only makes matters worse.

The 2011 DAWN report showed that in 2011, there were 48,036 ED visits involving a mix of alcohol and heroin.

The effects of these two drugs combined suppresses the ability to breath. As the breathing slows down, the heart has much more difficult time pumping blood through the body.

– Dr. Jason Payne-James, Forensic Physician commenting on Cory Monteith’s OD death


The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in 2016, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids (including prescription opioids and heroin) was 5 times higher than in 1999.

The 2015 CDC Report on Drugs Most Frequently Involved in Drug Overdose Deaths: United States, 2010–2014 shows that 2,252 people died from an OD that involved a combination of alcohol and heroin.

Heroin commonly ends up being mixed with alcohol, despite the dangers. Combining heroin with alcohol can cause your breathing to slow, or even stop completely. The only way to avoid potential overdose or other adverse effects is to avoid mixing heroin and alcohol completely.

Drinking Safely

It is not safe to mix heroin and alcohol. The combination brings out the worst potential effects of both drugs. Heroin is not normally safe to take as it is, given that it is illegal and completely unregulated. But when you drink and take heroin, you increase risk and danger of side effects.

Even if the user survives OD or coma after mixing alcohol with heroin, permanent brain damage can happen, leaving the abuser disabled in some way. Moreover, the heroin remains in the bloodstream longer, so if a person has not used it for a while, if s/he drinks alcohol, it will interact with the heroin remains.

When You Need Professional Help

Heroin is one of the most addictive drugs on the planet. So, if you’re drinking and taking dope, the chances that you have a drug problem are huge. Moreover, here are some common signs  of a drug problem that require professional help:

  1. You cannot quit the drug even though you have tried.
  2. You use the drug no matter the consequences.
  3. Drug use starts to affect your health, financial, social, and/or work.
  4. You drink when you use heroin to intensify the feelings.

Any of these behaviors are signs that you may need professional help from:

  • An addiction counselor
  • A psychotherapist
  • A rehab center

…or even your family doctor

To assess yourself of the level of a problem, seek a doctor’s help or look into these NIDA drug screening tools. Take this brief version, or schedule an appointment with an addiction professional for a full assessment.

Keep in mind that drug problems are treated medically, and there is hope to live a drug-free life.

Your Questions

Do you still have questions about mixing heroin with alcohol or other substances? Please leave your questions here. We try our best to answer all questions personally, and promptly. And if we don’t know the answer, we will refer you to someone who can help. Your experiences with mixing heroin and alcohol are also welcome.

Reference Sources: NIAAA pamphlet: Harmful Interactions, Mixing Alcohol with Medicines
NHTSA: Drugs and Human Performance Fact Sheets: Morphine (And Heroin)
NIDA: Research Reports: Heroin: Abuse and Addiction
NIH: Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction
NIAAA: Alcohol’s Damaging Effects on the Brain
NIDA: Drug Facts about Heroin
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
Medical Reviewers
Dr. Manish Mishra, MBBS serves as the Chief Medical Officer of the Texas Healt...

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a licensed medical professional.

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