Drug Cocktails: A Deadly Game Of Russian Roulette
If one is good, two must be great.
That is what many people, not just teens, think about legal and illegal drugs. However, when two drugs are combined they become what is known as a “cocktail”. In this scenario, drugs could be anything from alcohol to allergy medication to heroin. In some cases, foods can combine with drugs to form cocktails as well. However, cocktails increase the likelihood of serious side effects including death.
So, what can you do if your teen is mixing a deadly combo of substances? We review here and invite you to ask for help at the end. In fact, we try to respond to all legitimate parental comments personally and promptly.
What is drug abuse?
The most basic definition of drug abuse is using any medication (legal or illegal) in an unintended manner. The unfortunate fact is that more people are drug abusers than is thought. For example, have you ever shared a prescription medication with a family member who is experiencing the some similar symptoms that you are? Most people think “no big deal” because it is family. However, sharing Rx drugs that are prescribed to YOU ALONE is considered drug abuse.
In this scenario “the abuse” is minor, but what we as adults and parents need to understand is the mixed message that that it sends to impressionable teenagers. Teenagers often lack information or understanding about the difference between a prescription NSAID and oxycodone. There is also an unfortunate perception that because the doctor prescribed it, it must be safe. Additionally, teenagers often have a limited worldview and think if their buddy is just fine taking that handful of pills they will be fine too. Death by drug cocktail can be as innocent as your son or daughter trying desperately to fit in. It is frightening.
The effects of prescription drug abuse are staggering. It only gets worse when prescription drugs are combined with illicit ones or even alcohol. A 2013 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration survey showed 24.6 million Americans over the age of 12 had used an illegal drug within the past 30 days. That is almost 9.5% of the population.
Let’s repeat: Almost one in 10 Americans are using.
As parents, we think, “Not my kid!” but these statistics show a high likelihood that at some point… your teen, or even you, will experiment with illegal drugs. We cannot be complacent about this fact we cannot hide from it or pretend that we are untouchable by this epidemic. To do so would be completely irresponsible and may even result in an incalculable loss.
Cocktails: Gasoline On Fire
All drugs, ALL DRUGS – have side effects. Even something as mild as baby aspirin can cause overdose and death. Let that sink in for just a moment. Baby aspirin. If such a gentle form of medication can be deadly, imagine what could happen inside the body went to harder drugs are combined.
Michael Jackson and Heath Ledger both died at the hands of legal prescriptions combined into cocktails. We mourn their deaths but somehow the message that drugs are deadly and should never be mixed is not getting through. Unfortunately, the possible combinations to form cocktails are almost infinite. Every person’s body chemistry is unique. Therefore, every person’s reaction to drugs will be unique.
Current popular drug cocktails
Street names for drug cocktails change quickly. However, we’ve compiled this list to inform you about some of the more common combinations of substances and their effects.
- Alcohol + Anything—Alcohol mixed with any drug increases the depressant action of the drug. Because of their smaller frame, young women are at even more danger because they have less body mass to absorb the effects. Most drugs such as painkillers, sedatives, and even OTC allergy medication in combination with alcohol increase the action of the drug. Since all those drugs cause tiredness, kids swallow some and chase them with alcohol for an added high but what they do not realize is they will get extra sleepy. Some teens will fall asleep for the last time. According to the interactions checker available at drugs [dot] com, alcohol interacts with over 400 prescription and OTC drugs so the combinations are endless.
- Prescription + Prescription—Many prescriptions drugs depressed, or slow, the central nervous system on their own. It is why taking them produces a drowsy, drugged feeling. Whenever you take two different prescriptions you increase that effect to the point the heart just stops. Prescription overdose are responsible for enough deaths, 15,000 people, to populate a small town each year.
- Prescription + Tylenol—It sounds harmless, right? Wrong. The leading cause of liver failure in the United States and the leading cause of accidental poisoning worldwide is taking too much Tylenol. Many prescription drugs have acetaminophen in them using names other than Tylenol so when people innocently add a prescription to a handful of Tylenol they are looking at liver toxicity. Tylenol 3 has the added bonus of codeine which can make it addictive. Chronic use, with or without codeine results in liver failure.
- Cocaine + Opiates—Opiates include all of the Oxy drugs, hydrocodone, codeine—notice the similar roots because if drug names look and sound similar they are usually in the same family. This combination has killed over two dozen celebrities including John Belushi, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and River Phoenix, as well as countless non-celebrities. The cocaine speeds up the heart and wears off but by that time the other drug or drugs have had time to enter the bloodstream. They then depress the heart rate so rapidly it causes cardiac arrest.
- Cocaine + Ecstasy—If one is good, two must be better but only unless better is dead. Both drugs ramp up the central nervous system and increase serotonin production which creates a feeling of bliss. The danger here is if the combination does not kill you it can permanently damage the neurons in the brain for years to come. Prolonged use can lead to brain damage.
Are you talking to your teen?
Parents, as you are talking to your teens, challenge them to think about the volcano science experiment. Impress upon them the science and the chemical reaction when vinegar and baking soda are combined. This is not unlike the chemical reaction which can happen in the body when two or more drugs are combined. In many cases, it is like Russian Roulette because you never know how those drugs will combine in your body or what side effects they will produce.
And feel free to contact us if you need help. Professional mental health counselors and admissions officers can help you decide which course of action might be right for your and your teen.