Dangers of Mixing Alcohol and Prescription Drugs

April 2, 2014

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People mix alcohol and prescription drugs for many reasons, but this is a dangerous practice that can result in death. Some people mix drugs to experience a greater high, to increase the effects of a depressant or because they did not read their prescriptions accurately. Whatever the motivation for taking these two substances together, the consequences of doing so can be life-threatening.

Effects of Prescription Drug Abuse

Prescription drugs come in many forms, but people most commonly abuse the following substances. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA):

  • Depressants – Examples include barbiturates, benzodiazepines and sleep medications. These drugs are normally prescribed to combat insomnia or anxiety, but they can lower blood pressure and can cause respiratory distress and death when abused or mixed with alcohol.
  • Opioids and morphine derivatives – These include codeine, hydrocodone, methadone and oxycodone. Most people take these drugs to relieve pain, but these drugs can slow or stop breathing, slow the heart and cause unconsciousness. When combined with alcohol, these drugs can lead to death.
  • Stimulants – Examples are amphetamines and methylphenidate, which are often prescribed for obesity, narcolepsy and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. When abused, they can cause heart problems, such as high blood pressure and heart attack, increased metabolism, seizures and stroke.

Some people think it is safe to abuse prescription drugs, because they are legal. However, this notion is completely false. When abused (which means used in any way that deviates from a doctor’s prescription), these drugs are just as dangerous as illegal drugs. Many people abuse prescription drugs in spite of these dangers; in fact, the NIDA found that around 16 million US citizens, or 5% of the population, reported prescription drug abuse in 2010.

Frequency of Alcohol and Prescription Drug Abuse

There appears to be a correlation between alcohol and prescription drug abuse. A 2008 report from the NIDA states that people who are addicted to or abuse alcohol are 18 times more likely to abuse prescription drugs than nondrinkers are. As this report explains, people who mix alcohol and prescription drugs have a greater chance of alcohol overdose, but this drug combination also makes it more difficult to recover, meaning death is more likely.

The 2008 NIDA report also found that people between the ages of 18 and 24 have the greatest risks of combining alcohol and prescription drugs. Additionally, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism states that both women and older people face greater dangers when mixing alcohol and prescription drugs. Women have less water in their bodies than men, so they hold substances inside for longer. Older people have slower metabolisms, so they cannot process substances as quickly.

Find Help for Alcohol and Prescription Drug Abuse

Combining alcohol and prescription drugs is dangerous both for users and their loved ones. If you mix alcohol with prescription drugs and want some guidance on your treatment options, give us a call today at 615-490-9376.

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