Dangers of Mixing Opioids and Alcohol

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May 30, 2020

The casual consumption of alcohol is considered a normal and standard part of social gatherings by most of society. Many people are able to enjoy adult beverages in moderation without any issues, but there is always a danger when mixing prescription medications with alcohol. Doctors and pharmacists do their part in alerting patients who take prescription painkillers to the risks of mixing them with liquor. Still, not many people are aware of the dangers of the deadly combination of a drug as common as hydrocodone and its reactions when combined with alcohol.

Alcohol and Painkiller Use Statistics

Both of these things seem relatively harmless when brought up separately, though prescription opioids and alcohol are potent on their own, they are legal in most cases. When a substance is legal, people are less likely to view it as harmful, especially when compared to illicit drugs. Nevertheless, both substances have their own rates of addiction among the population. In 2018, 26.45% of Americans reported that they engaged in binge drinking in the past month, with 6.6% reporting chronic heavy use in the past month. Since these numbers are self-reported, they are likely to my much higher outside of the scope of the study.

In the same year, with the new prescribing guidelines in place, the prescription rate of opioids had fallen to the lowest figure in 13 years but is still at about 51.4 prescriptions per 100 patients, totally to 168 million opioids prescriptions a year. While it’s unrealistic to cease prescribing any medication to those who need it, there are still people with powerful painkillers in their possession who may be potentially mixing them with alcohol on occasion, especially those who have already become dependent on the medication from previous years with higher prescription rates.

Mixing Hydrocodone with Alcohol

The most dangerous side effect the two substances have in common is depressed breathing, along with sleepiness. When the two are combined, these effects are amplified, putting people at great risk, even in small doses. There have been many accidental overdoses of celebrities and public figures, but the details are rarely shared. However among regular, Americans, the instances of this type of overdose are countless. No matter who you are, mixing alcohol and opioids can eventually lead to life-threatening respiratory depression. Breathing slows down, and the body begins to lose the ability to function correctly. Those who are awake during this reaction are often incapacitated and too disorientated to realize before vital organs start shutting down as the body tries to save any entering oxygen for the brain, potentially leading to brain damage.

Those most in danger of this accidental overdose are people who recreationally mix the two to achieve a stronger high or feeling of relaxation, but some people take hydrocodone for chronic pain that may not realize that their daily dose of medication will react negatively with the bottle of wine they had with dinner. It’s vital for those who take painkillers to strictly avoid alcohol use to prevent life-threatening overdose reactions in the body.

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