Dangers of Mixing Hydrocodone and Alcohol    

MastHead Outline
November 13, 2023
Man drinking and mixing hydrocodone and alcohol

Even a single drink can be dangerous when taking prescription painkillers.   

The dangers of mixing hydrocodone and alcohol are widely known to be hazardous to your health. Despite warning labels and doctor’s cautions, people tend to take the rule as more of a suggestion. Many people have no trouble with having a couple of drinks as they would otherwise while taking painkillers.                         

The reality is even drinking a small amount of alcohol can be harmful when mixed with prescription pain medication. Doctors caution about the health risks of combining alcohol with prescription painkillers often. It’s essential to know about the interactions between these substances and the harm they can cause when mixed together. 

What Is Hydrocodone?

Hydrocodone is one of the most prescribed pain medicines in America. It’s an opioid-based drug that helps alleviate pain and can help people recovering from surgeries and invasive procedures. 

Although hydrocodone can help people suffering from acute pain, the drug is easily misused when not taken as directed. When ingested in higher doses, it causes a sense of euphoria in the body. This effect can entice people to continue taking it even after their pain has passed because they enjoy the high.   

When someone takes hydrocodone for an extended period, the euphoric feeling can lessen over time. This happens because the body develops a tolerance to the drug. It takes more and more of the drug to achieve the same effect. Each subsequent high never feels as pleasurable as it did the first time they took it. Prolonged misuse can quickly spiral into addiction, causing opioid misuse to become the central focus of a person’s life.    

What are the Dangers of Hydrocodone and Alcohol 

Misusing hydrocodone is harmful to the entire body, but when combined with alcohol, the results can be potentially fatal. The side effects of mixing hydrocodone or other opioids and alcohol can lead to a host of severe health problems. These effects range from erratic behavior and lack of motor control to heart failure and coma. Some short-term and lasting side effects of combining hydrocodone and alcohol include:  

  • Shallow breathing 
  • Slow heartbeat 
  • Extreme drowsiness 
  • Impaired judgment 
  • Liver damage 
  • Hearing loss 
  • Seizures 
  • Heart failure 
  • Overdose 
  • Coma 
  • Death 

It’s important to note that this isn’t only an issue with hydrocodone becoming more dangerous when mixed with alcohol. It goes both ways, and the effects of the alcohol intensify because of the opioid drug as well. Alcohol creates a sedative effect, and when combined with certain medications, the effects can magnify. This can cause trouble with concentrating and difficulty with coordination.   

Combining hydrocodone with alcohol also increases the risk of being involved in an accident and sustaining a severe injury. Both substances impair judgment, but when taken together, the ability to safely operate a vehicle or heavy machinery dramatically decreases. Driving while drinking alcohol or taking opioid medications is strongly discouraged. When combining them, driving under the influence can harm you and others on the road.  

How to Take Prescribed Hydrocodone Safely 

person drinking with hydrocodone

If you’re prescribed hydrocodone, the best course of action is to take it exactly as advised by your medical provider. Take the painkiller only for the length of the prescription. Drinking water with your pill is the safest way to ensure you do not have adverse reactions to the medicine. Learn more about any potential interactions with other medications here.   

Talk to your doctor about your lifestyle habits and whether alcohol is a part of your daily routine. You may think your alcohol use is moderate, but most people drink well over double the recommended safe amount.   

It is imperative that your doctor knows your health history in order to prescribe an efficient and safe pain-relieving medication. If you need a painkiller but are not ready to stop drinking alcohol, speak to your doctor about alternative options. It is crucial that you are honest from the beginning to avoid significant risks to your health and overall well-being.

The Dangers of Mixing Hydrocodone and Alcohol

Like many other opiates commonly mixed with alcohol, hydrocodone is a depressant. Both alcohol and opiates can lead to slowed breathing, drowsiness, delirium and nausea. When combined, these symptoms can be deadly.  

Furthermore, taking these substances together can enhance the effects of both. So, even someone with a heightened tolerance can go overboard and accidentally overdose with no way to reach for help.   

One of the organs most intensely affected by these substances is the liver. Usually, the liver can filter these toxins from the body. However, mixed substances can lead to acute liver damage, allowing unfiltered toxins to build up in the bloodstream. Although the liver is a regenerative organ, repeated damage can cause permanent damage, requiring extensive medical intervention.   

How to Help Someone Overdosing on Opioids and Alcohol 

If someone ingests a large amount of both substances, reach out to Poison Control and follow their protocol. Do this even if they’re not exhibiting symptoms of overdose, as they can come on quickly. However, if the person starts appearing symptomatic, contact emergency services immediately. Indicators that you should call 911 include:  

  • Strange, unusual behavior. 
  • A sudden drop or increase in blood pressure. 
  • Difficulty breathing. 
  • A fast, irregular heartbeat. 
  • Nausea and vomiting. 
  • Someone collapsing, falling unconscious and/or having a seizure. 

If you have access to naloxone, also known as Narcan, this would be the time to use it. It may help the individual stay more alert until they can get additional help. Even if you do use Narcan, the person should still receive care from a medical professional as soon as possible.  

If you don’t have Narcan on hand, alert emergency services that this is an opioid-related event on the phone. This way, they can have a dose of Narcan ready to administer as soon as they arrive.   

While you’re waiting, do everything you can to keep the affected person conscious. Talk to them, and if they’re able, have them talk to you. If they cannot stay conscious, do not leave them under any circumstances. Lay them down and turn them on their side so they don’t choke on vomit. Stay by their side until help arrives.  

Contact AppleGate Recovery to Learn More 

AppleGate Recovery uses medication-assisted treatment to treat opioid addiction. We help you get through detox as comfortably as possible. Our MAT programs use Subutex and Suboxone, which are known to help alleviate symptoms of opiate withdrawal. We encourage our patients to use all of the resources we provide, including counseling, to keep them on track.  

When you’re dealing with alcohol and opiate addictions, you need help from people who specialize in substance misuse and dependence. These specialists can lend a compassionate hand as you work through this difficult time. AppleGate Recovery gets it, and we’ll assist you on the road to recovery. Contact AppleGate Recovery today to learn how our proven addiction treatment method can help you.  

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