Alcohol is one of the most commonly abused substances in the world. Opioids are vastly prescribed medications. When these two potent drugs are combined, the results can be lethal. Both are depressant drugs, and when taken together, the depressant effects are much greater. If an opioid medicine is prescribed, it is best to avoid drinking alcohol when taking these types of drugs.
Oxycodone is an opioid drug used to treat severe pain. It is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant medication and a narcotic analgesic, or pain reliever. A few of the more well-known brand names for oxycodone are OxyContin and Roxicodone.
Both oxycodone and alcohol are central nervous system (CNS) depressant drugs. Their mechanism of action involves different neurotransmitters. However, both substances work together, activating some of the same neurotransmitters, like dopamine. People who drink alcohol and take opioids do so to increase the effects of the alcohol. This is a dangerous and possibly fatal combination.
CNS medications work by slowing down neuron function in the central nervous system. It produces a calm feeling, and for some people, it can produce euphoria and sedation when taken in high doses. When both alcohol and opioids are taken together and chronically, a severe physical dependence on both drugs can occur. If they are used regularly, and for an extended time, addiction is highly probable.
Types of Opioids
There are different types of opioids drugs, which vary in strength. Most are available via prescription. Illicit opioids, such as heroin, do not have therapeutic effects. However, the common prescription ones do. These include:
- Heroin (illicit)
Lethal Side Effects of Mixing Alcohol with Oxycodone
There are adverse and severe side effects when mixing alcohol with oxycodone. Overdose is one possibility. Death is another. These are the extreme effects when combining the two. Here are some of the more significant problems that could occur:
- Increased central nervous system depressant effects: When taken together, an individual might experience suppressed heart and breathing rates, lowered blood pressure, and suppressed neuronal firing. Neural firing is “the communication between neurons through electrical impulses and neurotransmitters,” as noted by the Centre for Neuro Skills. When this process is suppressed, it can cause stroke or a heart attack.
- Organ damage: When oxycodone and alcohol are taken together, the CNS functions slow down, and the possibility of reduction of oxygen to organs and tissues, which can cause organ damage. When oxygen levels drop, it can also cause the neurons to die, which could lead to irreversible brain damage.
- Overdose risk is increased: As previously mentioned, the possibility of overdose is increased when both of these substances are taken together. Since both substances produce the same effects on the CNS, an individual will need less of either drug to have an overdose. The odds of overdose are greater when both drugs are combined. Overdose can permanently damage the brain and organs or cause death.
- Long-term health problems: People who abuse oxycodone and alcohol may experience long-term health problems. Some of these may be cancer, blood pressure issues, stroke, heart attack, and liver damage. It might also adversely affect the immune system, which can cause serious infections or diseases.
- Not caring about self-care: Often, individuals who are using oxycodone and alcohol together will let their self-care go. They may start to deteriorate physically. Risky behavior is a possibility when abusing these two substances. They will also be neglectful about their appearance, engage in unprotected sex, and not care about themselves.
Withdrawal Symptoms of Oxycodone and Alcohol
The withdrawal symptoms a person will feel when they stop taking alcohol and oxycodone are many. Some of them are mild, while others are severe.
- Nausea and vomiting
- Flu-like symptoms (chills, runny nose, etc.)
- Muscle aches and pains
- Panic Attacks
- Rapid heartbeat
- Panic attacks
- Shaky hands or tremors of the whole body
- Confusion, disorientation
- Delirium tremens (DTs), a dangerous condition producing hallucinations and delusions
When Combining Both Substances Becomes an Emergency
There are very clear indicators that someone is in need of emergency services if they have been taking oxycodone and alcohol. If emergency help is not hailed, the individual may lose their life. Below are the clear signs that someone needs help now:
- Small, contracted “pinpoint” pupils
- Very slow, shallow, or no breathing
- Not responsive, loss of consciousness
- Pale skin, bluish lips, fingernails or toenails
- Weak or no pulse
- Gurgling or choking sounds
Alcohol and Oxycodone Abuse Statistics
It is alarming to learn what the use of alcohol and oxycodone together are in the United States and what the outcomes of them are.
Twenty-two percent of deaths were alcohol-related, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Eighteen percent of emergency room visits involved the misuse of prescription opioids in 2010, per the CDC above-referenced report.
How to Know When Addiction Treatment Is Needed
Addiction is defined as a chronic and treatable disease of the brain. There are obvious signs or symptoms that determine if a person is addicted to oxycodone and alcohol.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that addiction “involves functional changes to brain circuits involved in reward, stress, and self-control. Those changes may last a long time after a person has stopped taking drugs.”
- Intense urges for the drug that supersede all other thoughts and tasks
- Feeling as though the drug is needed frequently
- Needing more of the drug to obtain the same effect
- Use of the drug affects all aspects of the user’s life
- Spending a lot of money and time obtaining and using the drug
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not taking the drug
Addiction treatment is the most effective way to stop abusing oxycodone and alcohol. It is safer and often leads to longer-lasting results than trying to quit alone.
What to Expect of Addiction Treatment
Addiction treatment usually starts with medical detoxification, which when the body is ridding itself of all toxins. Detox is a medically supervised process where the individual may be given medications to ease any uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. The person may be moved to inpatient treatment or outpatient treatment, depending on how severe their addiction is.
Behavioral therapies are standard in addiction treatment. The person will attend individual, group, and family therapy sessions, learn how to cope without drugs and alcohol, help develop a relapse prevention plan, determine how to handle a relapse if it occurs, learn healthy living skills, and delve into the causes for their addiction. People in addiction treatment will also be encouraged to join support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. All of these therapies, skills, and support mechanisms will help bolster the individual against opioid and alcohol abuse.
Why Combining Oxycodone and Alcohol Is Lethal
It is vital to know that if oxycodone and alcohol are combined, they can cause side effects, which can be lethal. Suppression of the central nervous system, slowed pulse, heart and breathing rates, and the real possibility of stroke or heart attack are present. Permanent brain and other organ damage could occur, likely incurring a lifetime of assistance to complete daily tasks, such as bathing, eating, and getting dressed.
If you are struggling with opioid and alcohol abuse, there is no time like the present to ask for help. It is often said that the first and most daunting step to take is to admit you have an addiction. Doing so may feel frightening, but it may also make you feel a bit empowered. You are not alone in this struggle and will never be alone as you forge your path to recovery and become free from substance use.