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Mixing Alcohol and Oxycodone

Combining Alcohol and Oxycodone Is Especially DangerousOn May 13, 2011, professional hockey player Derek Boogaard died in Minneapolis. The cause of his death was an overdose on a combination of oxycodone and alcohol. After his death, his family revealed that he had been struggling with addiction for several years. Derek’s death was tragic, but it was not unusual. Thousands of Americans die every year from overdosing on oxycodone and other opioids.

Oxycodone is one of the most common contributors to fatal overdoses on prescription opioids in the United States. Alcohol increases the dangers of oxycodone. In fact, mixing the two substances, even accidentally, may cost someone their life. Fortunately, there are options for rehab available to anyone who is struggling with co-occurring addiction to alcohol and oxycodone. 

What Is Oxycodone?

Oxycodone is an opioid, a chemical substance that pharmaceutical companies use to manufacture a variety of medications for pain relief and anesthesia. Oxycodone is the primary ingredient in the medications OxyContin, Percocet, and Roxicodone. In the United States, it is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance. This means that it has medical value yet poses high risks for addiction and abuse. It is illegal to use or possess oxycodone without a prescription.

When used correctly, medications like OxyContin can help people manage their pain. Nevertheless, the effects of oxycodone often entice people to abuse the drug. Like any opioid, oxycodone stimulates the opioid receptors in the brain and nervous system and causes the body to release dopamine, a neurotransmitter which stops sensations of pain and causes relaxation. This effect is so powerful that people sometimes begin to develop an addiction to oxycodone after using it only once. People who develop such an addiction abuse the drug by taking it beyond the limits of their prescription or by taking illegal oxycodone pills which they purchased from drug traffickers. Oxycodone pills are sometimes called “oxys” or “percs” when they are sold as street drugs. Oxycodone is dangerous because it slows breathing. When someone overdoses on the drug, they may suffer lethal respiratory failure.

How Oxycodone Reacts With Alcohol

Mixing Alcohol and Oxycodone Can Result In Respiratory FailureCombining alcohol with oxycodone is highly dangerous. Like opioid painkillers, alcohol is a depressant. Alcohol slows down a person’s breathing and heart rate. When alcohol mixes with oxycodone in the body’s systems, the effects on a person’s ability to breathe can be overwhelming. In fact, a combination of alcohol and oxycodone is likely to cause a condition called respiratory depression, which is characterized by minimal breathing or no breathing at all. This is a form of suffocation. If left untreated, respiratory depression can quickly cause brain damage and ultimately cause someone to die.

Researchers have determined that drinking even a moderate amount of alcohol along with taking just one oxycodone pill is enough to risk respiratory depression. Studies have also shown that the elderly are more vulnerable to having a fatal oxycodone overdose after drinking alcohol. The combination of the two drugs also endangers the heart. Since they are depressants, alcohol and oxycodone both slow down a person’s heart rate. For this reason, mixing alcohol and oxycodone may cause a stroke or a heart attack.

Since neither alcohol nor oxycodone (as prescribed medication) are illegal, it’s easy for normal, law-abiding people who have no experience with using drugs to take them both in a single day, possibly without understanding how dangerous they are together. Someone doesn’t even have to be an alcoholic or a drug addict to be at risk for an oxycodone overdose, nor do they have to take alcohol and oxycodone at precisely the same time. Someone just needs to have a Percocet prescription and one or two glasses of wine with dinner to unknowingly risk respiratory depression. Anyone who has a prescription for an oxycodone-based medication should avoid alcohol completely.

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Alcoholism and Oxycodone Abuse as Co-Occurring Disorders

It is possible for someone to be addicted to alcohol and to also have an addiction to oxycodone. Someone who lives with addiction to two or more substances suffers from co-occurring disorders. In many cases, co-occurring alcoholism and drug addiction may exist for years and inflict major consequences on someone’s health and wellbeing. However, co-occurring alcoholism and oxycodone addiction could quickly become a lethal condition. Since the combined effects of the two substances are likely to cause a medical emergency, anyone who is addicted to both of them and uses them together will almost eventually experience respiratory depression or have a heart attack.

For this reason, if someone has an addiction to alcohol and then starts to use oxycodone, either as a prescription medication or as an illegal drug, it is absolutely crucial that they find treatment for their alcohol use disorder. Moreover, if someone has co-occurring addictions to both substances, they should seek treatment for both disorders.

How to Find Treatment

You shouldn’t wait for the combination of alcohol and oxycodone to take your life or the life of someone you know. If this article resonated with you because you or someone you know is using these two drugs, take action today, and contact a dedicated treatment professional to get more information on the options for treatment and where to go to get help. Many recovery centers offer programs for treating alcohol abuse, opioid addiction, or both together. Detox, medication, and therapy are some great ways to start a successful recovery from alcohol and oxycodone addiction.

  • Author — Last Edited: August 21, 2019
    Photo of Nathan Yerby
    Nathan Yerby
    Nathan Yerby is a writer and researcher who has two Bachelor's degrees from the University of Central Florida. Nathan wants to help people who are struggling with substance abuse find the treatment that they need to improve their lives.
  • Medical Reviewer — Last Reveiwed: July 10, 2019
    Photo of David Hampton
    David Hampton

    All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a CERTIFIED ADDICTION PROFESSIONAL.

    Learn more about David Hampton

  • Sources

    American Society of Anesthesiologists. (2017). Mixing Opioids and Alcohol May Increase Likelihood of Dangerous Respiratory Complication, Especially in the Elderly, Study Finds. Retrieved on May 21, 2019, from https://www.asahq.org/about-asa/newsroom/news-releases/2017/02/mixing-opioids-and-alcohol-may-increase-likelihood-of-dangerous-respiratory-complication

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Prescription Opioid Data. Retrieved on May 21, 2019, from https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/prescribing.html

    Drug Policy Alliance. (n.d.). What happens if you mix heroin with alcohol or other drugs? Retrieved on May 21, 2019, from http://www.drugpolicy.org/drug-facts/mixing-heroin-alcohol-drugs

    Klein, J.Z. (2011). Boogaard Died from Alcohol and Drug Mix. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/21/sports/hockey/boogaard-died-from-mix-of-alcohol-and-oxycodone.html

    National Institute on Drug Abuse. (revised 2018). Prescription Opioids. Retrieved on May 21, 2019, from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/prescription-opioids

    Nierenberg, C. (2013). How 8 Common Medications Interact with Alcohol. LiveScience. Retrieved on May 21, 2019, from https://www.livescience.com/41481-how-common-medications-interact-alcohol.html

    Seladi-Schulman, J. (n.d.). Oxycodone and Alcohol: A Potentially Lethal Combination. Healthline. Retrieved on May 21, 2019, from https://www.healthline.com/health/addiction/oxycodone-and-alcohol

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