Alcohol can cause serious side effects, but when used in combination with opiates, even small quantities of alcohol may have deadly consequences.

When consumed in large quantities, alcohol can cause serious side effects. When used in combination with other drugs — including opiates — even small quantities of alcohol may have deadly consequences. Have you or someone you love used opiates and alcohol at the same time? If so, keep reading to learn about the dangerous impact these substances have on the body.

What Are Opiates?

Opiates are a group of opioids. While opiates are traditionally used to help alleviate pain for injuries or surgical procedures, their addictive nature makes them candidates for widespread abuse and misuse — even by people who have a prescription.

What Are the Side Effects of Opiates and Alcohol?

Mixing opiates and alcohol — even when ingesting only small amounts of both substances — can have deadly consequences. The potential side effects of combining opiates and alcohol include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness or loss of coordination
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Abnormal behavior
  • Fainting
  • Coma
  • Depressed breathing

Dangers of Mixing Opiates and Alcohol

Opiates and alcohol are sometimes ingested together by people otherwise taking prescribed medication responsibly. In other instances, both of these substances are taken deliberately to enhance their euphoric effects. Using opiates and alcohol together can have deadly consequences because of the way they affect the brain and body.

Both opiates and alcohol depress the activity of the central nervous system, slowing breathing and heart rate. When taken together, the effects of these substances only increase, slowing breathing and heart rate down dangerously and depriving essential parts of the body of oxygen. Without an adequate amount of oxygen, essential organ systems shut down potentially causing brain damage or death. Ingestion of opiates and alcohol also leads to loss of balance and coordination, increasing the risk of severe falls and rendering normal activities, like driving, deadly.

Opiate and alcohol overdoses are particularly difficult for medical professionals to deal with because separate measures must be taken to reverse the effect of these substances from the body. Naloxone is used to halt opiate overdose symptoms, but alcohol usually needs other methods of reversal. Other methods must be used to rid the body of alcohol, including stomach pumping and activated charcoal.

Treatment for Opiate and Alcohol Addiction

If you believe that you or someone you know is overdosing from a mixture of opiates and alcohol, dial 911 immediately. If your problem is less pressing, a good first step to recovery is to seek out a reliable treatment center that can provide you with an evidence-based, dual diagnosis rehabilitation plan. Without proper treatment, opioid addiction and alcoholism can impact every aspect of your life. Dependence on these substances can even worsen pre-existing mental health disorders, including anxietydepression and PTSD.

The Recovery Village helps patients through every stage of their opioid addiction treatment and rehabilitation. From detox to aftercare, our experienced team of physicians, nurses, mental health professionals and counselors provide you with the care you need to live a life free from substance dependence. Get in touch with a representative today to take the first step toward a brighter future.

a man with a beard wearing glasses and a hoodie.
Editor – Thomas Christiansen
With over a decade of content experience, Tom produces and edits research articles, news and blog posts produced for Advanced Recovery Systems. Read more
a male in a white lab coat and tie.
Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Conor Sheehy, PharmD, BCPS, CACP
Dr. Sheehy completed his BS in Molecular Biology at the University of Idaho and went on to complete his Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) at the University of Washington in Seattle. Read more
Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with 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 providers.