Do psychiatric drugs and street drugs affect each other?

When two or more drugs are taken at the same time, they are likely to interact with one another, so that one drug changes the effects of the other. One or both of them may become toxic, or their effects may be decreased or increased. Your age, weight, genes, general health and liver and kidney function will make a difference to the way the drugs work. However, there are some common interactions that many people experience.

For example:

  • MAOI (monoamine oxidase inhibitors) antidepressants, such as phenelzine, isocarboxazid and tranylcypromine, interact with many substances to cause very dangerous effects. These include high blood pressure, chest pain, neck stiffness, rigid muscles, flushing, vomiting and severe headache
  • Moclobemide (a reversible MAOI) antidepressants could interact with stimulants, causing life-threatening effects
  • If chlorpromazine, an antipsychotic medication, is taken together with amphetamines, the effects of one or both drugs can be reduced
  • If mood stabilisers, such as lithium and carbamazepine, are taken together with cocaine, the effects of cocaine can be reduced
  • At very high doses, ketamine reduces respiration rates. If ketamine is taken in combination with other sedatives, respiration rates will reduce even more
  • Taking alcohol with most types of antidepressants and antipsychotics increases the sedative effects

Other interactions may occur and it is very important to remember this. Do not be afraid to ask your doctor or pharmacist about any concerns you have.

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