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Dangers of Mixing Alcohol and Prescription Drugs

a person puts their head in their hands in a silhouette image dealing with the dangers of mixing alcohol and prescription drugs

Most people know that mixing alcohol and prescription drugs can be dangerous, especially if a warning is printed on the medication label. Still, some people can convince themselves that just one cocktail or glass of wine will be all right. Mixing alcohol and prescription drugs may be a one-time mistake or a sign of an addiction disorder. If you need the support of alcohol rehab in Omaha, call Northpoint Omaha today at 888.687.8014.

The Risks of Polysubstance Abuse

When someone misuses two or more drugs, such as alcohol and prescription medication, it is referred to as polysubstance abuse. Intentional polysubstance abuse occurs when an individual drinks alcohol to increase the effects of their medication or wants to experience the effects of mixing the two substances.

Unintentional polysubstance use can happen when a person forgets they are on a medication and drinks alcohol. Whether intentional or purposeful, a near majority of overdoses involve using two or more drugs. This makes polysubstance abuse especially dangerous.

Prescription drugs already come with warnings of side effects. All of the unwanted side effects could be exacerbated with alcohol use. Alcohol may also affect the performance of the medication, negating any positive impact the medication offers. Other medications may be enhanced with alcohol and can create an adverse effect by doing too much of the prescribed function.

The risks vary according to which medications are being taken. However, in most cases, you can expect common side effects that include:

  • Dizziness, fainting
  • Changes in behavior
  • Loss of coordination, tripping, falling
  • Headache
  • Drowsiness, fatigue
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Internal bleeding

If you or someone you know is exhibiting these warning signs, seek medical help immediately. Serious health problems, such as liver damage, brain damage, heart attack, seizure, stroke, or death, could occur without intervention.

Stimulants and Alcohol

Prescription stimulants, such as Adderall and other ADHD medications, are commonly misused. They are known to increase alertness and speed up metabolism. Mixing stimulants with alcohol can strengthen feelings of euphoria.
Some people believe they can drink more alcohol when taking stimulants because the two substances cancel each other out. This idea is a dangerous piece of misinformation.

The risks of mixing stimulants and alcohol include:

  • Heart attack
  • Cardiac arrhythmias
  • Inadequate blood flow to the brain
  • Damage to cognitive function
  • Sudden death

Mixing alcohol and stimulants strains the kidneys and makes hangover symptoms worse. It can also increase risk-taking behaviors that lead to vehicle crashes and DUI/DWI.

Depressants and Alcohol

Many prescription medications are depressants, including pain medications and sleep aids, and have a sedating effect. Alcohol is also a depressant, and when combined with a depressant drug like an opioid, the adverse effects of both substances are intensified. Health risks include:

  • Confusion, delirium
  • Inability to stay awake
  • Vomiting
  • Slow, shallow breathing
  • Abnormal behaviors
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Respiratory arrest (breathing stops)
  • Coma

Even taking a painkiller or other depressant medication as prescribed and a small amount of alcohol can cause dangerous levels of intoxication and increase the risk for overdose or other serious health issues.

In all cases, mixing alcohol with a prescription medication risks your health in two ways. First, there are the potentially dangerous side effects of polysubstance use. Second, the health issue you are trying to address without proper medication can worsen and result in even more complications.

Find Help for Polysubstance Abuse at Northpoint Omaha

Northpoint Omaha offers partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs to help those struggling with polysubstance addictions. We understand that making a change is hard, but getting help can save your life. Call Northpoint Omaha today at 888.687.8014 to learn more about our alcohol and prescription drug treatment programs.