Mixing Opioids & Alcohol

Mixing opioids and alcohol can have serious consequences.

Alcohol reduces oxygen flow to your body.
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Opioids are depressants, which slow down your breathing rate. It’s easy to unintentionally overdose on opioids, especially when you combine them with other depressants, like alcohol or benzodiazepines (aka benzos). If your breathing rate slows down too much, then the oxygen flow to your brain is reduced. That can cause you to lose consciousness, cause a coma, or even kill you.

Many prescription drugs are slow-releasing, which means that even people who seem okay at first may overdose in their sleep as opioids continue to enter their bloodstream.

Some prescription opioids, like Vicodin, also contain acetaminophen, which can damage your liver if taken in large doses. Combining Vicodin with alcohol increases the toxic effects, making liver damage much more likely. Beyond liver damage, mixing alcohol and any opioid with acetaminophen in it can cause:

  • Cardiovascular problems like high blood pressure, stroke, irregular heartbeat, and even cardiac arrest
  • Breathing difficulties during sleep
  • Memory problems
  • Constipation
  • Difficulties in sexual functioning

The bottom line is that no matter how or where you misuse prescription opioids, the outcomes are extremely risky. Just look at the facts:

Even if you don’t overdose, you risk becoming addicted to prescription opioids, which can lead to a very painful withdrawal process. Learn more about addiction and withdrawal here.

What Are The Signs of an Opioid Overdose?

There are a few signs to look for when you think someone is experiencing an overdose:

They are unconscious or not waking up

They don’t respond when you shout

They don't respond when you rub your knuckles on their breastbone or between their upper lip and nose

They are not breathing normally

They are breathing very slowly or not breathing at all

They are making snoring, choking, or gurgling sounds

What Are Steps You Can Take to Reduce Risk of Opioid Overdose?