What Happens When You Mix Depressants and Opiates?

What Happens When You Mix Depressants and Opiates?

Using drugs and alcohol simultaneously can increase the risk of accidental overdose and death

When you use drugs and alcohol together the risks increase for accidental overdose and even death. The reason for this is that depressants—such as alcohol and opiate drugs—slow down the central nervous system. This is the system that controls bodily functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, respirations and response times. Overuse of alcohol can lead to alcohol abuse and addiction. Opiates are drugs used to treat pain after surgery, from an injury or due to a chronic condition that causes pain. Some examples of opiates include morphine, codeine, hydrocodone and the illegal street drugs, opium and heroin.

The statistics are clear that the majority of Americans drink alcohol; 56.9% of Americans report having had alcohol in the last month.[1] When you take this fact into account with the fact that the United States consumed 99.9% of the world’s hydrocodone, it is clear that many individuals are using opiates and alcohol together. This is very dangerous, because when too much of a depressant is used, the risk of coma, overdose and accidental death is increased.

Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol is the most-commonly used central nervous system depressant. Alcohol abuse often leads to lack of inhibitions, slurred speech, talkativeness, dizziness, lack of sleep, nausea and vomiting. Alcohol abuse is also directly related to higher rates domestic violence and child abuse. Alcohol interacts with your brain cells to calm them down. Although many alcoholics or alcohol abusers may seem more excited and animated while intoxicated, the first brain cells impacted by the alcohol are the cells which inhibit certain behaviors. So when this level of control is lost, behavior turns erratic and unexpected. As more alcohol that is consumed, behavior changes. This results in the individual having slower reaction times, weakened muscles, loss of memory and even loss of hearing and vision.

Opiate Addiction

Opiates include both prescription drugs used to treat pain and street drugs such as heroin that are used recreationally. Opiates produce feelings of euphoria in the user and change the way the body perceives pain. Opiates are derived from the poppy plant and include heroin, morphine, opium and codeine. Semi-synthetic opiates are called opioids and include many pain relievers such as hydrocodone and oxycodone. In most cases, opiate addiction begins when the person uses prescribed pain relievers in larger amounts or for longer periods of time than prescribed by a physician. When these drugs are used in inappropriate ways, a level of tolerance to the drugs occurs and dependence develops. Once dependence develops, addiction to the drug is not far behind.

The Dangers of Opiates and Alcohol

Since alcohol and opiates are central nervous system depressants, when the drugs are used together, it can be dangerous and even life threatening. Combined opiate and alcohol usage can result in the lowering of heart rate, respirations, and blood pressure to the point of coma. The use of these drugs simultaneously can also increase the risk of accidental overdose and death. Think about it: as your tolerance builds and your inhibitions are lowered one more drink or one more pill can mean the difference between life and death. If you or a loved one is a participant in this behavior, it’s time to get help.

Finding Help for Opiate Addiction and Alcoholism

If you or a loved one struggles with addiction, know there is help available right now. Just call our toll-free helpline and you can talk to a professionally trained counselor free of charge. He or she will be glad to talk with you about available treatment options, addiction or any other questions you have.


[1] http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-facts-and-statistics Alcohol Facts and Statistics