Oxycodone is prescribed to treat moderate-to-severe pain in a hospital setting and at home. It is a beneficial pain-relieving drug, which is also misused for recreational reasons.
There were 14,139 overdose deaths that involved prescription opioids, such as oxycodone, in 2019. More than one drug was used at the same time in many of the cases. Opioids mixed with alcohol or other drugs for recreational use can lead to overdose. Read more about the dangerous effects when mixing oxycodone and alcohol.
What Happens When You Mix Oxycodone with Alcohol?
Alcohol is one of the most misused substances in the country. A large majority of
people over age 18 have tried alcohol once in their lives. A 2019 national
survey found that over 25% of adults said they engaged in binge drinking within
the last month before the survey.
Alcohol is the most commonly misused substance in the United States. The vast majority of adults over age 18 have tried it at least once in their lives. In 2019, a national survey found that more than 25% of adults reported binge drinking within the last month before the survey. Alcohol use is also used with other drugs, including prescription opioids like oxycodone, and with other drugs, prescription and illicit. When you mix oxycodone with alcohol, you might
experience adverse effects, which can be dangerous and even life-threatening.
Alcohol is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant that slows down activity in the CNS when interacting with the chemical messenger called gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA’s primary responsibility is for relaxation and sleep. When GABA is increased in your system, you may feel sleepy. Alcohol increases the effect of GABA’s sleepiness. It also affects other vital functions, such as motor functions, decision-making, and judgment. All of these can be impaired when you drink alcohol. Heavy drinking starts to affect your autonomic nervous system, which manages functions like blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing. Severe intoxication from alcohol can cause the slowing down of breath and heart rates.
Opioids can also cause you to feel relaxed and sedated but work differently in your system than alcohol. They bind to the body’s natural opioid receptors and activate them. This causes the blockage of pain signals and produces feelings of relaxation and warmth. They also influence the chemical dopamine, often referred to as the “feel-good” chemicals. The higher dosage of an opioid taken, the more your heart and breath rate will slow down.
When alcohol and opioids are mixed, they work together to create potent effects. Both substances can cause the same side effects of sedation. It is essential to note that even in moderate doses of each substance, severe side effects can occur and lead to severe overdose symptoms.
Both substances can make you lightheaded and drowsy and impair your judgment. Here are some of the specific physical effects of mixing the two drugs:
The Department of Health and Human Services states that combining oxycodone with alcohol can lead to respiratory depression (slowed breathing or stopped breathing). Also, a lack or loss of oxygen can cause nerve damage, paralysis, pneumonia, kidney failure, fluid buildup in the lungs, or death.
Since oxycodone and alcohol are CNS depressants, both can slow down the heart rate and lower blood pressure at the same time. Overdose on this combination can lead to heart failure and death.
Long-Term Effects and Risks
Long-term use of these two powerful substances combined can lead to serious long-term health issues, such as:
When you are prescribed oxycodone, the drug’s label warns against drug interaction
possibilities. Most pharmacists will relay this warning. Drug interactions are called contraindications. They are specific factors that should make you reconsider mixing drugs.
When you are taking oxycodone or opioids, it can change the chemistry in your brain and can affect your overall system. If oxycodone and other drugs are taken together, it can cause unbearable and dangerous symptoms.
Some drug interactions with oxycodone can potentiate with depressants, and many drug interactions can tax the organs that process them in the body. For instance, if you’ve ever taken certain antibiotics, your doctor may have told you to avoid alcohol. Since antibiotics can be hard on your liver, adding alcohol to the mix could lead to liver damage. Other drug interactions could be dangerous to your nervous system.
Combining oxycodone with CNS depressants, such as with antihistamines or medicine for allergies or colds, sedatives, tranquilizers, or sleeping medicine, other prescription pain medicine or narcotics, and other like drugs, can lead the increased effects of these drugs, which may last for several days after the drugs have been taken.
