Combining alcohol with any strong prescription medicine is dangerous. Most of these medications carry a warning stating they should not be used along with alcohol, but users often disregard these warnings. Alcohol consumption alone can result in serious side effects. However, it can also worsen the side effects of other substances including prescription medications.
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Opiates like hydrocodone, morphine, and oxycodone are very helpful for people struggling with chronic pain and those dealing with pain after surgery or serious injury. However, they are highly addictive. When abused or used in conjunction with other substances, including alcohol, they can pose a serious threat to the user’s health. If you or someone you love is using both opiates and alcohol at the same time, you need to know that this is extremely dangerous. If you’ve tried to quit one or both substances and found it impossible, you need to seek help from an addiction treatment professional.
Side Effects of Mixing Opiates and Alcohol
Sometimes, people who are using prescribed opiates use alcohol because they are not aware of the dangers or they forget. Other times, individuals deliberately use both substances because they want an enhanced high. Unfortunately, the combination can have a negative effect on the brain and the rest of the body.
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Both opiates and alcohol are central nervous system depressants. This means that on their own, they slow down heart rate and breathing. Taken together, the effects are intensified, and parts of the body can be deprived of oxygen. Organ systems can shut down, potentially resulting in brain damage or death.
Even if you only use a small amount of each substance, the results can be fatal. Potential side effects include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Depressed breathing
- Lack of coordination
- Irregular heart rate
Consuming both opiates and alcohol can also lead to loss of coordination and balance, making the user more likely to fall and impairing their ability to drive safely.
Responding to Alcohol and Opioid Overdose
If an individual overdoses on alcohol and opiates, it can be difficult for medical professionals to treat them. Naloxone is usually used to halt the symptoms of an opioid overdose since it binds to the same receptors in the brain as pain medications. If someone you know has overdosed on opiates, you can administer Naloxone if you have it available. However, you should know that it only stops the overdose for a short period of time since it metabolizes more quickly than morphine or oxycodone.
Naloxone simply gives you enough time to call an ambulance or get the person to the hospital for further treatment. This can save the individual’s life. However, it won’t reverse symptoms of alcohol poisoning and there’s no medication that can do so. To purge the body of alcohol, healthcare professionals may need to pump the individual stomach or administer activated charcoal. In essence, people who use both alcohol and opiates increase their risk of death since they may experience a rapid, difficult-to-treat overdose.
If a person has a history of alcohol abuse, dependence, or addiction, they should let their doctor know. This is important if the doctor intends to prescribe opiates for the treatment of pain. Where possible, an alternative medication or treatment should be recommended. If opiates are the only option, the doctor should explain the dangers of combining pain medications with alcohol. This should be par for the course even for patients with no known history of an alcohol use disorder. Having just one drink while taking opiates as prescribed can be dangerous.
Getting Help for Opioid and Alcohol Dependence or Addiction
If you or a loved one is struggling with the use of alcohol, opiates, or both, you must seek help as soon as possible. Rehab can be especially helpful since it allows you to focus completely on your recovery. Addiction to more than one substance requires careful monitoring. In a treatment facility, patients benefit from medical supervision, medical and social support to help them transition to a drug and alcohol-free life.
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At Asheville Recovery Center, one of the best rehabilitation centers in North Carolina, we guide individuals through each stage of the rehabilitation journey. We have an experienced and highly trained team of professionals who devise customized treatment plans for each person who comes through our doors. If you or a loved one is in need of a long-term drug rehab in North Carolina, you aren’t alone. Call us today to find out more about how we can help you gain long-term sobriety.