Even though many prescription drugs in the United States have disclaimers about adverse drug interactions with alcohol, they are often used together to emphasize or offset effects. The use of alcohol with prescription opioids is one such substance use trend that is concerning.
Long-lasting opioids that include hydrocodone are typically prescribed after surgery or dental procedures. Used to control pain symptoms, medications with hydrocodone are highly controlled and are prone to abuse.
Both opioids and alcohol have depressant effects. People may abuse these substances together to increase the side effects of each, yet this is a dangerous practice. Both alcohol and hydrocodone work to slow breathing and heart rates, and depress other body systems.
This can increase your risk for alcohol poisoning, opioid overdose, and your risk for developing addiction or chemical dependency on one or both substances. Treatment options for polydrug abuse (abuse of two or more drugs) can help you quit substance abuse and learn to manage your addiction.
Side Effects Of Hydrocodone And Alcohol
Hydrocodone has many short-term side effects beyond its prescribed analgesic properties. Because it works on both peripheral nerves and the central nervous system (CNS), it has widespread sedative and depressant properties.
Hydrocodone Side Effects
Hydrocodone use in the short-term can produce serious effects like:
- cardiac arrest
- increased risk of overdose
- slowed/labored breathing
- physical and psychological dependency
Other typical side effects of hydrocodone use include:
- back pain
- urinary tract infection
Alcohol Use Effects
Alcohol is a commonly used central nervous system depressant that is sometimes combined with benzodiazepines (benzos), opioids, and “uppers” like amphetamines for people who seek various effects. Alcohol works on the CNS through gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors to produce perceptions of calmness and sedation.
Its short-term side effects include the following:
- nausea and vomiting
- poor judgment
- poor coordination
- blurry vision
- unstable emotional state
Alcohol impacts major systems like the liver, brain, and heart. Because alcohol is processed through the liver, it has a notable impact there. Alcohol’s long-term effect as a depressant works against brain and heart health.
Some long-term symptoms of extended and heavy alcohol use include:
- memory loss
- heart disease
- high blood pressure
- poor attention span
- learning difficulty
- throat, stomach, kidney, and liver cancers
- excessive sedation
- cirrhosis and fibrosis of the liver
Long-Term Side Effects Of Mixing Hydrocodone And Alcohol
Mixing hydrocodone with alcohol can have a number of side effects, including increasing the side effects of each. Other long-term risks and dangers of mixing alcohol and hydrocodone may include the following.
Long-term alcohol use combined with extended opioid dependency causes stress on major organ systems. Disease and cancer of the liver and kidneys are especially common.
Alcohol is well-known to cause liver damage. When combined with a hydrocodone-acetaminophen painkiller, severe liver issues may result.
This is because alcohol use with acetaminophen increases the likelihood of severe liver complications because the liver cannot process the acetaminophen adequately.
Hydrocodone-based medications that are mixed with acetaminophen for layered pain control include these brand name prescription:
Risk Of Opioid Overdose
Because both hydrocodone and alcohol cause sedation, their combined effects may compound and result in an overdose. The most serious effects include slowed breathing and heart function.
Overdose symptoms include:
- clammy skin
- slowed or irregular breathing
- irregular pulse
- slowed heart rate
- low body temperature
- blue skin or fingernails
- inability to wake up/stay conscious
Alcohol And Hydrocodone Withdrawal
Dependency and addiction to both hydrocodone and alcohol are difficult to break. Professional addiction treatment supervised by a healthcare professional may be necessary to safely detox from both substances.
Withdrawal from opioids is uncomfortable. The physical side effects paired with emotional dependency is unpleasant. However, withdrawal from opioids is not usually a life-threatening condition.
Although opioid withdrawals are less likely to be deadly, alcohol withdrawals can be physically dangerous. Most medical advice indicates a supervised environment when a person expects to undergo alcohol detox and withdrawal.
Symptoms of hydrocodone withdrawal include:
- body aches
- extreme sweating
- runny nose
- tearing eyes
- diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting
Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:
- elevated heart rate
- mood swings
- mental fog
- clammy skin
Some of the severe withdrawal symptoms and physical dependence associated with heavy alcohol use combined with the symptoms of hydrocodone withdrawal are very dangerous.
It is advised that people undergoing withdrawal from these two substances should be closely monitored. An inpatient rehab program can offer the best variety of detox programs to help through the withdrawal process.
Treatment For Addiction To Alcohol And Hydrocodone
Substance abuse involving opioids like hydrocodone and overuse of alcohol can be all-consuming. If you or a loved one are facing opioid drug abuse or excessive alcohol use, help is available.
Give one of our addiction specialists a call today. They will help you understand the range of treatment options of addiction centers. The ability to develop coping techniques combined with inpatient treatment will give you the best chance of recovery and managing withdrawal symptoms.
Combined with continuing care and outpatient therapy, your path to continued sobriety is possible. A life of continued substance use and abuse doesn’t have to be your reality. Let us help you get to a better future. Call our helpline now for more information.Article Sources
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)—Alcohol Management as Harm Reduction
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)—Harmful Interactions: Mixing Medicines with Alcohol