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hydrocodone and alcohol
August 27, 2021

Hydrocodone and Alcohol

Hydrocodone is a prescription painkiller derived from the opium poppy, which makes it an opioid drug. While this medication has helped improve the overall quality of life for many people recovering from extensive surgeries or living with chronic pain, it carries a potential for abuse due to its effects on the brain and body. Combining opioids with other drugs, such as alcohol, can be deadly. Here’s what you need to know. 

Opioid Risks and Warning Signs

Hydrocodone and other opioids are part of an ongoing epidemic in America. While many states have now enacted legislation restricting opioid prescriptions, early marketing campaigns reassured doctors and consumers that opioids were safe and carried no risk of addiction. The result was a sharp uptick in opioid prescriptions, substance use disorders and overdose deaths. Compounding the tragedy, some people who could no longer get opioids through their physicians turned to illegal drugs like heroin.

Red flags of an opioid use disorder include the following.

  • Depression or other mood changes
  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Secrecy and denial about your behaviors
  • A loss of interest in former favorite hobbies
  • Muscle cramps and weakness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Shaking and sweating
  • Lying to health care providers in an attempt to get more drugs
  • Feeling anxious when you run out of opioids

The Risks of Combining Opioids and Alcohol

Some people who take opioids like morphine and hydrocodone also drink alcohol while the opioid drugs are still in their system. They may do so deliberately, to intensify the effects of both substances, or because they don’t realize how deadly it can be to mix them. Alcohol is a depressant that can make people feel sleepy and lethargic, and when you take two intoxicants simultaneously, the effects can quickly become overwhelming, severely affecting coordination and even causing falls, fainting or a loss of consciousness. Whether taken separately or combined, opioids and alcohol can lead to memory loss or worsen dementia symptoms.

The primary risk of combining hydrocodone and alcohol is a dangerously slow respiratory rate, which can quickly lead to coma and death and is the leading cause of accidental opioid overdose. Without enough oxygen, the brain will begin to shut down organ systems, and a user can eventually suffer brain damage or death. However, it is possible to reverse an opioid overdose under specific circumstances.

Reversing an Opioid Overdose

A safe, FDA-approved opioid antagonist called naloxone (available under the brand name Narcan) can prevent accidental overdose deaths. Narcan blocks the opioid’s effects and helps restore a normal breathing pattern until emergency responders arrive to take charge.

Narcan is simple to use, even for people without medical training. It is also safe to keep around your house because it has no effect on people without opioids in their system. It’s available without a prescription from major nationwide pharmacy chains like Walgreens and CVS in all U.S. states and Washington, D.C., so if you or a member of your household uses prescription opioids, it’s wise to get some and learn how to use it.

What Can You Do to Prevent a Hydrocodone and Alcohol Overdose?

While naloxone can be lifesaving in the event of an opioid overdose, it does not act against alcohol poisoning. People who combine alcohol and opioid medications like hydrocodone are putting their lives in danger by risking a potential overdose and death.

If you have a history of alcohol misuse and your doctor suggests taking an opioid medication like hydrocodone, it’s wise to ask about all the possible risks involved.  Even one casual drink could jeopardize your health while you continue taking your prescription as directed.

Long-Term Residential Alcohol and Drug Treatment

Have you been relying on opioids or alcohol to regulate difficult emotions and  make it through each day? Beach House can help you find lifelong freedom from intoxicating substances and equip you with the tools to manage mood disorders like depression and anxiety. To learn more about long-term residential treatment or our other evidence-based programming options, reach out to us today

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