Combining alcohol with any other intoxicating substance(s) can be dangerous and lead to unpredictable and possibly harmful side effects. However, using oxycodone, a prescription analgesic, in conjunction with alcohol consumption can result in some unique interactions and risks.
Oxycodone (e.g., OxyContin, Percocet) is an opioid indicated to treat moderate-severe pain and is often combined with acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol), which can offer additional pain relief.
Risks of Combining Oxycodone and Alcohol
When used as prescribed, oxycodone effectively treats pain related to injury, surgery, or illness. Oxycodone is intended for short-term use. Because of its high potential for dependence and addiction, this medication should not be used to treat chronic pain, except in instances involving cancer or end-of-life care.
Because oxycodone enters the bloodstream quickly and effects subside within 4-6 hours, the use of this medication often triggers abuse and addiction. Persons who abuse oxycodone may also consume alcohol in an attempt to amplify the effects of the opioid.
Notably, however, using opioids in combination with alcohol can lead to a life-threatening overdose. In the case of Percocet, which contains acetaminophen, mixing alcohol with this can rapidly lead to liver damage.
Increased Risks of Mixing Percocet and Alcohol
Both oxycodone and alcohol can induce feelings of reward, pleasure, and relaxation. Alcohol compounds the sedative effects of oxycodone, which can be very dangerous, as the individual could pass out, leading to physical injury from a fall. The person could also regurgitate while unresponsive, causing them to choke and aspirate their own vomit.
That said, the most common cause of complications when oxycodone is used in conjunction with alcohol is profound respiratory depression. If this occurs, the person’s breathing will become slow and very shallow, labored, or even stop entirely. This condition leads to oxygen deprivation, and without immediate medical intervention, organs will begin to fail and ultimately result in death.
Symptoms of Oxycodone and Alcohol
The combined effects of oxycodone and alcohol are similar to drinking while using other opioids. Both drugs slow breathing and can lead to extreme drowsiness and impaired coordination. Individuals who abuse alcohol and oxycodone concurrently also exhibit impaired judgment and may be a hazard to themselves and others. Additionally, the presence of opioids lowers a person’s tolerance to alcohol.
A person who is using oxycodone with alcohol may appear as if they are just extremely intoxicated. Still, the two substances amplify one another’s effects and can lead to complications that are much more dangerous than are associated with the use of either alone.
Effects of using oxycodone and alcohol in combination may include the following:
- Impaired concentration
- Low blood pressure
- Liver failure
- Heart attack
- Respiratory depression
- Coma and death
Treatment for Opioid Overdose
Naloxone (Narcan) is a medication essential for treating persons who are experiencing an opioid overdose. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) states that around 115 individuals die of overdoses related to opioids in the United States each day. For this reason and others, first responders and caregivers are increasingly carrying naloxone in case they need to reverse an opioid overdose and save a person’s life.
While naloxone is very effective at reversing opioid overdoses, it may be less useful when other substances are present in a person’s system. Moreover, mixing oxycodone and alcohol can make treating an oxycodone overdose more challenging.
Percocet and Alcohol
As mentioned above, oxycodone is commonly used in combination products that include acetaminophen. In recent years, medical providers have voiced concern over the number of overdoses related to acetaminophen. Although it is difficult to overdose on acetaminophen on its own accidentally, it can be found in several over-the-counter (OTC) medications, and users may not be informed of its dangers.
Not many OTC medications include more than 325 mg of acetaminophen in each recommended dose, and these are spaced out as directed to prevent liver damage or an overdose. When an individual combines medications such as cold and flu drugs with OTC painkillers, they are more likely to ingest more than the suggested maximum of 4,000 mg per day without being aware they are doing so.
Unfortunately, unintentional acetaminophen poisoning can cause severe liver damage or acute liver failure. Alcohol itself is notorious for causing liver disease, so combining excessive amounts of alcohol with acetaminophen can dramatically increase the likelihood that liver damage will be incurred.
Treatment for Oxycodone and Alcohol Abuse
When a person abuses two or more drugs or a drug in conjunction with alcohol, this is referred to as polysubstance abuse. Conditions related to both substances must be treated simultaneously to achieve the best outcome for the affected individual.
Polysubstance abuse is best treated using a multi-faceted approach to addiction that includes evidence-based services essential for long-term recovery, such as behavioral therapy, counseling, group support, experiential activities, mindfulness therapy, and aftercare planning.
Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery centers offers programs that include these services, which are facilitated by highly-skilled health providers and addiction specialists. We are committed to ensuring that each person we treat receives the very best care and support available.