Prescription drugs come with many warning labels. One such label is the warning telling you not to mix the drug with alcohol. Opioids (pain killers), depressants, and stimulants have various effects on the body that do not mix well with alcohol.
Alcohol is a depressant which means it relaxes your body and helps calm your mind. When combined with certain prescription drugs that also depress body systems, this can be a dangerous, even deadly combination.
Conversely, alcohol and other drugs, such as stimulant drugs, can also produce dangerous interactions throughout your body. Data provided by the most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health suggests that one out of every eight adults in the United States struggles with a drug use disorder and alcohol use disorder simultaneously. 1
Alcohol is among the most widely consumed drugs in the United States. As such, it is not uncommon for alcohol to be mixed, either intentionally or unintentionally, with other substances. Alcohol also impacts many body systems, making it challenging to use alcohol and another drug without risking a harmful interaction between two substances. Alcohol is frequently mixed with prescription drugs, benzodiazepines, opioids, cocaine, caffeine, and weed/marijuana. 2
It is important to remember that the effects of mixing alcohol and drugs will vary depending on the substance. For example, the effects of mixing weed and alcohol will differ from those of mixing cocaine and alcohol. These differences occur due to how each drug interacts with the body and the specific alcohol and drug interactions that occur when substances combine in the body.
The side effects of mixing drugs and alcohol will vary from substance to substance. These potential side effects will be detailed below.
Ibuprofen is an NSAID or (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug) used to relieve pain, fever, and swelling. Common examples of popular NSAIDs include Advil and Motrin. Ibuprofen is also found in certain prescription-strength medications. Mixing alcohol with Ibuprofen may intensify the effects of Ibuprofen. Long-term dangers of mixing alcohol and drugs like Ibuprofen include stomach bleeding and kidney damage. 3
Xanax is a prescription sedative that is typically prescribed to help reduce the intensity of anxiety and panic symptoms. Xanax slows the activity of the CNS (central nervous system), leading to feelings of calm and relaxation.
Because alcohol is also a sedative, it slows the speed and function of the CNS. Mixing sedating prescription drugs with alcohol can lead to potentially fatal oversedation. 4
Another drug that produces potentially dangerous alcohol and medication interactions is Adderall. Sometimes people combine prescription medicines with alcohol to lessen the effects of alcohol. The idea is that the stimulating effect of Adderall will “cancel out” the sedating effect of alcohol; however, this is not what happens. Mixing alcohol and prescription drugs like Adderall can produce dangerous mental and physical health effects.
Benadryl (diphenhydramine) and alcohol are both depressants. When taken individually, they slow the speed of the brain and vital body functions. When combined with another drug from the same drug class, the sedating effects of both substances are magnified. When alcohol and diphenhydramine are mixed, the effects often lead to dangerous levels of sedation.
Zoloft is a widely prescribed antidepressant medication. When used as prescribed, it is an effective tool to help manage depression symptoms. However, mixing antidepressants with alcohol can lead to excessive drowsiness and potentially increase the effects of Zoloft, leading to problems breathing. 5
The side effects of mixing alcohol and prescription drugs like Ambien, a prescription sleep aid, may include dangerous physical and cognitive impairment levels. Additionally, there is a considerable risk of overdose when mixing sleep-improving drugs and alcohol.
Both alcohol and Ambien slow your central nervous system, controlling breathing, heart rate, and brain function. When delayed too much by the effects of mixing drugs and alcohol, fatal consequences may occur. 6
Like Zoloft, Prozac is a popular, widely prescribed prescription antidepressant. Consequently, the dangers of mixing alcohol and prescription drugs like Prozac are like those of alcohol and Zoloft.
The dangers of mixing alcohol and prescription drugs are many. However, they will vary depending on the type of drug.
While mixing alcohol with some prescription drugs may lead to excessive sedation, others may have harmful impacts on how your heart and other body systems function because alcohol is trying to slow what the drug is trying to speed up. The problems associated with mixing alcohol and prescription drugs do not stop with physical challenges. It is important to remember that the effects of mixing alcohol and drugs (of any kind) can also lead to cognitive impairments.
Mixing alcohol and prescription drugs can also increase the risk of experiencing potential side effects associated with the drug itself.
Although prescription medications can be an important part of a treatment program for mental or physical health problems, each medication can lead to its series of side effects. Mixing alcohol and prescription drugs can increase the risk of potentially dangerous side effects, lasting health risks, and drug overdose.
If you or a loved one struggles with alcohol and prescription drug addiction, seeking help at a professional detox program like Genesis Recovery Center is crucial. The safest and most effective way to achieve lasting sobriety and overcome an alcohol and drug addiction is to participate in a detox program under the supervision of professional medical and mental health providers.
After you complete detox and your body has started to heal from the effects of drugs and alcohol, it is essential to participate in a comprehensive addiction treatment program. Depending on the nature of your addiction, there are several treatment environments or levels of care, including inpatient and outpatient programs.
As your primary addiction therapy program ends, our caring and compassionate providers will ensure you have the information you need about area support groups as part of an aftercare plan. If today is the day you start your journey towards freedom from addiction, contact us today to learn more about finding treatment at Genesis Recovery.