Taking recreational drugs

HIV damages your immune system making it difficult for your body to fight off disease. Many party drugs like ecstasy and methamphetamines (e.g. Crystal or Ice) can further suppress your immune system. Staying awake for long periods of time, not eating enough, or not eating the right foods can also damage your immune system even if you are in good health.

There is only limited understanding of the way HIV treatments interact with recreational and illicit drugs however the following cautions should be considered:

  • Avoid taking HIV treatments and other drugs at exactly the same time. Wait a couple of hours between doses.
  • Some HIV treatments (e.g. Ritonavir and other protease inhibitors) slow down the body’s elimination of recreational drugs. They may cause dangerous or even fatal interactions with ecstasy and methamphetamines.
  • Some recreational drugs lower the levels of HIV treatments in your blood so less of the dose is absorbed.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Start with a smaller amount of any illicit drug and monitor for unusual responses.
  • Seek emergency medical help if you experience dizziness, sudden drowsiness, blurred vision, heart palpitations, vomiting or any other severe unexpected effect.
  • Methamphetamines and ecstasy can make eating difficult which can be a problem for people who need to take treatment with food.

For further information on recreational drug use, including the interaction of specific drugs and HIV, see VAC’s Touchbase Alcohol & Drugs or ACON’s Stimulant Health Checkup.

“Part of looking after myself better after my diagnosis included cutting back on recreational drugs. I still partake on special occasions but I’ve got out the routine of every weekend. I feel much better, mentally and physically.”

For further information on recreational drug use, including the interaction of specific drugs and HIV see: