DONE - Chapter 3. Physiological Factors: Part 3

Florida Drug and Alcohol Test (TLSAE) Course:  Chapter 3. Physiological Factors: Part 3

3.3. Synergistic Effects of Alcohol and Other Drugs



Alcohol is not the only substance that can have an effect on your driving. Combining alcohol and antihistamines, stimulants, or tranquilizers can have an effect not only on your driving, but on your health as well. As we know, alcohol is a depressant; the effect of a depressant such as a tranquilizer combined with the depressant aspect of alcohol can be deadly. This is true of all sorts of medicines when mixed with alcohol. Even an over-the-counter headache remedy might make a driver feel drowsy. Diet pills or caffeine-laden drinks will have the driver feeling alert for a short time, but when the drug wears off, the driver might "crash," literally and figuratively!

One of the qualities of alcohol is that it is synergistic.

This means that alcohol will combine with other things in one's system. Do not mix alcohol and other drugs. The effects of the alcohol and the other drug are combined and magnified. The interaction is unpredictable; it varies from one person to another, or even the same person at different times.

Synergism refers to the interaction of two drugs in such a way that the total effect is greater than the sum of the individual effects.

One plus one equals two.

Not in this case. Instead, it could equal four or seven. Many accidental overdoses occur this way, some of them ending in death. Mixing drugs from different classes has different effects, but it can be equally dangerous.

For example, if a person uses cocaine and then drinks alcohol, takes a Valium, or uses heroin to "take the edge off," each drug will wear off at a different rate. When the cocaine is gone, its counter-effect on the second drug will also be gone, and the second drug will now exert its full effect.

It's hard for a person to judge what quantity of drug to use when she or he is under the effects of another drug. And with street drugs, the user never really knows the real quality or strength because no authority regulates the drug. When the full effect of the first drug wears off and the second drug exerts its full effect on the body, the result could be overdose and death.


(Western Washington University:

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