Drug Synergism: Synergistic Interaction between Alcohol and other Drugs
Drug synergism is the phenomenon wherein the effects of a drug is enhanced when taken with other substances. Synergy is defined as the state wherein the combined action of constituents is greater than the sum of its parts. The synergistic effect when drugs are taken in combination is due to the fact that each constituent (between two different dugs or between a drug and another substance) contributes to the effect of the other in accordance with its own potency.
Chemical reactions between the drug or drugs and other substances, and the chemicals inside the body, particularly in those of the liver, also exist. One substance that can enhance the effects of a drug more than it usually can is alcohol. The combination of alcohol and depressant drug could cause exaggerated respiratory depression—a disease characterized by fluctuating muscle weakness and fatigability—periods of amnesia or loss of memory while intoxicated.
The enhanced effect of depressant drug when taken with alcohol could be explained with what happens inside the body.
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For example, when the depressant drug alprazolam is taken together with alcohol, the liver becomes occupied in metabolizing the alcohol such that the sedative-hypnotic drug is circulated through the body at full strength (Inaba, <year>). It must be noted that alcohol and certain drugs, especially depressant drugs, “compete for the same liver enzymes that break down drugs and flush them from the body” (Dye, 2007).
At the same time, alcohol also dissolves alprazolam more readily than stomach fluid does, allowing it to be absorbed more rapidly by the body (Inaba, <year>). As a result, alcohol and alprazolam, or any depressant drugs that can react to alcohol for that matter, can cause more problems when taken in combination than if they were taken at different times. Alcohol, therefore, contributes to the lethality of drug-taking behavior by increasing the effects of drugs taken in tandem with alcohol..
Drugs, especially those that can cause adverse effects, should be taken with care as the combination of one with another or other substances may enhance its effects. Alcohol, for one, can alter the body’s normal reaction to a specific drug, increasing its effects. It can also react with the drug such that its effects are enhanced. Needless to say, taking alcohol and drugs should be avoided.