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Concurrent Alcohol and Methadone Abuse

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It’s important to know the facts about drinking and methadone. Alcohol and methadone can both cause a range of profound effects and both substances have the potential to cause addiction. Combining these two substances can be even more devastating and may lead to death.

Alcohol generally is not a dangerous substance when consumed with responsibility and moderation. However, when the substance is abused and consumed in excess, alcohol can lead to dangerous physical and cognitive problems. Long-term addictive consumption of alcohol can also cause damage to the body and brain, especially to memory and liver function.

Methadone is a prescription drug used to assist individuals with heroin withdrawal. It is not a recreational substance and should not be used unless you have a prescription. Methadone is also occasionally prescribed as a pain reliever, and it is important to work with a doctor in determining the appropriate dosage to avoid the potential for overdose.

Signs and Symptoms

Alcohol and methadone abuse each come with specific signs and symptoms. However, when used together, some of these symptoms can overlap and become worse and more obvious over time, even if they were initially difficult to detect.


Signs and symptoms of over-consumption of alcohol include:

  • Slurred speech.
  • Balance problems.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Loss of consciousness.


Methadone abusers also may appear drowsy and complain of:

  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Headaches.
  • Lack of appetite.

When a person has overdosed or taken a dangerous amount of methadone, they may appear confused, have an irregular heartbeat and complain of chest pain or dizziness. They may also have difficulty breathing.

Due to the chemical imbalances that the abuse of methadone and alcohol can create, these individuals may appear to have dramatic mood swings.

The similarities between the effects of alcohol and methadone overdose can mean that it is difficult to determine what substance an individual is abusing, or how much they have consumed. This can lead to dangerous overdoses and a lack of proper medical attention.

Combined Effects of Methadone and Alcohol Abuse

Using methadone and alcohol together is particularly dangerous because of the interactions between the two substances. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), when used at the same time, alcohol can increase the risk of experiencing serious and life-threatening side effects from methadone.

Using alcohol and methadone together can create health concerns that are more severe based on the combined use of these two substances. Individuals who mix methadone and alcohol may be more likely to experience:

  • Respiratory depression.
  • Irregular heartbeat.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Coma.

Treatment for Co-occurring Alcohol and Methadone Addiction

One study showed that 20 – 50% of all methadone users in the United States also display alcohol-related problems.

support-group-listening-to-fellow-peersGenerally, treatment for co-occurring methadone and alcohol abuse is some form of rehabilitation. This could occur in an inpatient, residential rehabilitation, where individuals live together and focus on withdrawal and maintaining sobriety.

Alternatively, an individual who does not feel the need for residential treatment can begin the recovery process through addiction counseling, therapy and group meetings with other individuals with past addiction histories. Individuals who are new to sobriety often will be paired with another group member who has been in recovery for several months or years. This mentor can help a newly sober individual learn to live without alcohol and methadone and talk through difficult situations that otherwise could lead to a relapse.

Treatment for abuse of any one substance should include any other substances an individual is abusing, as well. Rehab centers and rehab programs will generally be able to assist with multi-substance withdrawal and recovery.


Using methadone and alcohol improperly can cause devastating results. Methadone, in particular, is easy to take in excess, as it can lead to a euphoric high that users will try to repeat. Methadone abusers often take doses of the long-lasting medication too close together, in order to feel a greater high.

According to Narconon, thousands of individuals suffer accidental deaths due to taking too many doses of methadone too close together. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 88,000 individuals in the United States die each year due to excessive alcohol use.

Teen Drinking and Methadone Abuse


Underage drinking is a widespread public health concern because alcohol is the most commonly abused drug among youth and increases the risk of using other drugs. Not only do underage drinkers have greater difficulty regulating the amount of alcohol that they drink, but they also may have more serious consequences from over­consumption of alcohol. Brain development continues into the mid-­20s, and continued abuse of substances can permanently affect a teen’s neurological functioning.

Using methadone with alcohol is just as dangerous for teens. The risk of overdose is higher, since teens may be less likely to seek treatment for an overdose. The long-term health risks of taking high doses of prescribed narcotics can also be devastating to brain development.

Resources, Articles and More Information

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