When multiple drugs are taken at the same time, they can interact, which can change their effectiveness and produce different side effects. This is the case when taking prescription drugs, street drugs, or both.

There is not a lot of information on how street drugs and HIV treatments interact. It’s a challenge to do research, not just because street drugs are illegal, but also because the purity of the drugs could differ from batch to batch, affecting research outcomes. Street drugs are often cut with other substances, and it’s difficult to know exactly what’s in them, making it difficult to predict how they will interact with HIV medications.

So what do we know? Using street drugs can weaken your immune system, regardless of whether you have HIV, especially if you’re not eating or sleeping on a regular basis. If your immune system is fighting HIV, you may be more likely to get infections or get really sick.

If you are on antiretroviral medication or considering it, you need to talk honestly with your doctor about what you are using and how often, because street drugs can change how HIV treatments work. Even methadone can affect how HIV medications work. Your doctor may be able to suggest an HIV treatment with less potential for interactions.

If you’re ready to reduce or stop drug use, that will help improve your health. If you aren’t ready to stop or reduce your use, try the following:

  • sleep and eat on a regular schedule
  • drink fluids to keep your body hydrated
  • eat as well as possible
  • see our tips on safer drug use
  • give yourself all the support you can to keep your immune system working well