Dangers of Mixing Opiates and Alcohol

April 2, 2014

An individual laying in a hospital bed

Some people who drink alcohol or take opiates combine the drugs to enhance the high from opiates, to relax even more or because their inhibitions are so low they overlook the consequences of abusing other drugs. Regardless of the reasons for combining opiates and alcohol, the effects of doing so can cause serious and permanent damage. Seek help to get and stay clean from these two substances.

Types and Side Effects of Opiates

Opiates are painkillers that have legal and illegal forms.

Many doctors prescribe the following opiates to treat pain:

  • Opium: Healthcare professionals often prescribed this drug before the 20th century
  • Morphine: This opiate is the primary drug for people in hospitals with severe pain
  • Codeine: This drug is similar to morphine, but milder
  • Heroin: This opiate is illegal in the US as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, which means it is extremely dangerous
  • Methadone: Healthcare professionals prescribe methadone to address opiate withdrawal symptoms, because it is slow-acting and can satisfy cravings

Opiates can cause the following side effects:

  • Decreased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Digestive problems, such as constipation, nausea and vomiting
  • Euphoria
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Lower body temperature
  • Respiratory failure

These drugs are extremely powerful on their own, and much more so when combined with alcohol.

Side Effects of Alcohol

Alcohol is a depressant that slows down the body, but it can also lead to the following side effects:

  • Blackouts
  • Drowsiness
  • Digestive problems, such as diarrhea, nausea and vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Decreased coordination
  • Loss of consciousness

Seek professional help if you abuse either of these drugs, but especially so if you abuse them at the same time.

Effects of Combining Opiates and Alcohol

These two substances can each damage the body, but exponentially so when combined. As a report from the National Criminal Justice Reference Service explains, opiates both intensify the sedative effects of alcohol while making unconsciousness and respiratory failure more likely. This report also explains that mixing the two substances significantly increases a person’s likelihood of overdose.

A 2010 report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that nearly 19,000 people who entered alcohol rehab also abused opiates. This report further states that nearly 28,000 people in opiate rehab also abused alcohol. These numbers suggest that a significant portion of the US population struggles with opiate and alcohol abuse.

Treating Opiate and Alcohol Abuse

Seek professional help to recover from opiate and alcohol abuse, because the withdrawal symptoms from detox can be severe and life-threatening. Dr. Adi Jaffe explains that alcohol withdrawal symptoms can cause fever, nausea, diarrhea and delirium tremens, while opiate withdrawals can similarly cause serious side effects. In other words, you can die if you detox from these substances without professional help.

Find Treatment for Opiate and Alcohol Abuse

Abusing either opiates or alcohol is dangerous, but using these two substances together is even riskier. If you or someone you care about combines these drugs, and is looking for treatment, give us a call at 615-490-9376.

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