Mixing alcohol and prescription drugs presents very real dangers and health risks to consumers.
The untimely losses of those like Whitney Houston and Heath Ledger–who both struggled with prescription drug abuse–reminds us how easily a combination of alcohol and pills like Xanax, Vicodin or OxyContin, can turn fatal.
Many prescription drug consumers remain unaware of the dangers of mixing alcohol with their pills, enabling accidental overdose and dangerous drug interactions to occur.
Common Prescription/Alcohol Combinations
The US government acknowledges prescription drug abuse as one of America’s leading substance abuse and public health issues. The prevalence of alcohol use adds risk to the already damaging effects of prescription misuse. Below are some of the common prescriptions which, when combined with alcohol, can be highly dangerous or fatal.
Opiate Painkillers (Vicodin, OxyContin, Oxycodone)
These powerful painkillers are considered risky when taken on their own. Too high of a dose of these pills can slow breathing and inhibit the coughing reflex. When mixed with alcohol, the effects of opiate medications are two-fold. Breathing slowed too rapidly can shut down respiratory function altogether.
Anti-Anxiety and Anti-Depressant Meds (Xanax, Prozac, etc.)
When these kinds of drugs are mixed with alcohol, their sedative effects are magnified. This can cause severe drowsiness and dizzy spells which in turn raise the likelihood for automobile accidents and falls.
The combination of prescription pills and alcohol can commonly result in an accidental overdose or a lethal drug reaction. Be sure, before taking any prescription, that you fully understand the risks and dangerous chemical interactions that can result.
The Combination of Prescription Xanax and Alcohol: A True Story
Pam* took Xanax almost every day of her adult life. A doctor had prescribed it to her as a young mother to relieve stress and calm her nerves. As is the case with many patients, Pam began to develop a tolerance and dependency to her medication; and she found herself taking more and more in order to achieve the relaxed state she had grown accustomed to.
By the time her children were in school, she was taking 3-4 pills at once, several times a day. Though she had only usually drank socially, within a matter of years she found herself drinking alone from morning until she passed out. Her children and other loved ones expressed their concerns, but she denied that she had a problem with either the alcohol or prescription drugs.
Pam’s high school-aged daughter came home from school one day to find her mother slumped over the coffee table with a large, gaping cut on her forehead. Pam was passed out and bleeding profusely. Upon arrival, the paramedics began to resuscitate Pam, who was in cardiac arrest. They were successful in reviving her, but not without serious repercussions.
She had developed liver disease and had suffered major damage to her heart. After a month-long stay in the hospital, Pam’s family came together and insisted she get treatment immediately.
Her family was met with resistance from Pam, but she agreed to enter inpatient substance abuse treatment. After completing a 4-month program, Pam is happy and healthy today, living 100% drug free.
What Can I Do?
Prescription drug abuse is a serious epidemic in the United States. Communities and individuals are encouraged to get involved in saving lives from this deadly aspect of addiction.
- Talk to your family about the risks and dangers involved with mixing alcohol with prescription drugs.
- Dispose of or store your prescription pills responsibly and securely.
- Keep an eye out for friends or loved ones who may be struggling with prescription pill abuse.