Concurrent Alcohol and Opiate Abuse
Prescription opiates are effective in the treatment of pain, but they have the potential to be addictive and, in fact, many people are struggling with an opiate painkiller addiction. In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health, opioids account for the biggest portion of the country's prescription drug abuse problem.
When you combine these substances with alcohol, you increase their effects and the risk of harm and overdose. Alcohol should not be consumed when taking opiates, but combining these drugs is all too common among users.
Alcohol and Opiate Abuse question 1
Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol with Opiates
When you use opiates while drinking alcohol, you deal with a variety of things, from the health effects, to the inability to control your use. All of this is a sign of substance abuse. Here are some common signs and symptoms of opiate and alcohol abuse:
- You begin drinking every time you take opiates, to the point where you refuse to do one without the other.
- You increase the dose of your opiate medication with your doctor due to a higher tolerance to the drug.
- You are taking the medication in a different manner than suggested, such as chewing, injecting or snorting them.
- You no longer have a prescription for opiates, but you continue getting them through other means, while taking them with alcohol.
- You begin associating pleasurable sensations with opiates and alcohol use.
- You know the risks of opiates and alcohol abuse, but use them anyway.
Alcohol and Opiate Abuse question 2
Combined Effects and Dangers
There are short-term and long-term effects that can occur when you take opiates and drink alcohol at the same time. If you have a concurrent alcohol and opiate problem, you might experience short-term effects like:
- An immediate rush sensation of emotions.
- Euphoria and drowsiness.
- Mental confusion and physical effects like nausea or vomiting.
- Poor memory and concentration.
- Slow movement
- Slow rate of breathing.
Long-term effects of taking these two substances include:
- Chronic constipation.
- Irritability and mood swings.
- Needing to increase your usage over time due to tolerance.
- Permanent brain damage.
Alcohol and Opiate Abuse question 3
Treatment for Co-occurring Alcohol and Opiate Addiction
If you are struggling with an addiction to alcohol and opiates, it is important to get treatment for both issues. Someone consistently abusing both substances needs treatment for a co-occurring addiction.
There are rehab centers that offer excellent programs to help you recover from your addiction, beginning with the withdrawal period. This can be the hardest part, but one of the most important. If you can get through the withdrawal symptoms, you have a very good chance at success for the rest of your recovery.
Treatment programs for alcohol and opiate addiction include inpatient and outpatient therapy, though for this type of addiction, inpatient might be best. This means you are staying in a residential treatment facility, where you have around-the-clock care, supervision during the withdrawal period and plenty of support for your addiction.
Alcohol and Opiate Abuse question 4
Statistics on Alcohol and Opiate Use
According to recent statistics , 16.6 million adults in the US had an alcohol use disorder in 2013 and almost 88,000 people die every year from causes involving alcohol use and abuse.
The American Society of Addiction Medicine's 2016 Facts & Figures shows that nearly 2 million people in the nation are suffering from an addiction to prescription painkillers. The study also reports that 4 of 5 new heroin users first abused prescription opiates.
Alcohol and Opiate Abuse question 5
Teen Drinking and Opiate Abuse
Teen drinking and opiate abuse has also risen over the years. Opiate addiction in particular is becoming a problem for teens who are using all types of prescription drugs.
Approximately 10% of teenagers in the United States admit to using Vicodin, one of the most common types of opiates, without having a prescription (DEA, 2012). This doesn’t even mention the use of other opiates, including:
Resources, Articles and More Information
If you are looking for more articles and information on the subject of alcohol and opiates abuse, see the following pages:
- Alcohol Abuse
- The Effects of Opiate Use
- America’s Addiction to Opioids: Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. Prescription Drug Abuse: What are the possible consequences of opioid use and abuse?. November 2014. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/prescription-drugs-abuse-addiction/opioids/what-are-possible-consequences-opioid-use-abuse
- Prescription Drug Abuse: A Fast-Growing Problem. NIH MedlinePlus: the magazine. 2011 Fall; 6(3):21. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/magazine/issues/fall11/articles/fall11pg21.html
- Opioids and Chronic Pain. NIH MedlinePlus: the magazine. 2011 Fall; 6(1):9. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/magazine/issues/spring11/articles/spring11pg9.html
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Substance Use Disorders. October 2015. http://www.samhsa.gov/disorders/substance-use
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Alcohol Use Disorder: A Comparison Between DSM-IV and DSM-5. NIH Publication No. 13-7999. July 2015. http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/dsmfactsheet/dsmfact.pdf
- American Psychiatric Assocation. Opioid Use Disorder Diagnostic Criteria. 2013. http://pcssmat.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/5B-DSM-5-Opioid-Use-Disorder-Diagnostic-Criteria.pdf
- Narconon International. Signs and Symptoms of Prescription Pain Reliever Abuse. February 2016. http://www.narconon.org/drug-abuse/signs-symptoms-pain-relievers.html
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. DrugFacts: Prescription and Over-the-Counter Medications. November 2015. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/prescription-over-counter-medications
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Alcohol Facts and Statistics. March 2015. Data from SAMHSA National Survey on Drug Use and Health. http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-facts-and-statistics
- American Society of Addiction Medicine. February 2016. Data from SAMHSA National Survey on Drug Use and Health. http://www.asam.org/docs/default-source/advocacy/opioid-addiction-disease-facts-figures.pdf
- Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA): How Teens Abuse Medicine (Revised August 2012). Retrieved from http://www.dea.gov/pr/multimedia-library/publications/prescription_for_disaster_english.pdf