Risks of Mixing Meth With Alcohol

person lighting meth pipe

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The prospect of mixing meth (methamphetamine) and alcohol probably seems foreign to most of us. However, certain similar combinations do pop up more frequently in daily life. For example, this combination is akin—but more dangerous—to smoking while drinking, or mixing hard liquor with Coca-Cola or Red Bull.

In other words, in a legal and more restrained manner, mixing a stimulant (nicotine or caffeine) with alcohol (a depressant) is similar to mixing meth (a stimulant) with alcohol. (Technically, nicotine has both stimulant and depressant properties, but you get the picture.)

The number of people who drink regularly and smoke crystal meth is concerning. One study estimated that daily drinkers were five times more likely to smoke meth.

Why People Use Alcohol and Meth Together

Polysubstance abuse is common. People use many types of drugs to adjust highs (think cocaine, ecstasy, and marijuana). Mixing meth and alcohol is no different.

Researchers believe that people who mix alcohol and meth do so in order to counteract the depressant effects of alcohol and still maintain its euphoric effects.

In 2011, 16% of methamphetamine-related emergency department visits involved alcohol intoxication.

Research on Alcohol and Meth in Combination

In 2011, researchers from Columbia University and the New York Psychiatric Institute periodically administered solutions of alcohol mixed with methamphetamine to nine adult men. These men were housed in a residential laboratory at New York Psychiatric Institute for 20 days.

In this study, adult participants were recruited who had reported past amphetamine use and recent alcohol use. Moreover, participants were screened and excluded for separate medical and psychiatric illness. Thus, all the participants in this study had long histories of polysubstance abuse and none of them were naive to the effect of meth mixed with alcohol.

Participants were monitored and tested in a variety of ways including breath alcohol concentrations; cardiovascular, subjective, and cognitive/psychomotor performance; and objective sleep measures.

Here are some findings from the study:

  • Co-administration of alcohol and meth increased cardiovascular measures (increased heart rate and blood pressure) and feelings of euphoria.
  • This drug combination made participants feel less drunk or sedated.
  • Meth counteracted some of the cognitive and psychomotor impairment caused by alcohol.
  • Taken together, these drugs produced fewer sleep disruptions than did meth alone.
  • Participants developed tolerance to the drug combination as the study proceeded, as some of the potentially desirable effects of methamphetamine on the alcohol effect diminished over time.
  • Except for increased heart rate and some upset stomach, participants experienced few residual effects.

This study had definite limitations. First, the administration of the meth-alcohol combination in no way mimics real-world scenarios. Specifically, most people drink alcohol and either smoke or snort meth in an unregulated manner. Second, the study includes only nine participants. Third, people in the study were allowed to smoke cigarettes, introducing nicotine as a confounding variable. (Participants actually smoked more when taking the drug combo.)

The study suggests that the potentially desirable effect sought by combing meth and alcohol diminishes with repeated use. In other words, it may have the desired effect initially, but this will diminish over time.


Meth and alcohol's contradictory effects are concerning for a number of reasons.

  • People who use both drugs simultaneously may drink more alcohol in order to feel more inebriated or feel its accustomed effects—thus leading to alcohol toxicity.
  • People who end up drinking more while high on meth may underestimate cognitive impairment and get behind the wheel of a car thus putting others at risk.

Research also suggests that there is a link between combining these two substances and patterns of aggression and hostility. Methamphetamine-related aggression was more common among those who simultaneously consumed alcohol and amphetamine-type stimulants.

A Word From Verywell

The distinct combined effects of meth and alcohol should serve as a reminder to health-care professionals that various permutations of polysubstance misuse are distinct entities. With this knowledge in mind, physicians can better assess inebriated or impaired patients rushed to the ER.

Mixing certain drugs (illicit, prescription, and non-prescription) can result in distinct adverse effects that may be dangerous—especially if you have other psychiatric or medical conditions.

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

3 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Emergency department visits involving methamphetamine: 2007 to 2011.

  2. Kirkpatrick MG, Gunderson EW, Levin FR, Foltin RW, Hart CL. Acute and residual interactive effects of repeated administrations of oral methamphetamine and alcohol in humans. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2012;219(1):191-204. doi:10.1007/s00213-011-2390-5

  3. Leslie EM, Smirnov A, Cherney A, Wells H, Legosz M, Kemp R, Najman JM. Simultaneous use of alcohol with methamphetamine but not ecstasy linked with aggression among young adult stimulant users. Addict Behav. 2017;70:27-34. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2017.01.036

Additional Reading

By Naveed Saleh, MD, MS
Naveed Saleh, MD, MS, is a medical writer and editor covering new treatments and trending health news.