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Mixing prescription drugs with alcohol is the most common way in which prescription drug medication is abused. It is also one of the most dangerous.

Mixing alcohol and prescription drugs together can result in both short term and long term health problems. The dangerous effects of prescription drugs mixed with alcohol include: cardiac arrest, liver failure, respiratory depression, coma and death.

mixing prescription drugs with alcohol
If you or a loved one are frequently mixing alcohol with prescription drugs and want to stop, it is important that you seek the correct medical help and advice first. Do not just stop drinking alcohol or taking the medication as prescribed, this could result in dangerous and even life-threatening withdrawal symptoms if you are physically dependent on either.

At Delamere we specialise in treating all manner of substance and process addictions within our state of the art treatment facility. We offer a caring and compassionate environment conducive to healing. We are dedicated to helping patients make a full recovery from addiction and go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.


The dangers and effects of prescription drugs mixed with alcohol

The dangers and effects of prescription drugs mixed with alcohol very much depend on the type of prescription drug being abused. Most individuals who combine alcohol with prescription drugs do so to increase the sought after effects of the prescription medication. However, the dangers of mixing alcohol and prescription drugs are very real. Ultimately it can lead to accidental overdose and death.

medication warning label

Here we look at the effects of alcohol mixed with commonly abused prescription drugs.


Mixing alcohol with stimulant prescription drugs (i.e Ritalin and Adderall)

Adderall and Ritalin are two CNS (central nervous system) stimulant drugs commonly prescribed for ADHD. The effects of mixing Adderall or Ritalin with alcohol can cause the users heart to race, blood pressure to rise and respiratory rate to increase. These effects can result in immediate life threatening symptoms and long term heart complications. Research also suggests that alcohol, when used frequently with Adderall or Ritalin, can also worsen symptoms of ADHD 1

Mixing alcohol with benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines have similar effects on the body and brain to alcohol, both are depressant drugs. Mixing alcohol with diazepam or another benzodiazepine is extremely dangerous. The effects of sedation and respiratory depression can be amplified to the point where it is easy to overdose. 2

Mixing alcohol with gabapentinoids

Mixing alcohol with pregabalin or gabapentin carries the same risks as mixing alcohol with benzodiazepines. There is a significant risk of respiratory depression, coma and death

Mixing alcohol with opiate pain killers

There are many different opiate and opioid painkillers available on prescription and over the counter. The main difference between various opiates is in their potency. Mixing an opiate painkiller with alcohol, even the lower strength ones such as over the counter cocodamol, is extremely dangerous. The stronger the opiate the higher the risk of respiratory depression, coma and death 3

Mixing alcohol with sleeping pills

Sleeping pills have strong sedative and hypnotic properties. Mixing alcohol with sleeping pills increases your chances of sustaining an injury, and can result in coma and death. The effects of mixing alcohol and sleeping pills frequently also include increased anxiety and depression 4

Where alcohol and prescription drugs are mixed together frequently, there is a strong possibility of developing a poly drug dependence and addiction. Withdrawal symptoms from both alcohol and addictive prescription drugs can be life threatening. Medical detox and professional addiction treatment is always recommended.


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Symptoms of mixing prescription drugs with alcohol

If you are worried that a family member or loved one may be mixing prescription drugs with alcohol regularly, there are symptoms to look out for.

Symptoms of mixing alcohol with prescription drugs include:

  • Increased drowsiness
  • Evidence of alcohol use whilst taking prescription drugs (ie empty bottles, cans, alcohol on breath)
  • Frequent intoxication
  • Slurring and slowed speech
  • Unusually euphoric
  • Evidence of prescription drug abuse (i.e purchasing prescription drugs, excessive amounts of prescription drugs in their possession, prescription drugs that do not belong to them)
  • Severe mood swings, anxiety and depression
  • Sleeping for excessive periods of time or throughout the day
  • Dilated pupils (a symptom of mixing alcohol with stimulant prescription drugs)
  • Slowed breathing and reduced alertness

Further information on signs and symptoms of prescription drug abuse and addiction can be found here

Symptoms of mixing prescription drugs and alcohol can be difficult to spot to the untrained eye. If you are unsure or want to find out more about how we at Delamere can help your family member or loved one, please call and discuss your individual situation with one of our addiction treatment experts or chat to us online now.

Signs of alcohol mixed with prescription drugs overdose:

  • Slowed breathing
  • Pinpoint pupils or dilated pupils
  • Difficulty to wake
  • Reduced responsiveness or unresponsive
  • Racing or slowed heart rate
  • Weak, slow or rapid pulse

If you are worried a person has overdosed on prescription drugs mixed with alcohol, call the emergency services immediately and prepare a list of all medications you can find.


Treatment for mixing alcohol with prescription drugs

If you are caught in the vicious and potentially deadly cycle of taking prescription drugs mixed with alcohol you may well be wondering how to stop. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another in terms of treatment. Whilst addiction is a complex disorder to treat, recovery from mixing prescription drugs and alcohol is possible with the help of our multidisciplinary team of professionals at Delamere.

For those that have a long standing issue or dependence to both alcohol and prescription drugs, a medically managed detox is clinically recommended as the safest course of action.

At Delamere rehab we are very experienced in treating alcohol and prescription drug addiction and dependence. We fully understand the complications that can arise during a detox of two or more combined substances.

Find out what makes us different Delamere approach

To ensure your safety during a mixed prescription drug and alcohol detox, you will be medically monitored 24/7 by our qualified team of experienced detox nurses. Once your detox has been safely completed, our counsellors and therapists at Delamere can then apply a number of evidence based treatments to ensure that you never have to return to mixing alcohol with prescription drugs again.

Every treatment that you undergo with us at Delamere will be specifically tailored to your individual treatment needs. From detox to rehabilitation and aftercare, your treatment plan will be regularly reviewed and adjusted to ensure you are receiving the best treatment possible at all times.


Further information & guides about prescription drugs

Struggling with prescription drug addiction? Take action today…

For more information speak to our team about how we can help you grow beyond addiction and find residential treatment programmes today.

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References:

  1. Correlates of alcohol use in adults with ADHD and comorbid alcohol use disorders
  2. Benzodiazepines and alcohol. J Psychiatr Res. 1990;24 Suppl 2:121-7..
  3. Influence of Ethanol on Oxycodone-induced Respiratory Depression: A Dose-escalating Study in Young and Elderly Individuals. Anesthesiology, February 2017Rutger van der Schrier, M.D.; Margot Roozekrans, M.D.; Erik Olofsen, M.Sc.; Leon Aarts, M.D., Ph.D.; Monique van Velzen, Ph.D.; Merijn de Jong, B.Sc.; Albert Dahan, M.D., Ph.D.; Marieke Niesters, M.D., Ph.D.
  4. Self-Medication for Sleep in College Students: Concurrent and Prospective Associations With Sleep and Alcohol Behavior. Goodhines PA, Gellis LA, Kim J, Fucito LM, Park A.Behav Sleep Med. 2019 May-Jun;17(3):327-341. Epub 2017 Aug 31. PMID: 28749704

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