The Dangers of Mixing Prescription Drugs with Alcohol

prescription drugs alcohol addiction

If you’ve ever picked up a prescription for a drug store then there’s a pretty good chance that you have been told by either a pharmacist or a pharmacy tech that mixing prescription drugs with alcohol is bad. In fact, the instruction to not mix prescription drugs with alcohol is so common that most people don’t even think twice about it. They just acknowledge it and move on. However, there’s a reason they say it. Depending on the drug, mixing prescription drugs with alcohol can actually be quite dangerous and can do significant damage to the body, including your organs and brain. 

In this blog, we will take a look at some of the dangers of mixing prescription drugs and alcohol including how doing so can lead to substance abuse and addiction. We will also talk about how you can get help should a substance abuse problem develop as a result of mixing your prescription drugs with alcohol.

What Is A Prescription Drug?

Simply put, a prescription drug is any substance that requires a doctor’s prescription in order to maintain. In some cases, you can get a similar product or even the same product at a lower dosage over-the-counter. However, in order for that substance to be “prescription strength”  it has to be obtained via a doctor’s prescription and filled by a pharmacy. Common forms of prescription drugs include:

  • Painkillers
  • Depressants
  • Stimulants
  • Benzos

What makes a prescription drug a prescription drug is that it serves a specific purpose that has been prescribed for that very reason such as to treat pains and aches or to address more significant problems like mental health issues. When used as medically directed, prescription drugs are incredibly valuable and can help make life easier and more comfortable for the person that is taking it. 

Unfortunately, however, not everyone who is prescribed drugs uses them only as medically directed. As a result, doctors don’t hand out prescriptions for certain medications as frequently as they used to. Not just because there is a tendency for them to be used in ways other than direction, but also, like in the case of painkillers, they can be highly addictive even if taken as medically directed. This can lead people to develop a dependency or even addiction to them.

What Is The Issue With Mixing Prescription Drugs With Alcohol?

Before you even receive the prescription from your doctor to take to the pharmacy, he or she will probably share with you some of the side effects that you might experience after taking the drug that you are being prescribed. If you watch enough tv, you have probably seen those drug commercials where the list of side effects might seem like it is never-ending. 

Some of these side effects can be extreme enough that you have to be careful what you are doing when you are on a drug due to side effects such as drowsiness or loss of coordination. Prescription drug side effects can be even more serious and cause health problems such as changes in blood pressure, damage to the liver or other organs, and heart problems. 

Some of those side effects are extreme enough on their own. Now consider the common side effects associated with drinking alcohol. Mix the possible side effects of alcohol and prescription drugs together and you could end up with a ticking time bomb of very serious and dangerous side effects. Not only that, but in the case of certain medications, drinking can actually make the drug you are taking less effective. That means that you then have to take more of it than what is advised by your doctor. Or, if that’s not an option, you are taking a medication for a specific ailment and it’s not working. 

What Drugs Are the Worst To Mix with Alcohol?

While the list of prescription drugs is extensive, there are some that are particularly more dangerous to mix with alcohol than others. Here are some of the worst prescription drugs to mix with alcohol.

Antibiotics

As we touched on above, mixing prescription drugs with alcohol can cause the medications to be less effective or render them completely ineffective. For example, this can happen when mixing alcohol with antibiotics. Since an antibiotic is typically prescribed to treat a serious health issue such as an infection or illness, rendering an antibiotic useless with alcohol can be particularly concerning. On top of that, mixing alcohol with antibiotics can lead to additional health problems in addition to whatever the antibiotic is supposed to be treating including changes in blood pressure, a rapid heartbeat, and liver damage.

Allergy Medications

On their own, allergy medications can oftentimes cause drowsiness or dizziness. It’s why many allergy medication companies tell you not to drive or operate heavy machinery while taking their medications. Another substance that often leads to drowsiness or dizziness is alcohol. Thus, mixing the two can lead to extreme dizziness or drowsiness which can result in loss of consciousness or impaired judgment. 

Cholesterol Drugs

These days cholesterol medications are becoming more and more commonly prescribed to people. While they do a good job of helping people fight cholesterol issues, they come with their own sometimes serious side effects including liver damage, itching, stomach bleeding, and flushing. Some of these side effects, such as liver damage can also occur with alcohol. Thus, drinking while taking cholesterol medication can make the side effects associated with cholesterol medication more severe and cause even more damage to the liver.

Diabetes Medicine

For someone who is suffering from diabetes, drinking alcohol can affect their blood sugar levels. Considering the entire reason they are on diabetes medication is to regulate those blood sugar levels, that is less than ideal. On top of that, mixing the two can lead to headaches, vomiting, nausea, and changes in blood pressure which, in turn, can lead to heart problems.

Anti-Anxiety Drugs

Mixing anti-anxiety medication and alcohol can lead to the following complications:

  • Memory loss
  • Abnormal behavior
  • Slowed breathing
  • Impaired motor control

Blood Thinners

For those taking blood thinners any amount of alcohol, no matter how little, can increase the chances of internal bleeding. As you can imagine, the more you drink the greater the risk. This, in turn, can make the blood thinner less effective. When a blood thinner loses its effectiveness, it can increase the chances of a blood clot forming which can lead to a heart attack or a stroke.

Muscle Relaxers

Muscle relaxers on their own can cause a person to not have complete control over certain motor skills. It can sometimes leave individuals drowsy or inattentive. So can alcohol. Combining the two can result in drowsiness, dizziness, memory loss, slowed or impaired breathing, impaired motor skills, and abnormal behavior.

prescription drugs alcohol

What Are Some of the Dangers of Mixing Prescription Drugs With Alcohol?

As we talked about above, the dangers that come with mixing alcohol and prescription drugs can range from making the prescription drug less effective all the way to the potential of a heart attack or stroke. Even if there isn’t a risk of severe bodily harm or even death, mixing the two can still cause problems that are less than ideal. If the mixing of the two either results in the prescription drug being less effective or causes new issues, that can result in additional drugs needing to be taken, which can then lead to a whole new set of potential side effects. 

Some major medical problems that can arise as a result of mixing prescription drugs with alcohol include:

  • Liver damage
  • Dizziness
  • Heart problems
  • Headaches
  • Fainting
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Internal bleeding
  • Impaired breathing
  • Depression
  • Drowsiness
  • Seizures
  • Trouble sleeping

What Happens If I Develop A Substance Abuse Problem?

If drinking while taking prescription drugs has led to a substance abuse or addiction problem, the good news is there are ways that you can get help addressing those issues. 

Before treatment can begin though, the first thing that needs to be done is you need to go through detox. Detoxing is done in order to rid the body of all the harmful substances in it so that it can begin to heal. Detoxing should be done under the care and supervision of trained medical professionals at either a local medical facility, a dedicated detox center, or a treatment center that also offers detox services like Harmony Place. Attempting to self-detox can be incredibly dangerous and even life-threatening.

After detox has been completed you will meet with a treatment professional to create a custom treatment plan for you and your needs. Whether it is inpatient or outpatient, treatment will largely consist of various therapy and counseling sessions to address what may have led to addiction as well as reprogram the brain so it no longer thinks that it needs those illicit substances anymore. 

Have You Struggled With Mixing Prescription Drugs with Alcohol?

If you or someone you know is struggling from either prescription drug addiction, alcohol addiction, or both, it is important to get help right away. For more information on the treatment programs we offer or to learn more about how we can help you or a loved one, contact us today.