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Combining Opioids and Alcohol: Dangers and Risks

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Combining opioids and alcohol is a dangerous and risky practice that can have serious consequences. Opioids are powerful medications that slow breathing and heart rate, especially when taken in high doses or combined with alcohol.

Mixing these substances increases the risk of overdose, respiratory depression, and even death. It is important to understand the potential dangers of combining opioids and alcohol. Doing so can help people know when to seek help when they are struggling with substance abuse.

Opioid Abuse Statistics

According to the CDC, opioid-related overdose deaths have been steadily increasing since the early 2000s. From 1999-2021, almost 645,000 people died from overdosing on opioids. From 2020 to 2021, overdose death rates of synthetic opioids increased by more than 22%. Furthermore, of the 107,000 drug overdose deaths in 2021, over 75% were from opioids.

Commonly Abused Opioids

Some of the most commonly abused opioids include:

  • Oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet)
  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
  • Codeine
  • Morphine
  • Fentanyl
  • Heroin

Effects of Combining Opioids and Alcohol

Combining opioids and alcohol can have severe and potentially deadly effects on the body. Both substances are central nervous system depressants, meaning they slow down brain activity and can cause respiratory depression. When taken together, the effects of each substance are intensified, leading to a higher risk of overdose.

Both opioids and alcohol can suppress breathing, which can lead to dangerously low oxygen levels in the blood. Combining these substances can impair motor skills, making it dangerous to drive or even walk. Opioids and alcohol both have sedative effects that are heightened when used together, increasing drowsiness and the potential for accidents. Additionally, this combination significantly increases the risk of overdose, which can be fatal.

Risks of Mixing Opioids and Alcohol

The risks of mixing opioids and alcohol include:

  • Alcohol and opioid use disorders
  • Mood swings
  • Aggression and violence
  • Increased risk-taking behaviors
  • Risky sexual behaviors
  • Accidents
  • Respiratory failure
  • Death
  • Financial problems
  • Legal Issue
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Increased self-harm and suicidal behaviors

Fatal and Non-Fatal Overdoses

When opioids and alcohol are mixed, the risk of overdose significantly increases. A fatal overdose occurs when breathing becomes severely depressed or stops altogether. This causes a lack of oxygen to the brain and vital organs.

In non-fatal overdoses, individuals may experience confusion, unconsciousness, extreme drowsiness, unresponsiveness, difficulty breathing, weak pulse, or even seizures. It is crucial for anyone experiencing these symptoms to seek immediate medical attention.

Signs of Opioid Abuse

Some signs of opioid abuse include:

  • Increased tolerance to the drug, requiring higher doses for the same effect
  • Self-medicating and taking opioids in larger amounts than prescribed
  • Withdrawal symptoms when not using opioids
  • Doctor shopping or seeking prescriptions from multiple healthcare providers
  • Changes in behavior, mood swings, and irritability
  • Neglecting responsibilities at work, school, or home
  • Social withdrawal and isolation
  • Financial problems 
  • Lack of personal hygiene
  • Mixing opioids with other substances to enhance their effects
  • Turning to illicit opioids

Effects of Alcohol Abuse

The effects of alcohol abuse can have serious consequences on a person’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Alcohol can cause inflammation (hepatitis), fatty liver disease, cirrhosis, and other conditions that affect the liver’s ability to function properly.

Chronic alcohol abuse can lead to cognitive impairment, memory loss, decreased brain function, and an increased risk of dementia. Excessive drinking can also cause high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and irregular heartbeat.

Additionally, alcohol abuse is linked to depression, anxiety, mood swings, sleep disturbances, and other mood disorders. Another effect of alcohol abuse is it damages relationships with family and friends. People can also struggle with maintaining commitments at work, school, or home. 

There is even an increased risk of accidents and injuries while under the effects of alcohol. Some people will face legal problems and financial issues. Furthermore, alcohol lowers inhibitions, which results in increased risk-taking behaviors and poor decision-making.   

How Long Do Opioids and Alcohol Stay in the System?

The length of time that opioids and alcohol stay in the system varies based on the dosage and frequency of use. Alcohol typically stays in a person’s system for 1 to 2 hours per drink. Opioids, on the other hand, can remain detectable for several days, even after their effects wear off.

Detox Timeframes

The detox timeframes for opioids and alcohol vary based on the frequency and duration of use and dosage taken. 


Acute withdrawal symptoms typically begin within 6 to 12 hours after the last drink. This period lasts for a few days to several weeks. Generally, detox can take between 7 to 10 days. However, it can take longer for those with severe alcohol addiction


The onset of opioid withdrawal symptoms varies depending on the type of opioid used. For short-acting opioids like heroin or oxycodone, symptoms may begin within 6 to 12 hours after the last dose. For longer-lasting opioids like methadone, it may take up to 30 hours. Detox from opioids generally lasts about 1 to 2 weeks. However, chronic opioid use requires an extended detox process lasting between 3 weeks and several months. 


Treatment for opioid and alcohol abuse involves a combination of evidence-based and holistic therapeutic methodologies. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) can also be used when beneficial. A doctor will give the patient the needed medications while minotiring their symptoms.

A personalized treatment plan often includes the following:

Break Free from Opioid and Alcohol Addiction in Murfreesboro, TN Today

Are you ready to discover a brighter future, free from opioids and alcohol? At Tulip Hill in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, our compassionate and caring team is here to help with personalized treatment programs. Our support staff is here to walk alongside you on your recovery journey.

Contact us today to break the cycle of addiction. 

Call us now

Take the next step to your recovery.