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January 13, 2020

Combining Alcohol and Opioids: What You Don’t Know Could Kill You

Alcohol and opioids are two of the most commonly misused substances in the U.S., and one in five prescription opioid deaths nationwide also involves alcohol. Carelessly combining alcohol and opioids in hopes of intensifying the effects is extremely risky behavior and could cost you your life. What makes it so dangerous to abuse multiple substances at once?

Awareness of Opioids and Alcohol

Alcohol use sharply increases the chances that a drug user will accidentally overdose and die. Often, people with a daily drinking habit who get a doctor’s prescription for an opioid like codeine don’t realize they are jeopardizing their lives if they continue to drink while taking their medication as prescribed.

According to statistics from the Department of Health and Human Services, opioid overdoses accounted for more than 42,000 deaths in 2016. How many of these tragedies could we have prevented if there were more widespread awareness of the dangers of combining alcohol and opioids?

The Effects of Combining Alcohol and Opioids

Alcohol and opioids are both depressants that act on the brain and central nervous system. Because both alcohol and opioids are highly addictive, mixing substances increases the risk that users will develop a cross-addiction, or dual addiction.

Using drugs like Vicodin and OxyContin while drinking can multiply the dangers of these substances, including:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Uncoordinated movements
  • Memory loss
  • Drowsiness
  • Loss of consciousness

The tragically high fatality rate associated with mixing opioids and alcohol results from depressed breathing. When you lack an adequate supply of oxygen, it can lead to brain damage, organ failure, coma and death.

Responding to an Accidental Overdose

If you use opioids and are worried you might become one of the hundreds of Americans who fatally overdose on these drugs every day, an FDA-approved medication called naloxone can help reverse the effects of an overdose. Getting naloxone and making sure at least one person in your household knows where it is and how to administer it can save your life.

Signs of an overdose include:

  • Slow, shallow or undetectable breathing
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Weak pulse
  • Bluish tint around the lips or nails
  • Choking or gurgling noises

How to Identify When It’s Time to Get Help

If you have been habitually risking your life by combining alcohol and opioids, you might be wondering whether your problem is severe enough to merit entering a comprehensive addiction treatment program. Here are some signs that typically indicate the need to seek professional help.

  • Trying to quit drinking and using on your own, only to encounter withdrawal symptoms that prevent you from reaching your goals
  • When you run out of drugs and alcohol, you spend a lot of time worrying about where and how you’ll get more
  • When you’re sober, you feel less like yourself
  • Continuing to drink and use drugs, even though your behavior has begun to take a toll on your relationships, responsibilities or work performance
  • It takes higher and higher doses for you to experience the desired effects

Treatment for a Dual Addiction

If you have decided to pursue help for your substance misuse, what can you expect? In most cases, your treatment program will begin with medical detox, where addiction professionals will monitor your withdrawal symptoms and administer medications such as buprenorphine, as necessary, to help you safely taper off opioids and alcohol.

After your initial detoxification period concludes and you are medically stable, you will begin working with a therapist to address the underlying causes of your addiction, both one on one and in a group setting. You’ll also learn life skills and healthy coping mechanisms that will help contribute to your sober lifestyle once you get discharged from treatment and are pursuing recovery on your own.

Get the Help You Need Today

If you have determined you want to turn your life around, don’t try to take on this challenge all by yourself. The professionals at Beach House are here to provide confidential help, 24/7. Contact us to learn more about enrolling in our Florida drug and alcohol treatment retreat.

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