What Happens When You Mix Sleeping Pills and Alcohol?
Mixing sleeping pills with alcohol can have dangerous and even deadly side effects. In fact, a study in the American Journal of Therapeutics found that this combination nearly doubled people’s chances of ending up in an intensive care unit. Despite the well-established risk, many still choose to combine these substances on a regular basis.
If you or someone you love is taking sleeping pills and consuming alcohol at the same time, the first step toward healthier habits is education. By understanding the gravity of this risky behavior, you can stop and, if necessary, get the help you need.
What are Sleeping Pills?
Sleeping pills are a group of medications taken to help induce and maintain sleep. With between one-third and one-half of Americans suffering from insomnia on a regular basis, the use of these drugs is becoming more and more common. Some sleeping pills work by depressing the central nervous system, while others affect levels of brains hormones like melatonin and orexin to induce feelings of drowsiness.
Common sleeping pills include:
Benzodiazepine-based medications that work by depressing the central nervous system tend to carry the highest potential for abuse, misuse and addiction.
What are the Side Effects of Sleeping Pills and Alcohol?
When you mix sleeping pills and alcohol, you experience the heightened effects of both substances. Because of the already strong sedative impacts of sleeping pills, this combination can be particularly dangerous.
Common side effects of sleeping pill and alcohol use include:
- Impaired motor functioning
- Potentially deadly sleepwalking behaviors
- Memory impairment
- Slowed or labored breathing
- Cardiac arrest
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Dangers of Mixing Sleeping Pills and Alcohol
Despite the dangerous potential health risk, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that mixing alcohol with sleeping pills was a relatively common form of misuse. The number of zolpidem-related (the active ingredient in many sleeping aids) emergency room visits nearly doubled between 2005 and 2010, with 14 percent of these visits involving alcohol.
Alcohol and sleeping pills present such a dangerous combination because they both affect the central nervous system, working on the same GABA receptors in the brain. When taken together, this means that they dramatically increase each other’s sedative effects, slowing heart and breathing rates down to dangerously low levels.
In addition to slowed breathing and heart rates, combining sleeping pills and alcohol can cause people to engage in out-of-the-ordinary, potentially life-threatening behaviors. Sleeping medication and alcohol use has been linked to horrific accidents, falls and sleep driving incidents. These behaviors don’t just endanger the life of the user — they can also endanger the lives of family, friends and strangers.
Treatment for Sleeping Pills and Alcohol
Because alcohol is such a habitual part of daily life for many, people often brush off the dangers of consuming it before taking sleeping pills. In reality, using sleeping pills and alcohol together can make you a danger to yourself and others. If you or someone you know is dependent on sleeping pills and alcohol, it may be time to seek the help of compassionate professionals.
It can take a great deal of willpower to overcome an addiction to both sleeping pills and alcohol — that’s why The Recovery Village is here to help. Our team of medical professionals can help support your health and well-being from detox to discharge. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Contact The Recovery Village today to speak with an intake coordinator who can help you begin your journey to a better life.