6 Risks of Combining Alcohol with Prescription Painkillers

Prescription painkillers are highly effective at reducing pain, but come with dangerous risks, such as physical dependence, addiction, and death — especially when combined with alcohol. When used together, alcohol and opioid painkillers can enhance the effects of one another, and have unpredictable, adverse effects on the body. Understanding the risks associated with combining alcohol and painkillers can help you or your loved one avoid accidental death by intoxication and/or overdose.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with substance abuse, understand there are several nearby rehab centers that can help. Call our 24/7 confidential helpline at 800-934-1582(Who Answers?) to learn more about addiction treatment centers for opioid abuse and/or alcohol abuse.

Here are six risks associated with combining alcohol and opioid painkillers.

1. Overdose

Opioids reduce pain and bring on feelings of relaxation with side effects such as decreased heart rate and drowsiness. The sedative effects of alcohol are intensified when combined with opioids, leading to an increased risk for respiratory failure and unconsciousness. These symptoms are commonly associated with an overdose.

2. Seizures

Using alcohol with opioids often causes blood sugar levels to fluctuate — increasing the risk for seizures. If you suffer from diabetes or another health condition associated with low blood sugar levels, you may be risking your life when combining alcohol and painkillers.

3. Dehydration

Alcohol with Prescription Painkillers

Combining alcohol and opioids can cause severe dehydration.

Alcohol causes dehydration, while dehydration is a common side effect of painkiller use. When combined, alcohol and opioids further increase your risk for dehydration. Plus, vomiting and diarrhea — other common side effects of combined alcohol and opioid use — can lead to dehydration.

4. Sudden Changes in Blood Pressure

Opioids work by lowering blood pressure, while alcohol raises blood pressure. Combining both substances can cause sudden fluctuations in blood pressure, which can be fatal for those who suffer from other serious health conditions, such as heart disease or a history of stroke.

5. Fainting

Low blood pressure increases the risk for fainting and passing out, which can lead to death if a user is driving, operating heavy machinery, or engaging in other high-risk activities. Low blood pressure can lead to fainting, and can occur when combining alcohol and opioids.

6. Coma

Coma can be caused by factors such as alcohol poisoning, low blood sugar levels, and high blood sugar levels. Since the effects of alcohol are magnified when used with opioids, alcohol poisoning is more likely to occur and can lead to coma. Coma can also be caused by sudden changes to blood pressure when combining alcohol and opioids.

When using prescription painkillers or prescription drugs of any kind, consult with your doctor before mixing substances. Mixing drugs with alcohol can have serious consequences on your health, and increase the risk for overdose, coma, or death. If you’re suffering from addiction to one or both substances, most rehab centers can help you treat and overcome alcohol and drug abuse at the same time.

Are you struggling with addiction to prescription painkillers and/or alcohol? Get help now before it’s too late. Call our 24/7 confidential helpline at 800-934-1582(Who Answers?) to learn more about addiction treatment centers devoted to helping you overcome substance abuse.

the Take-Away

If you take prescription painkillers, it’s imperative that you follow your doctor’s directions and avoid combining your medication with other substances such as alcohol.