What’s the first thought that comes to mind when you hear the word, “pain”? You may think headaches, stomach aches, surgery or a broken bone. But that word may also trigger thoughts of depression, sadness or anxiety.
Whether you’re dealing with physical pain or emotional pain, drugs like opioids and alcohol can seem like a quick and effective solution. After all, alcohol has the ability to put the body and mind at ease. And opioids have a sedating effect that can serve as an escape from the distress and anxiety you’re feeling.
But both drugs come with their own set of consequences, especially when they’re abused. And mixing the two can put you in even more danger. In this article, we’ll take a look at the side effects of alcohol and opioids, as well as what happens when these drugs cross paths.
Side Effects of Taking Alcohol and Opioids Separately
Alcohol and opioids like oxycodone are powerful substances all on their own. And oftentimes, they’re viewed as “safe” drugs because they’re legal. You can purchase alcohol at the store and at any restaurant. And opioids have continued to be prescribed by doctors to help ease pain.
But despite their legal status and availability, both substances have debilitating side effects and can lead to addiction.
Side Effects of Alcohol
Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. This means that when alcohol is consumed, your body temperature drops while feel-good chemicals in your brain like serotonin and dopamine go up. This helps to relax you, but it can also lead to poor decision-making and dangerous behaviors.
Other side effects of alcohol, include:
- Dizziness and confusion
- Excessive mood swings
- Slurred speech
- Impaired physical condition
- Irregular and slowed heart rate
- Slowed blood pressure
- Blurry or double vision
- Impaired judgement
- Depressed breathing
Side Effects of Opioids
Like alcohol, opioids are central nervous system depressants that have the same effects on the body and brain to help relax you. When prescribed, oxycodone and other opioids can make you feel more tired. But when abused, opioids can lead to:
- Drowsiness and confusion
- Trouble staying awake
- Nausea and vomiting
- Depressed breathing
What Happens When Alcohol and Oxycodone Mix?
In 2017, researchers from the Anesthesia and Pain Research Unit at Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands confirmed that taking an opioid with alcohol increases the risk of respiratory depression.
This can lead to overdose and accidental death, like in the heartbreaking story of professional baseball player Tyler Skaggs, who passed away unexpectedly at the beginning of July due to an opioid, fentanyl and alcohol overdose.
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Unfortunately, cases like this where people unknowingly overdose from mixing opioids and alcohol are happening far too often across the entire country. The question is, why?
The most significant reason is that both alcohol and opioids depress the respiratory system when they’re ingested individually. When taken together, they feed off each other to hit your body that much harder.
Let’s take an example of how this would play out. You take a single oxycodone tablet and chase it down with some alcohol. That minor amount alone slows down your breathing and helps to calm you. But then you take more oxycodone for a stronger sensation, again chasing it with alcohol.
As your breathing slows down more and more, your body loses its ability to function normally. You become dehydrated and dizzy, and you may even experience nausea and vomiting. During this overdose, vital organs begin to shut down as your brain tries to make up for the lack of oxygen its receiving. In some cases, this can lead to brain damage. And in more severe cases, this can lead to you slipping into a coma and dying without even realizing what is happening to you.
How to Avoid Alcohol and Opioid Overdoses
If you’re currently taking opioids from a prescription from your doctor, it’s important to avoid drinking any alcohol when on the medication. This can help prevent any risk of respiratory depression.
It’s also beneficial to have a loved one monitor your painkiller use. Many people don’t realize they’re becoming addicted to opioids until it’s too late. Having a spouse, parent or other family member watch your drug use can help ensure you’re taking the medication as prescribed.
If you currently abuse opioids or have a drinking problem, you should seek treatment at a credible addiction treatment center like Fountain Hills Recovery. Our personalized treatment approach and highly experienced staff can prevent you from mixing and overdosing on alcohol and opioids and help you overcome your addiction.
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