What Are the Risks of Combining Hydrocodone and Alcohol?

T. Broderick

There are many risks associated with combining hydrocodone and alcohol. These two drugs are depressants, meaning that they slow down the central nervous system (CNS). Taking them together increases the effects of both drugs. Overdose and death become more likely. One should discuss his or her alcohol use with a physician before starting treatment with hydrocodone.

Mixing alcohol with hydrocodone may have fatal consequences.
Mixing alcohol with hydrocodone may have fatal consequences.

Hydrocodone and alcohol are depressant drugs. In alcoholic beverages, ethanol produces this effect. Hydrocodone, an opium derivative, is much stronger and intended as a pain killer. In taking either drug, central nervous system processes slow down, creating a variety of effects: muscle relaxation, slurred speech, cognitive impairment, sedation and depression, just to name a few. Simultaneously taking two depressants is a potentially fatal combination.

Taking alcohol with hydrocodone will interfere with the medicinal affect of the medication.
Taking alcohol with hydrocodone will interfere with the medicinal affect of the medication.

Medically speaking, alcohol is a contraindication for hydrocodone. This means that alcohol interferes with the intended medicinal affect of hydrocodone. Though some unintended drug combinations can cancel out the effects of medication, mixing these substances does the opposite.

Drinking alcohol while taking depressants can cause dangerous side effects.
Drinking alcohol while taking depressants can cause dangerous side effects.

Depressants, when mixed, have an exponentially greater affect on the body rather than just the sum effects of the two drugs separately. Individuals who combine both drugs fall into a trap by believing that taking hydrocodone and alcohol together will not affect them too greatly. Yet when the drugs are combined in the human body, the affects are generally double of what one expects. This unsafe drug combination can easily lead to overdose.

Hydrocodone is a painkiller that can cause lethargy and sluggishness.
Hydrocodone is a painkiller that can cause lethargy and sluggishness.

An overdose of hydrocodone and alcohol presents with symptoms associated with an overdose of either drug taken on its own. A person may fall into a deep sleep and become unresponsive; also, the pupils may become very small. These effects generally occur within the first few minutes of combining these two substances. The most dangerous symptom, though, is that a person may have trouble breathing or completely stop breathing. Immediate medical attention is necessary if any of these symptoms appear.

Due to the possibly fatal consequences of mixing hydrocodone and alcohol, it is necessary to discuss one's alcohol use with a physician before starting hydrocodone treatment for pain management. If one drinks heavily, a physician may require that one stop all alcohol consumption for a period of time before he or she will prescribe hydrocodone. In some cases a physician may recommend that one enter an alcohol treatment program. For patients, it is important to remember that being truthful with one's physician concerning alcohol use can avoid a life-threatening drug combination.

Hydrocodone can be found in some brands of cough medicine.
Hydrocodone can be found in some brands of cough medicine.

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Discussion Comments

burcidi

@fify-- I combined hydrocodone with alcohol once. I've never been so sick my whole life. I vomited all night and had the worst hangover the next day. It took me two days of bed rest and lots of water to get back on my feet.

It's not worth it really. It's just going to make you nauseated. You won't enjoy the alcohol or the company in that state. Just wait till you finish your medication.

literally45

@fify-- Have you asked your doctor? Your doctor is the best person to ask about hydrocodone and alcohol interaction.

I'm on this medication right now too, at a higher dose than you are and my doctor told me not to drink. He said it will mess up my liver and I surely don't want to do that.

2.5mg doesn't sound like a lot but hydrocodone is a strong drug. Even a small dose can do a lot depending on how the individual tolerates medications.

fify

I'm on a very low dose of hydrocodone-- just 2.5mg daily. Would anything happen if I had a few beers?

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