There are many dangers for those mired in drug addiction and struggling under the weight of substance abuse.

From the ever-present risk of arrest and incarceration to the threat of a deadly overdose, the risks are all too well known, especially for the family members of the addict.

If you are trying to help someone who is struggling with drug addiction, you already know about these dangers, but there could be an even bigger threat lurking just beneath the surface.

That threat is the risk of drug interactions, a condition known as polypharmacy.

Abusing one substance is bad, but using multiple drugs at once ramps up the danger even more. Here are some of the most dangerous drug interactions between both legal and illicit substances.


We help people with addictions and substance use disorders recover. Get mindfulness training and learn the 12 Steps for deeper healing. 

Verify Insurance

Opioids and Alcohol

The dangers of the opioid epidemic have been well-publicized, and this raging health crisis shows no signs of slowing down. To ramp up the dangers, even more, many people who find themselves addicted to prescription painkillers will turn to street drugs like heroin as a cheaper and more easily accessible alternative, increasing the risk of adulteration and accidental overdose.

The risk that heroin bought on the street will be adulterated by even more dangerous drugs like fentanyl is bad enough, but the fact that so many opioid addicts also abuse alcohol can make things much worse. Like opioids, alcohol depresses the central nervous system, and using the two together can result in cardiac arrest, breathing problems, and other potentially deadly symptoms.

Heroin and Cocaine

The combination of two drugs with radically different effects on the body can be dangerous and even deadly, and the use of heroin and cocaine is a case and point. This combo is known by many names on the street, including speedballing, but no matter what it is called it is something to be avoided at all costs.

Combining heroin and cocaine can result in a range of deadly symptoms, including sudden cardiac arrest, racing heartbeats, and even strokes. If someone you care about has been abusing any of these substances, it is important to get them the help they need before it is too late.

Alcohol and Benzodiazepines

The fact that a substance is legal does not make it any less deadly. By many standards, alcohol is one of the most deadly drugs in the world, and the fact that it is legal should not be reassuring to anyone with a drinking problem.

Other legal drugs can be just as dangerous, including the benzodiazepines often used to treat depression, anxiety, and other mental health challenges. The two drugs are even more dangerous when combined, and their use together can be deadly.

Both benzodiazepines and alcohol have depressant characteristics, and their combined action can send blood pressure down to dangerous levels and even cause the heart to stop beating.

Alcohol and Cocaine

The high from cocaine is intense, but it is also short-lived, and many addicts will use alcohol to prolong the feeling of euphoria, but those cocaine addicts are playing a dangerous, and potentially deadly game. When used together, alcohol and cocaine create a dangerous toxin in the blood, one that can have a deleterious effect on the heart and lungs of the addict.

The toxin is known to science as cocaethylene, but you do not have to know what it is called to know that it is incredibly dangerous. If someone in your life is using cocaine and drinking to excess, you need to get them the help they need right away. This combination is highly toxic and potentially deadly, and continuing to engage in this behavior is literally like playing with fire.

Drug addiction and alcohol abuse are serious problems across the country and around the globe, and the situation can be extremely complicated for addicts and the people who love them. Addiction is a complex and multifaceted disease, one with myriad causes and long-reaching roots.

The fact that the roots of addiction run so deep also means that those who are addicted rarely use a single drug. Instead, they may experiment with many different substances, taking a dangerous and potentially deadly chance every time they indulge.

Each of the drug combinations listed above can be especially dangerous, but engaging in any kind of substance abuse and experimentation is a terrible idea in the best of times.

If you are concerned about the drug use of a friend or family member, you need to help them get the treatment they need right away. Time is of the essence when you are dealing with drug addiction, and the sooner you seek to help the better off you, and they, will be.