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:
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