October 27, 2023

The Dangers of Mixing Vicodin and Alcohol

vicodin addiction | gratitude lodge

Mixing alcohol and Vicodin can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening. Drinking on Vicodin can cause liver damage and may also increase your risk of developing alcohol use disorder or opioid use disorder.

Vicodin and alcohol effects are very similar, intensifying in presentation when the substances are combined.

Even if you are prescribed Vicodin by your physician for pain management, you should follow guidance concerning alcohol use while taking this powerful prescription opioid.

So can you drink on hydrocodone (Vicodin)?


It is never advisable to drink alcohol when taking an opioid painkiller like Vicodin. Alcohol and Vicodin can be harmful to your health in isolation. When the substances are combined, the negative effects of each are compounded.

Vicodin is a Schedule II controlled substance that contains hydrocodone (an opioid painkiller) and acetaminophen (an ingredient found in many OTC painkillers). While this medication is considered generally safe when used short-term and as prescribed, the associated risks increase sharply if you misuse or abuse the opioid. Like all Schedule II drugs, Vicodin can be addictive and has a strong potential for abuse, magnified when the substance is mixed with alcohol.

Alcohol is a CNS (central nervous system) depressant, slowing brain activity, heart rates, and respiratory rate. Vicodin abuse in isolation may trigger respiratory depression. If Vicodin and alcohol are combined, the effects can be life-threatening.

Mixing Vicodin with alcohol also raises the risk of liver damage as both substances are potentially toxic to the liver.

Taking too much acetaminophen may cause liver damage, and sustained alcohol abuse is also associated with liver damage. It is never recommended to mix alcohol and Vicodin, as hydrocodone and alcohol are a dangerous combination. This can also happen when mixing alcohol with Tylenol or other drugs.

Now that we’ve answered, can you drink alcohol while taking hydrocodone, let’s look at the interactions of mixing alcohol and Vicodin. 


Many adverse effects can occur when Vicodin and alcohol are used together. 

Vicodin contains acetaminophen, damaging to the liver in large amounts. Alcohol is also a hepatotoxic agent, lowering the threshold of acetaminophen toxicity. The concurrent use of these substances will significantly heighten the risk of liver damage.

Apart from liver toxicity, other potentially harmful effects of mixing Vicodin and alcohol include:

    • Cirrhosis
    • Fatty liver
    • Alcoholic hepatitis
    • Cardiovascular complications
    • Hepatic cancer
    • High blood pressure
    • Arrhythmias
    • Stroke
    • Heart attack
    • Cardiomyopathy
    • Cancer (breast, liver, throat, mouth, esophagus
    • Sleep apnea
    • Bone fractures

    Beyond this, impaired decision-making and issues with behavioral regulation may lead to accidental injuries in those combining Vicodin and alcohol.

    These combined effects may be deadly, making Vicodin and alcohol one of the most dangerous combinations of addictive substances.

    guy looks out on scenery representing alcohol and vicodin


    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.

    Let’s now look at the effects of mixing hydrocodone with alcohol. 


    Combining Vicodin with alcohol can trigger side effects such as:

    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Dehydration
    • Raised blood pressure levels
    • Irregular heart rate
    • Cardiovascular instability
    • Dizziness
    • Loss of coordination
    • Marked disinhibition
    • Abnormal behaviors
    • Loss of consciousness
    • Respiratory arrest
    • Coma

    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, if you mix alcohol and Vicodin 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.”


    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.


    Both Vicodin and alcohol can cause respiratory depression. This risk of magnified when the substances are combined.

    If a Vicodin and alcohol overdose involves respiratory depression, this should be treated as a medical emergency. Breathing will slow and may stop completely.

    Naloxone is an FDA-approved medication that may reverse the effects of opioid overdose. If you or a loved one are suffering from an overdose, this is the medication that should be administered. 

    Call 911 if you or someone you know is experiencing an overdose after combining alcohol and Vicodin. It is extremely dangerous to simply ride out the symptoms at home, and immediate hospitalization and professional help is important to receive. 


    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.

    These two substances create a dangerous situation for your liver, especially if you already suffer from liver issues. By combining the two, you have a greater chance of inflicting severe internal damage.


    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 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.

    An image of gratitude lodge, representing Benzodiazepine addiction treatment newport beach


    If you have been abusing alcohol and Vicodin, we can help you fight back here at Gratitude Lodge in Orange County. Both alcohol use disorder and opioid use disorder respond favorably to MAT (medication-assisted treatment). This can help streamline detox if you find yourself unable to stop drinking on hydrocodone (Vicodin). Take advantage of our supervised medical detox programs in the following locations in Southern California:


    • Newport Beach
    • San Diego
    • Long Beach

    After a week or so of detox, you can move directly into ongoing treatment to address the psychological component of alcoholism and opioid addiction. Choose from the following programs:


    • 30-day inpatient program
    • Intensive outpatient program
    • Dual diagnosis treatment program

    All treatment programs at Gratitude Lodge combine science-backed and holistic therapies that may include:

    • Psychotherapy
    • MAT (medication-assisted treatment
    • Individual counseling
    • Group therapy
    • Family therapy
    • Holistic therapies
    • Aftercare (relapse prevention)

    Getting help for you or a loved one is only one call away. When you are committed to moving beyond alcoholism and opioid addiction, let us help you every step of the way at Gratitude Lodge. Call admissions today at 800-994-2184.


    What happens when you mix alcohol and Vicodin?

    Mixing Vicodin and alcohol can be dangerous and possibly life-threatening. Combining these substances may cause liver damage and may increase the risk of developing addiction to either or both substances. Mixing alcohol and Vicodin also heightens the risk of overdose.

    What painkillers cannot mix with alcohol?

    It is generally unsafe to mix alcohol with painkillers. Doing so can increase the risk of dangerous side effects and health complications. That said, some painkillers are especially dangerous to mix with alcohol. Mixing acetaminophen with alcohol can increase the risk of liver damage, as both substances are processed by the liver. Combining alcohol and NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) increases the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding. Examples of NSAIDs include naproxen, ibuprofen, and aspirin. Opioids like Vicodin and OxyContin can lead to respiratory depression and a heightened risk of overdose when combined with alcohol. Mixing alcohol with muscle relaxants like carisoprodol or cyclobenzaprine can increase the risk of dizziness, drowsiness, and impaired coordination.

    Can you have painkillers with alcohol?

    It is generally not recommended to combine painkillers with alcohol, as this can increase the risk of serious side effects. Alcohol can interact with painkillers in a variety of ways, depending on the type of medication.

    How long after drinking can I take painkillers?

    You should wait at least a few hours after drinking alcohol before taking painkillers. Avoid combining alcohol and painkillers if possible.

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