What Happens When You Mix Hydrocodone And Alcohol?

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D. on May 11, 2020

It is important to know the following on what happens when you mix hydrocodone and alcohol and what to do for an overdose from mixing hydrocodone and alcohol.

Dangers Of Mixing Hydrocodone And Alcohol

Hydrocodone is the most frequently prescribed pain medication in the United States. When used properly, it can help relieve the physical and emotional discomfort that a person feels from an injury or a chronic health condition. Unfortunately, the medication is highly addictive because it is an opiate.

Some people with addiction mix it with alcohol so they can have a more intense high. This is extremely dangerous, because mixing these substances can lead to an overdose.

Side Effects Of Mixing Hydrocodone And Alcohol

The side effects of mixing hydrocodone and alcohol can be deadly because they both suppress the body’s central nervous system, which is composed of the brain and the spinal cord that connects to it.

The central nervous system is responsible for controlling nearly all of the body’s organs. It also has an impact on cognitive processes, like thoughts and memories. When drugs interfere with the central nervous system, it can’t function properly.

This can lead to the following side effects of mixing hydrocodone and alcohol:

  • seizures
  • bradycardia
  • loss of consciousness
  • trouble breathing
  • confusion
  • coma
  • death

Side Effects Of Hydrocodone Abuse

Hydrocodone is made in a laboratory by combining oxygen with codeine. Codeine is an opiate that comes from the poppy plant, and it is highly addictive.

Acetaminophen is also added into the medication to help with pain-relief. It isn’t addictive, but it can cause damage to the liver when too much of it is taken.

Some of the potential side effects of abusing hydrocodone include:

  • bradycardia
  • impaired reflexes
  • reduced motivation
  • difficulty identifying pain signals
  • depression
  • constipation

Side Effects Of Alcohol Abuse

The side effects of an alcohol use disorder usually begin when a person’s alcohol addiction has progressed to its later stages. Most people know about the long-term damage that heavy drinking can do to the liver.

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But alcohol addiction can also lead to the following long-term side effects:

  • tremors
  • memory problems
  • aggression and agitation
  • constant cravings for alcohol
  • depression

Dangers Of Mixing Hydrocodone And Alcohol

What happens when you mix hydrocodone and alcohol is that the person abusing the drugs experiences an increased risk of overdose. This is because alcohol amplifies the effects of hydrocodone.

If a person takes a large amount of the medication with several alcoholic beverages, their body will respond as if they had taken much more than they actually did.

Besides this, the dangers of mixing hydrocodone and alcohol include an increased risk of developing an addiction or physical dependence on either substance.

An addiction to alcohol or hydrocodone means that a person will have constant cravings for the substances, but they won’t necessarily physically need them.

But if someone becomes physically dependent on hydrocodone or alcohol, they will develop severe withdrawal symptoms whenever the substances aren’t available.

Can You Overdose When Mixing Hydrocodone And Alcohol?

An overdose from mixing hydrocodone and alcohol can easily occur if a person attempts to take too many hydrocodone pills with several alcoholic beverages. It is important to mention that it is difficult to predict how much of the substances a person would have to take for them to overdose.

A person’s sex, weight, height, and tolerance to alcohol and prescription medications are all factors. Each individual has a different body chemistry. Because of this, doctors highly recommend that their patients never attempt to consume any alcohol at all when they are prescribed this medication.

What To Do If Someone Is Overdosing On Hydrocodone And Alcohol

If someone is overdosing on hydrocodone and alcohol, the first thing to do is to call 911 to request an ambulance to the scene. Emergency medical personnel can bring a medication called naloxone (Narcan) that can block the effects of the opiate.

The medication has to be given to a person within less than an hour of them taking hydrocodone for it to be effective, though. It is crucial that those who find an overdose victim don’t wait to get help for them.

While the 911 operator is on the line, he or she may ask questions about the overdose victim’s current health status, like whether they are breathing. Overdose can decrease a person’s lung functioning, so they may not be getting enough oxygen. A common sign of someone not getting enough oxygen is if they have blue lips or skin.

If this occurs, it helps to tilt the overdose victim’s head back slightly so their airway opens up more. It may be necessary to give them mouth-to-mouth resuscitation until the ambulance arrives if this doesn’t work.

Also, there is a good chance that a law enforcement official may arrive at the scene as well. It is best not to touch any of the prescription medications or bottles of alcohol because they may want to see them.

Finding Treatment For Polysubstance Abuse

Statistics show that women report physical discomfort and pain to physicians more often than men do and receive opioid prescriptions to treat that pain. But men have the highest rate of alcoholism in the country.

Yet men are more likely to engage in risky behavior to obtain pain medications that they may be addicted to. On top of this, there is a high number of teens and children as young as 12 years old who are currently experimenting with alcohol and prescription pills.

This means that virtually anyone can develop a polysubstance abuse problem. If you suspect a loved one is struggling with abuse of prescription opioids like hydrocodone and is also abusing alcohol, call today to learn about treatment options.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

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These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D. on May 11, 2020

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