Drugs, alcohol combination proves dangerous practice

By Max Radwin, Daily Staff Reporter
Published September 9, 2014

This July, University alum Josh Levine, a former football team manager, unconscious in a Wicker Park neighborhood from an overdose of Adderall and alcohol, and later died in intensive care, the Detroit Free Press reported last Friday.

University officials said Levine’s story is not unique when it comes to mixing uppers and downers. College students often take other drugs, specifically amphetamines, while drinking.

According to the 2013 Student Life Survey conducted every other year by the University Substance Abuse Research Center, 9.3 percent of students use non-prescribed stimulant medications like Adderall or Ritalin. That figure has gone up every year since 2003, when 5.4 percent of students reported using non-prescribed stimulants.

The University published a news release Monday with a study conducted by Monitoring the Future, a University research group in its 40th year investigating campus drug activity. The group found that the nonmedical use of Adderall ranked second among the illicit drugs being used in colleges across the United States. According to the news release, 11 percent of college students in 2013 indicated that they had used Adderall in some way without medical supervision in the last 12 months.

The problem is that the University does not know how many of its students are using stimulants like Adderall simultaneously with alcohol or other drugs, and there is no question that specifically addresses it on the Student Life Survey.

“What we don’t know is how many people that are abusing this drug are also drinking,” said Mary Jo Desprez, director of Wolverine Wellness. “But you can assume that there’s a number of people that are mixing.”

Desprez said some students might take drugs like Adderall and Ritalin while consuming alcohol without the intent of boosting their high. Students prescribed the medication by a doctor might accidentally take it when they begin drinking, unaware of how long the medicine can stay in their system.

However, Desprez said students also take it to enhance their drinking experience.

“There’s a narrative that if you mix a stimulant with a depressant, you can be a wide-awake drunk,” she said. “But what they don’t know is that many people gauge how much they drink on the depressant effect of alcohol.”

As a result, students could get alcohol poisoning without realizing they had reached a level of drinking anywhere close to toxic.

“For example, passing out can be a protective mechanism that stops people from drinking when they are approaching potentially dangerous blood-alcohol concentrations,” said Prof. Sean McCabe, who has done extensive research on drug trends among college students for the UMSARC, in a statement. “However, using prescription stimulants while drinking can potentially override this mechanism and this could lead to life-threatening consequences.”

In addition, the synthesis of mixing uppers and downers can also cause long-term harm to the body. Using amphetamines while drinking has a history of causing heart problems and high blood pressure, Desprez added.

When asked about the number of incidents dealt with by officers regarding the mixing of drugs and alcohol, University Police deferred comment to Desprez.