Prescription opioids such as oxycodone are commonly prescribed by U.S. medical providers to treat patients with major pain following surgery, or chronic pain conditions.
Made up partially of natural ingredients from the opium poppy plant, oxycodone is one of several opioid drugs classified as semi-synthetic, meaning it is partially man-made.
Oxycodone is prescribed under the following brand names:
- Xtampza ER
- Xartemis XR
One of the most dangerous things a person can do while taking oxycodone is combining it with other substances, such as alcohol. Drinking alcohol while taking oxycodone can increase the intensity of oxycodone side effects. It can also lead to other serious dangers such as stopped breathing and death.
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Mixing alcohol with oxycodone can also be a sign of drug and alcohol addiction. If you or someone you know is struggling with an opioid or alcohol addiction, treatment within a rehab program may be recommended.
Side Effects Of Drinking Alcohol While Taking Oxycodone
Oxycodone comes with a long list of potential side effects, including drowsiness, dry mouth, stomach pain, and headache. Drinking alcohol can make these side effects even worse, and pose serious dangers depending on the dose taken and how much alcohol a person has consumed.
Depending on the amounts consumed, side effects of mixing alcohol and oxycodone may include:
- slowed breathing
- difficulty breathing
- long-lasting drowsiness
- unusual behavior
- irregular heart rate
- memory problems
- loss of coordination
- extreme sedation
Other factors such as age, reason for taking oxycodone, and previous history of substance abuse can also affect the side effects a person experiences.
Elderly people, for instance, can be more sensitive to drug and alcohol effects, and may experience more severe symptoms when mixing the two. One study on their combined effects found that elderly patients who combined alcohol with oxycodone were more likely than younger study participants to temporarily stop breathing multiple times.
Dangers Of Mixing Oxycodone And Alcohol
In 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that alcohol was involved in 18.5 percent of opioid-related emergency room visits across the United States.
The opioid epidemic is estimated to affect about two million people in the country, and many people who struggle with this problem also turn to substances like alcohol. Alcohol can intensify the euphoric effects of opioids, but it can also be deadly.
The most significant dangers of mixing oxycodone and alcohol include:
- respiratory depression
- increased risk for overdose
- long-term health risks such as liver damage and addiction
Respiratory depression is a condition that refers to slowed or stopped breathing. This is the most life-threatening symptom that can occur from alcohol and oxycodone. Both alcohol and oxycodone are depressants, meaning they slow down activity in the body and brain.
Each depressant on their own can slow a person’s breathing. When mixed, a person can experience difficulty breathing or experience unusually slow breathing. With oxycodone and alcohol, a person may even temporarily stop breathing.
If someone has stopped breathing after mixing oxycodone and alcohol, and then started breathing again, this does not mean that they are not at risk for deadly respiratory consequences. This is one of the primary signs of opioid overdose and can be fatal if left untreated.
Drinking alcohol while taking oxycodone increases the risk of experiencing an overdose, and can lead to severe consequences much quicker than taking excessive doses of oxycodone alone. Elderly people and people who have been abusing oxycodone are at an even greater risk for suffering an overdose.
If you or someone you know is experiencing the following overdose symptoms after mixing alcohol and oxycodone, call 9-1-1 or seek emergency services right away:
- unusually slowed or stopped breathing
- unable to stay awake
- dilated or constricted (tiny) pupils
- cold, clammy skin
- nausea and vomiting
- limp or weak muscles
- low body temperature
Once you have called emergency services, medical technicians who arrive onscene can administer naloxone, a drug capable of blocking oxycodone’s effects. Hospitalization may be required following this to monitor vitals and effectively treat effects of the overdose.
Long-Term Health Risks
Mixing alcohol and oxycodone can often be a sign of substance abuse, and is common among people trying to achieve a more intense opioid high. Although the short-term dangers of mixing these substances can be deadly, people who abuse these substances over time can also experience several other negative health consequences.
Drinking alcohol while taking an oxycodone/acetaminophen drug (Percocet) for instance carries the risk of causing liver damage. This is based on research showing that acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, can increase a person’s risk for liver damage and disease when used excessively – as can alcohol.
Other long-term health risks from oxycodone and alcohol abuse include:
- high blood pressure
- increased risk for falls
- memory problems
- kidney problems
- worsened dementia symptoms
- severe dependence and addiction
Oxycodone And Alcohol Abuse
Oxycodone is not known to be safe as a long-term treatment for chronic pain. Although effective for short-term pain relief, taking oxycodone for more than a few weeks can cause physical dependence. This can make a person more reliant on its effects, and lead to withdrawal symptoms with reduced use.
People who have a history of alcohol abuse are also more likely to become addicted to powerful drugs like opioids, and vice versa.
Signs of oxycodone abuse include:
- taking higher doses than prescribed
- taking doses more often
- seeking multiple oxycodone prescriptions from different doctors
- crushing and snorting or chewing pills
Opioid and alcohol abuse can be influenced by a number of different factors, including life stress, biological factors, mental health struggles, and genetics. If a person has suffered an overdose or other health consequences as a result of their drug and alcohol abuse, the next step is to find an effective treatment program to help them overcome their substance abuse.
Treating Oxycodone And Alcohol Addiction
Substance abuse is a problem that can affect a person’s mind, body, and emotional well-being. Treatment for oxycodone and alcohol abuse, therefore, requires a multidimensional approach that takes into account the many ways abusing these substances can negatively impact a person’s life.
At The Bluffs rehab facility, we offer a comprehensive opioid abuse treatment program with treatment services that can be personalized to meet the needs of each patient. This includes medically supervised detox, dual-diagnosis, behavioral therapy, holistic therapies, and medications to ease cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
If you or someone you know is struggling with opioid and alcohol abuse, contact one of our dedicated treatment specialists today to learn more about opioid abuse treatment at The Bluffs.
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) — Harmful Interactions
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus — Oxycodone
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — Alcohol Involvement in Opioid Pain Reliever and Benzodiazepine Drug Abuse-Related Emergency Department Visits and Drug-Related Deaths