What Happens When you Mix Methadone and Alcohol?
There are some combinations that work well together, like peanut butter and jelly, but then there are some that don’t, like drugs and alcohol. Sadly though, this potentially fatal combination seems to be happening more and more in the country. Methadone is just one of the many drugs that’s commonly mixed with alcohol. Even when used by itself, methadone can be risky, so combining it with alcohol can make it even more dangerous.
The big questions to consider are: What exactly are the side effects of mixing methadone and alcohol? And what makes this combination so dangerous? If you or someone you know is battling a methadone and/or alcohol addiction, help is available.
What is Methadone?
Methadone is an opioid that’s often prescribed for pain relief. As a prescription painkiller, it depresses the central nervous system, which essentially alters the way the body responds to pain. It’s also commonly used in the detoxification phase for heroin addiction because it reduces the withdrawal symptoms.
Although methadone certainly has its benefits, it can have various negative side effects as well, which are detailed in the next section. There are also many health issues that can be complicated as a result of taking methadone, such as heart disease, severe asthma and an electrolyte imbalance. This is why it’s so important to use this medication ONLY with a doctor’s prescription, to use it as prescribed and to refrain from combining it with other substances, including alcohol.
What Are the Side Effects of Methadone and Alcohol?
Even if used as prescribed, methadone can have its share of negative side effects to the body and the brain. Consuming alcohol (responsibly) can also have some benefits, but in excess, it can be dangerous and even deadly. In fact, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “an estimated 88,000 people (approximately 62,000 men and 26,000 women) die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the fourth leading preventable cause of death in the United States.”
Despite the many potential risks, these substances are still mixed together by many users, resulting in even more possible dangers. Some of the side effects associated with methadone and/or alcohol abuse include:
- Shallow breathing (methadone)
- Excessive sweating (methadone)
- Seizures (methadone)
- Extreme fatigue (methadone)
- Slurred speech (alcohol)
- Impaired judgment (alcohol)
- Nausea/vomiting (both)
- Blurred vision (both)
- Dizziness or drowsiness (both)
- Fainting/unconsciousness (both)
But these are only the short-term side effects, ones that can be observed externally. There are several internal, long-term side effects as well, especially of excessive alcohol consumption. These include cirrhosis, high blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat. Of course, the worst possible side effect of each substance is death, which can be the direct result of other side effects. One example is when shallow breathing becomes too weak.
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Dangers of Mixing Methadone and Alcohol
As indicated in the previous section, the side effects of methadone and alcohol use can be grave, even without mixing these substances. Unfortunately, this doesn’t stop everyone from drinking alcohol while taking methadone. One reason may be that the user drank alcohol before being prescribed methadone, so it only feels natural to continue doing so. But methadone and alcohol are two substances that should never be combined because:
- Both substances affect the brain and central nervous system, so combining them has the potential to amplify the effects of each.
- Methadone can increase the effects of alcohol in some people, which can lead to intoxication at a faster rate.
- Combining methadone and alcohol, both of which are nervous system depressants, can lead to breathing problems, a weak heart rate, coma and even death.
Treatment for Methadone and Alcohol
If you or someone you care about is struggling with methadone and alcohol misuse, either as individual or combined substances, treatment should be sought as soon as possible. Many of the side effects of methadone and alcohol abuse are completely treatable and reversible, so now is the time to seek professional help. The Recovery Village offers various individualized treatment programs that address a variety of substance abuse cases, including those related to methadone and alcohol abuse. Call today to speak with one of our trained professionals.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.