Medications can be helpful, but not all of them work together. Prescription drugs are powerful and can have serious side effects, especially when combined with other drugs or alcohol. If you have been taking multiple drugs or drinking alcohol with prescription medications, you should be aware of the risks and the fact that it is dangerous to combine alcohol and other drugs.
Dangers of Mixing Alcohol and Other Drugs
Mixing alcohol with other drugs can cause a long list of serious problems depending on the type of drug being used. Alcohol is linked to about 22.1 percent of overdose deaths each year of prescription opioids¹. Mixing prescription drugs with alcohol can be dangerous because:
- It can lead to impaired decision making
- It can prevent you from knowing when to stop drinking
- It can prevent the medication from doing its job
- It can lead to long-term health problems, such as liver damage, internal bleeding, mental health issues, heart problems, stroke, and brain damage
- It can cause you to overdose on the medication
Some medications mask the symptoms of intoxication, leading you to think you’re not inebriated. This can lead to overconsumption and alcohol poisoning.
Patients who are taking prescription medications for a mental health diagnosis may find that combining with alcohol will cause the effects of the condition to worsen. For example, those who take prescription attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medication may find they are jittery instead of just alert². They may also be at a higher risk for overdosing with alcohol because the medication prevents them from realizing how drunk they are.
Prescription Drugs to Never Mix with Alcohol³
- Pain medication: Pain medication, such as oxycodone, should never be mixed with alcohol because it can slow the heart rate and cause you to stop breathing, which is fatal. Alcohol can lead to overdosing with opioids because it depresses breathing. This is true whether you are taking opioid pain medication, such as morphine or oxycodone, or using illicit opioids like heroin.
- Anxiety medication: Anxiety medications combined with alcohol can lead to slowed breathing, memory issues, impairment, and unusual behaviors.
- Benzodiazepines: Benzodiazepines, such as Valium or Xanax, can lead to overdose when taken with alcohol. Alcohol causes the medication to stay in the body longer. Combining these two can lead to drowsiness, dizziness, blackouts, difficulty breathing, and impaired motor control.
- Cough suppressants: Some cough suppressants contain alcohol — when combined with alcohol, your system may have a higher level than what you are aware of, increasing your risk of overdosing.
- Diabetic medication: Combining diabetic medications, such as Metformin, with alcohol can cause severely low blood sugar levels and lead to a coma.
- High blood pressure medication: Drugs designed to treat high blood pressure can cause an irregular heartbeat and fainting when mixed with alcohol.
- GHB: Gamma-hydroxybutyric acid is a drug approved for the treatment of narcolepsy, but it can cause difficulty breathing and increase depressant effects.
- Barbiturates: Medications such as Nembutal help with anxiety, but they can cause the heart rate to slow down too much when combined with alcohol and lead to a coma or death.
- Sleep medications: People who have trouble sleeping may receive medication to assist with sleep and take it with alcohol to help them relax. When these are combined, it can also slow the heart rate down and cause coma or death.
- Prescription stimulants: This includes medications with amphetamines like Adderall as well as those with methylphenidate, such as Ritalin. Both types of drugs are easily abused and can increase blood pressure and cause jitters while masking the effects of the alcohol.
- Medications for allergies, cold and flu: Medications such as Claritin, Dimetapp, and Sudafed may help with congestion and other allergy or cold symptoms, but when combined with alcohol, they increase the risk of overdose. The mixture can lead to drowsiness and dizziness.
- Nitroglycerin: Medications with nitroglycerin are typically prescribed for chest pain or coronary heart disease. When taken with alcohol, it can lead to a rapid heartbeat, dizziness, changes in blood pressure, and fainting.
- Arthritis medications: Medications prescribed for arthritis pain, such as Celebrex and Voltaren can lead to ulcers, damage to the liver, and stomach bleeds when mixed with alcohol.
- Blood thinners: Medications like Coumadin are designed to thin the blood to prevent blood clots. However, it can lead to internal bleeding when mixed with alcohol or have the opposite effect by causing blood clots and strokes or heart attacks.
- Indigestion and heartburn medications: Medications like Reglan and Tagamet can increase the effect of alcohol or cause sudden changes in blood pressure and rapid heartbeat when mixed.
- Cholesterol medications: Liver damage can result from mixing alcohol with medications like Mevacor and Niaspan. Pravigard can cause stomach bleeding when combined with alcohol due to the added aspirin.
- Antibiotics: Medications for infections, such as Zithromax or the Z-pack and Nizoral, can cause stomach pain, a fast heartbeat, and liver damage when combined with alcohol.
- Anti-nausea, motion sickness medications: Medications, such as Dramamine and Antivert, can cause dizziness and increase the risk of overdose with alcohol use.
- Muscle pain relievers: Medications like Soma and Flexeril for muscle soreness and pain can cause major issues when combined with alcohol, such as impaired motor skills, memory issues, difficulty breathing, increased risk of seizures, and a higher risk of overdose.
- Pain medications: Over-the-counter pain medication or the prescription-strength versions of common pain relief medicines can lead to ulcers, bleeding, and liver damage when mixed with alcohol.
- Anti-seizure medication: Drinking alcohol with anti-seizure medications, such as Dilantin, can lead to an increased risk of seizures as well as changes in behavior and mental health.
Contact Us Today for Help
If you have been prescribed a medication, you should ask your doctor about abstaining from alcohol during the duration of the prescription because it is dangerous to combine alcohol and other drugs.
If you suffer from a substance use disorder or need to go throughdrug rehab in Florida, Legacy Healing Centers can help. We offerdrug detox and addiction treatment to help you begin the process of recovery. If you or a loved one are concerned about the dangers of combining drugs due to an addiction,contact us for help.
- Alcohol Facts and Statistics. NIH. March 2022. Retrieved from Alcohol Facts and Statistics | National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) (nih.gov)
- Important Facts About Alcohol and Drugs. HHS.gov. Retrieved from Important Facts About Alcohol and Drugs (surgeongeneral.gov).
- Mixing Alcohol with Medicines. NIH. 2014. Retrieved from Harmful Interactions | National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) (nih.gov)