Binge Drinking and Opioid Abuse: Why It is a Dangerous Combination

Binge Drinking and Opioid Abuse

Binge Drinking and Opioid Abuse: Why It is a Dangerous Combination

The CDC reports that people who binge drink are twice as likely to abuse opioids than non-drinkers.  To put it another way, of the 4 million American opioid abusers, more than half of them also binge drink.  Simultaneous binge drinking and opioid abuse is a bad combination because both substances are central nervous system depressants.  This means that using both substances at the same time can result in respiratory depression and death.

Dr. Robert Redfield, CDC Director, said in a news release, “We are losing far too many Americans each day from overdoses. Combining alcohol and opioids can significantly increase the risk of overdoses and deaths.

Is Binge Drinking and Opioid Abuse on the Rise?

In a survey conducted by the United States National Survey on Drug Use and Health, researchers found that the people who engage in binge drinking and opioid abuse tended to be less educated, have lower incomes, and were about 26 years of age or older.  Among this group, prescription opioid misuse rose as binge drinking increased.

The number of opioid overdose deaths, including all ages and genders, reached 70,237 in 2017.

How many of those deaths involved the combination of alcohol and opioids?

The following statistics may help us get an idea of the scope of this problem:

  • 26.9% of people 18 years of age or older report that they engage in binge drinking.
  • 12.1% of undergraduate students use prescription drugs and alcohol at the same time.
  • Every day, 6 people die from alcohol poisoning.
  • More than 130 people die each day after overdosing on opioids.
  • Overdose deaths involving opioids were 5 times higher in 2017 than in 1999.

Statistics provided by the CDC show that the drug overdose death rate has steadily increased since 1999.

Why Do People Combine Dangerous Substances?

Many individuals mix alcohol and opioids because they want to enhance the effects of the substances.  But, they fail to realize that even a small amount of alcohol with one oxycodone table can increase the risk of respiratory depression.  With more than 2 million Americans abusing opioids, it’s easy to imagine a large percentage of them also drink alcohol.

Another reason why so many people combine dangerous substances may have to do with lack of knowledge.  It’s possible they aren’t aware of the potential drug interactions, and inadvertently drink alcohol after taking a prescription medication.

Unfortunately, some individuals are victims of another person who wishes to commit sexual assault or robbery.  The perpetrator uses drugs to lace the person’s alcoholic beverage to render the person incapable of defending themselves.

The drugs that are most commonly used in combination with alcohol include:

  • Opiates:  Vicodin, OxyContin, Tylenol 3 w/ Codeine, Percocet
  • Stimulants:  Adderall, Ritalin, Concerta
  • Sedatives:  Valium, Xanax, Ativan
  • Sleep Aids:  Restoril, Ambien, Halcion

Of course, many illicit drugs are used in combination with alcohol such as cocaine, heroin, marijuana, Ecstasy, meth, and more.

What are the Side Effects of Combining Opioids and Alcohol?

A prescription for opioids is accompanied by a strong warning against using alcohol while taking the medication.  It’s important to note that the elderly are more susceptible to adverse reactions.

The possibility of adverse interactions is well documented and can include such side effects as:

  • Drowsiness, inability to communicate
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Nausea and vomiting, dehydration
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Loss of coordination, dizziness
  • Abnormal behavior, disinhibition
  • Respiratory arrest
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Coma

When a person combines alcohol and opioids, these side effects are warning signs.  If left untreated, the effects escalate into severely depressed breathing, which can lead to coma or death.

Don’t Become a Statistic: We Can Help

If you or a loved one is struggling to beat binge drinking and opioid abuse, please contact us at Behavioral Rehabilitation Services today.  Our programs are designed to help people who have polydrug addictions.


drugabuse.govOverdose Death Rates

cdc.govPrescription Opioid Data

cdc.govDrug Overdose Deaths in the United States, 1999-2017

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