Drug and alcohol charity CRI warns that many merrymakers still don’t understand the added dangers of mixing alcohol with illegal party drugs and ‘legal’ highs.

It says people drink more alcohol in December than in any other month of year. They are more likely to ‘pre-load’ by drinking heavily to get into the swing of things before they go out – but reduced inhibitions can lead to life-threatening decisions.

Professor Oscar D’Agnone, medical director at CRI, said: “What people don’t always understand are the risks involved in mixing substances. Not only can people be left in vulnerable positions which put their personal safety at risk, but mixing drugs and alcohol can lead to death.

“For example, mixing alcohol with cocaine can produce a toxic chemical called cocaethylene, which can make heart problems and sudden death around 18 times more likely.”

And the charity is especially worried about the increasing popularity of ‘legal highs’, known more formally as new psychoactive substances (NPS). Over the last eight months CRI has seen the number of people visiting its services because they have used legal highs almost treble. Mixing them with other substances is especially risky.

Michael Lawrence, CRI’s NPS manager, warned: “Mixing so-called legal highs with alcohol can hugely increase the negative effects. We’re aware that the compilation of these substances is complicated and unknown. Adding an additional chemical, such as alcohol, into the mix can further exacerbate the immediate and longer-term impact for people. These can include heart and bladder problems, mood swings, anxiety, accidental comas or death.”

CRI advises partygoers to keep a careful track of how much they drink and to understand how units of alcohol work. For example, there are two units of alcohol in an average glass of wine, and it takes the average adult an hour to process just one unit. CRI also suggests that carousers have a proper meal before they start to drink, and that they alternate alcoholic drinks with soft drinks and water.

Perhaps most importantly, they urge party animals not to mix alcohol with other substances – and ideally not to take drugs at all.

So have a great Christmas and New Year, folks. But look after yourselves, eh?