Mixing alcohol and opioids can be deadly. Opioid drugs are most commonly used for their pain relieving effects.
The main chemical in opioid drugs comes from the poppy plant. The opium poppy seed plant contains over fifty different organic compounds that are used in medications to produce pain relief. There are different categories of opioid drugs: natural, synthetic, and semisynthetic.
Natural opioids (also called opiates) include:
Synthetic opioids include:
Semisynthetic opioids include:
Opioids from all categories can be prescribed by doctors to help with pain management. Anywhere from 150-215 million prescriptions for opioids have been written annually since 2006. All prescription drugs that have a negative or dangerous reaction when mixed with alcohol will state this on the label.
Mixing alcohol and opioids produces dangerous changes in the body, possibly including:
- Inability to remember how much medication was taken
- Shallow breathing
- Respiratory problems such as the inability to breathe
Taking opioids while ingesting alcohol intensifies the effects of both alcohol and the opioid, making overdose more likely and increasing the chances of respiratory failure and death. According to a report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, more than 28,000 people who entered drug rehabilitation facilities for opioids also abused alcohol.
If you or a loved one has been prescribed an opioid medication, it is of utmost importance to be honest with your physician and yourself about your alcohol consumption habits.