Alcohol is the leading addictive substance in the world, whereas heroin is one of the main contributors to the ongoing opioid epidemic. Both substances are extremely addictive and potentially fatal when used on their own; however, the combination increases the risk of fatality exponentially. In examining the dangers of this combination, it is important to understand the nature of both individual substances, as their similarities play a large role in the likelihood of fatal overdose.
As a central nervous system depressant (CNS), alcohol impacts brain function, motor skills, and cognitive functioning. When used in excess, alcohol is likely to act as a poison to the physical body, causing the user to vomit or become unconscious. Due to its accessibility, alcohol is ranked the number one addictive substance in the world. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 95,000 deaths each year are attributed to alcohol consumption. These fatalities include alcohol-induced traffic accidents, liver failure, and alcohol poisoning, among others.
Heroin is an illicit, semi-synthetic opiate made from the drug morphine. When administered, this CNS depressant produces intense euphoria and pain relief. As an opioid, heroin releases an excess of dopamine, triggering the reward receptors in the brain. Opioids, especially heroin and fentanyl, are among the most addictive substances in the world. As central nervous system depressants, these opioids are the source of many fatal overdoses and have solely reinvigorated the third wave of the opioid epidemic.
Alcohol and Heroin
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people who are addicted to alcohol are twice as likely to become addicted to heroin within their lifetime. Escalation from alcoholism to heroin use is due to the similar effects each substance has on the body. As CNS depressants, both heroin and alcohol stimulate the brain’s reward center and generate feelings of sedation and relief.
When ingested simultaneously, heroin targets opioid receptors in the brain while alcohol affects the GABA neurotransmitter. By stimulating these different receptors within the brain, simultaneous use enhances the user experience and strengthens the sensation.
However, due to their likeness, the combination of alcohol and heroin can have devastating effects on the physical body. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, consuming alcohol along with heroin significantly increases the risk of overdose because it leads to shallow breathing, lowered blood pressure and heart rate, deep sedation, or even coma.
Additionally, drinking alcohol in excess can lead to toxicity. The body’s natural response in this situation is to remove alcohol from the system. Matters are complicated when opioids are present in the system. As stated by the American Addiction Centers, Opiates like heroin often have the effect of inhibiting the vomiting reflex when individuals become nauseous. This can increase the potential for one to overdose on alcohol or experience alcohol poisoning.
Asheville Recovery Center Can Help
Alcohol and Heroin are both highly addictive and dangerous when abused on their own, especially when combined. It is extremely important to seek help immediately if you or a loved one is struggling with any substance addiction. At Asheville Recovery Center, treatment specialists have developed a unique, hybrid model of treatment which combines a traditional 12-step program with holistic rehabilitation. A multitude of services, programs, and therapies are offered, including the Partial Hospitalization Program, Residential-style treatment, outpatient rehabilitation, and more.
The founders of Asheville Recovery Center, as well as many of our addiction therapists, have struggled with addiction and now enjoy life in recovery. They understand the struggles of addiction and how difficult it is to overcome alone. If you feel that you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse, our specialists are on standby and ready to help. Call (828)383-0784 and speak with an addiction expert today so you can take the first step towards a rewarding life of sobriety.