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Dangers of Mixing Alcohol with Prescription Drugs

If you have ever mixed drinking with prescription medication use, you have likely experienced some unpleasant side effects. But, this kind of combination actually can be dangerous for a number of reasons.

Before you suffer any serious health consequences from this combination, let’s look at the risks associated with alcohol and prescription or over-the-counter drug use.

The dangers of mixing prescription medications with alcohol can have a range of negative effects on a person. It can be as minor as lessening the effectiveness of the medication. On the other hand, it can be as serious as leading to hospitalization or even death.

Knowing how long a substance stays in your bloodstream can be very helpful. For example, it may be safer to take the next dose of a prescription drug after alcohol has completely metabolized. If you know someone who is currently mixing alcohol and medications, inpatient treatment resources, including a safe medical detox, are available.

Alcohol affects the effectiveness of your medication.

Medication needs to be absorbed into your bloodstream to work effectively. Drinking while on meds can affect that absorption. That means the meds you’re taking may not work at all or may work at a lesser level.

The label on your medication may not mention the risk of drinking while on it.

Some medications will specifically caution you about the dangers of drinking. Others may not. If you have any question about whether it’s safe to drink while using a specific medication, talk to your doctor.

During check-ups and visits, you should also answer questions about your drinking and drug use honestly so your doctor can advise you in an informed way.

You may experience multiple symptoms after mixing alcohol and medication.

If you have mixed over-the-counter or prescription meds with alcohol before, you may have experienced the discomfort of multiple physical symptoms.

Your blood pressure may have increased or lowered. You might have lost coordination. Dizziness or headaches may have affected you. You may have been overcome by a feeling of nausea or started to vomit. You may have felt dramatic changes to your mood. Your behavior may have been described as erratic by others.

Some kinds of combinations are more dangerous than others.

Using a medication that causes you to feel sedated and then drinking can lead to more significant problems. For example, drinking alcohol while using an opioid can affect your breathing. Deaths caused by these combinations can come from the end result of the mix stopping someone’s ability to breathe.

Know the potential outcome of mixing a specific drug type with alcohol.

Not all medications interact with alcohol in the same way. It’s important to know your risk of health or medical problems before combining any substances.

The side effects of using allergy, cold, and flu medications can be intensified when combined with alcohol. Increased dizziness and drowsiness are on the list of potential risks. Drinking while on heart medication can lead to a rapid heartbeat, abrupt changes to blood pressure, dizziness, and fainting. Drinking while using antidepressants can worsen the symptoms of depression. Drinking while using muscle relaxants can lead to some of the same symptoms already mentioned as well as seizures and slowed breathing.

Opioids and sleeping aids are similar in their risks as both affect your central nervous system. The outcome of combining these types of drugs with alcohol can be fatal. That’s why it’s recommended to never drink while using a sleeping aid or after taking a dose of a prescription opioid.

Knowing how long a substance stays in your system can help.

Sleeping aids are one type of drug you may take safely after a period of drinking. It’s important to know how long alcohol remains in your bloodstream first, though. Once alcohol has completely metabolized, you can safely take a prescribed dose of a sleeping aid. For example, a glass of wine will take longer (3 hours) to metabolize than a shot of liquor (1 hour).

Seeking treatment before mixing drugs and alcohol can prevent serious health consequences.

Ongoing use of prescription medication can mean any alcohol poses a health or medical danger to you. If you or someone you know has developed an alcohol use disorder, working on a plan for sobriety as soon as possible becomes vital. A residential treatment program offers an opportunity to safely detox from alcohol as a first step before individual and group therapy begins.

Origins Behavioral HealthCare is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration.

We offer renowned clinical care for addiction and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting sobriety.


For information on our programs, call us today: 561-841-1296.

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If you or someone you love has a substance use or mental health disorder, Origins Behavioral HealthCare can help. We will work alongside you to provide the most comprehensive treatment available.