Stimulants can be drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine. When opioids and cocaine are mixed, it is called a speedball, which can be deadly. When oxycodone and other opioids are combined, the drugs create opposite effects. This can cause a masking of symptoms that can tell your brain you have had enough of one of the substances. Combining these two types of drugs can cause you to think you can handle higher doses of one of the drugs than you really can.
When you mix alcohol and oxycodone in heavy amounts, the possibility of overdose is real. If you observe or experience any of these signs or symptoms, it is crucial to get emergency treatment.
Emergency medical treatment, like naloxone treatment, may be required in case of overdose to prevent death.
People mix oxycodone and alcohol to feel the enhanced effects of both. Another reason
is when people mix the two accidentally. This can happen as you go about your
everyday routine, maybe have a drink after work or when out with friends, without thought. Nonetheless, if you happen to have a drink when taking oxycodone, you will likely feel the strong effects of it, such as feeling more drowsy, possibly feel faint, or passing out and falling down.
It is imperative if your doctor prescribes oxycodone for you to ask any questions you have about the drug, such as:
When two drugs are taken together, it is called polydrug use and is usually done to self-medicate or cover up symptoms from depression or anxiety. The National Institute on Drug Abuse expresses that people with substance use disorders (addiction) are twice as likely to have a mental health disorder when compared with the general public.
The safest and most effective way to end oxycodone and alcohol misuse is to go into addiction treatment. Many licensed and accredited facilities throughout the country are equipped to handle withdrawal from opioids and alcohol. Alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous when not supervised medically. Opioid withdrawal symptoms can be unbearable to the point where you may crave the drug strongly, relapse, and take more of them than it is safe to.
Medically managed detox allows your body time to adjust to not having oxycodone and alcohol in it. As your physical withdrawal symptoms are being managed, your psychological symptoms will ease with the help of educated and experienced addiction professionals.
Residential or outpatient treatment usually follows detox, which will help you find the root cause of your addiction and learn new techniques in managing stress and anxiety and other mental health issues. After completion of these programs, you will have the opportunity to join alumni or aftercare programs, giving you the chance to be with others in your same situation and feel less isolated in recovery.
Alcohol and oxycodone together increase the sedating effects of both of these substances. Mixing them can cause decreased respiratory and heart rates, which can lead to a fatal overdose. When the two substances are combined, you may feel disoriented, weak, and faint. You may fall down and injure yourself. You may need to be revived by emergency service personnel.
No, you should not ever drink alcohol when on pain medication. One small sip of an alcoholic beverage can render you unconscious. If you continue to drink alcohol when taking pain meds, you put yourself at risk of death.
Under medical supervision, oxycodone may help with alcohol withdrawal. A University of North Carolina School of Medicine study found that “therapeutic interest given that OXY does not have the deleterious profile of sedation and addiction liability associated with the benzodiazepines.”
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2021, February 25). Overdose death rates. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (n.d.). Alcohol facts and statistics. from https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/alcohol-facts-and-statistics
US Health and Human Services. (2019, September 4) NON-FATAL OPIOID OVERDOSE AND ASSOCIATED HEALTH OUTCOMES: FINAL SUMMARY REPORT. Zibbell, J. PhD., et. al. from https://aspe.hhs.gov/basic-report/non-fatal-opioid-overdose-and-associated-health-outcomes-final-summary-report#results
NIDA. (2017, March 30). Naloxone for Opioid Overdose: Life-Saving Science. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/naloxone-opioid-overdose-life-saving-science
University of North Carolina School of Medicine. Addiction & Alcohol Clinical Trials (AACT). Oxytocin Study for Alcohol Withdrawal. from https://www.med.unc.edu/psych/research/addiction/research-findings/oxytocin-study/
American Psychiatric Association. (2017, January). What Is Addiction? from https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/addiction/what-is-addiction
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2021, February 16). Mental health effects. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/health-consequences-drug-misuse/mental-health-effects