The Dangers of Mixing Vicodin and Alcohol

October 8, 2021
Vicodin and alcohol | gratitude lodge

Mixing Vicodin with alcohol can be dangerous and cause damage to vital organs in your body and even put you at a greater risk of developing a substance use disorder. Alcohol and Vicodin have similar negative side effects that can cause more significant damage when combined. 

Even if you take Vicodin as prescribed by your physician, follow any warnings regarding alcohol use while on Vicodin and other prescription opioids.

Is Vicodin an Opioid?

Vicodin is a brand-name medication used to treat moderate to severe pain. This pain reliever works by combining two drugs into one pill: hydrocodone and acetaminophen.

Hydrocodone is an opioid, which means that this medication binds to the opioid receptors in the brain to reduce feelings of pain. Opioids carry the risk of misuse due to their euphoric effects. When you mix Vicodin with alcohol, you might intensify your intoxication and are at a greater risk of developing opioid addiction.

While acetaminophen is a non-opioid pain reliever and is commonly used by many to reduce fever and inflammation, this medicine can cause damage to the liver, especially when used in combination with alcohol.

What Are the Side Effects of Vicodin?

The side effects of Vicodin are a combination of the side effects of both hydrocodone and acetaminophen.

According to MedlinePlus, the side effects of hydrocodone include:

  • Stomach and back pain
  • Headache 
  • Tiredness
  • Sleeping problems
  • Dry mouth
  • Tightening of the muscles 
  • Uncontrollable shaking of certain parts of your body

In addition, you might experience more serious side effects, like:

  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing 
  • Chest pain
  • Agitation
  • Confusion
  • Loss of coordination
  • Hallucinations
  • Itching and hives (allergic reactions)
  • Swollen eyes, face, tongue, lips, or throat
  • Sexual issues
  • Irregular menstrual cycle

Acetaminophen is commonly used as an over-the-counter (OTC) medication under the brand name Tylenol. However, MedlinePlus states, “Painkillers and fever reducers that contain acetaminophen are a common cause of liver injury, particularly when taken in doses greater than those recommended. People who drink alcohol to excess are more likely to have this problem.”

Mixing Alcohol and Vicodin Worsens Side Effects

Some side effects of hydrocodone are similar to those of alcohol, such as drowsiness, slowed breathing, impaired coordination, confused thinking, and sleeping issues. When you mix alcohol and Vicodin, you are more likely to experience severe side effects.

Some of these side effects can lead to injury or other bodily harm. The dangers of mixing alcohol and Vicodin can even be deadly if you are elderly or have pre-existing respiratory issues.

In addition to dangerous side effects, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) states, “alcohol can make a medication less effective or even useless, or it may make the medication harmful or toxic to your body.”

If you are taking Vicodin for pain, alcohol can interfere with the effectiveness of your medication. You might take more Vicodin to compensate for a lower response to your prescribed dose while under the influence of alcohol.

Liver Damage From Vicodin and Alcohol

Taking acetaminophen in excess on its own can lead to liver damage. Since acetaminophen is in Vicodin, taking greater doses than prescribed increases your risk of liver damage. Alcohol abuse on its own can also lead to liver damage. By combining the two, you have a greater chance of inflicting severe internal damage.

Risk of Developing Substance Use Disorder

When you combine Vicodin with alcohol, you increase your risk of developing a substance use disorder to either one or both. Both opioid and alcohol use disorders can cause problems in multiple areas of your life. When you mix both, you might need to take more Vicodin to get your prescribed effects.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “Roughly 21 to 29 percent of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them” and “[b]etween 8 and 12 percent of people using an opioid for chronic pain develop an opioid use disorder.”

Since alcohol increases the severity of side effects and might lessen the intended effect of Vicodin, you might misuse Vicodin to combat these issues. When you mix both alcohol and Vicodin, you are at a greater risk of moving onto street drugs like heroin or developing an opioid addiction.

Taking Vicodin as Prescribed

Taking your medications as prescribed is vital to minimize your risk of developing an addiction to Vicodin. Opioids are potent medications that can be dangerous when misused and abused. Always consult your physician if your prescription is no longer effective. 

If you cannot quit drinking when taking Vicodin, talk to your healthcare provider about alternatives. Your healthcare professional can prescribe non-narcotic pain relievers or help you explore other pain management techniques. 

When you have a history of alcohol or substance use disorder, discuss these concerns with your physician if they prescribe Vicodin or other opioids to relieve pain. Even if you have been in recovery for years, prescription opioids can put you at a greater risk of relapse.

Treating Alcohol and Vicodin Abuse in Southern California

Combining prescription Vicodin and alcohol can have serious consequences, including developing a substance use disorder to both. Located near Newport Beach and Long Beach in Southern California, Gratitude Lodge is the perfect place to begin your addiction recovery. Take the first steps in your journey with us.

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