Alcohol and Vicodin can both be harmful to your health, but when used together, the negative effects can build upon each other. Vicodin, which contains hydrocodone and acetaminophen, is a prescription opioid used to manage a number of acute pain issues. Its risks are minimized when taken exactly as prescribed. These risks, however, may skyrocket when the opioid painkiller is misused or abused.
Vicodin, like heroin and other painkillers, can elicit an extremely pleasant euphoria and sense of relaxation in addition to pain relief—this combination of effects lead some to problematic patterns of use and subsequent addiction.
Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, which means that it slows down brain activity, as well as heart and respiratory rate. Vicodin abuse alone can result in respiratory depression. When combined with alcohol, the effects can potentially be fatal.
Signs and Symptoms
Both alcohol and Vicodin can cause respiratory depression independently, but when they’re combined, the chance of an overdose increases greatly.
Alcohol and Vicodin each have depressant effects on a user’s breathing. When taken together, these effects amplify and increase the risk of overdose. It’s extremely dangerous to mix these substances, even in small doses.
Some common signs and symptoms in a person abusing both alcohol and Vicodin include:
- Slurred speech.
- Memory problems.
- Trouble concentrating.
- Euphoria followed by apathy.
- Impaired judgment.
- Constricted pupils.
- Slow movements.
- Increase in risk-taking behavior.
- Unsteady gait.
- Uncontrolled eye movements.
- Inappropriate sexual behavior.
- Impaired judgment and social functioning.
- Mood swings.
- Difficulties in sexual functioning.
- Men may have erectile dysfunction.
- Women may have irregular menses.
If you are concerned about concurrent alcohol and Vicodin abuse in yourself or in someone close to you, help is available. Call 1-888-744-0069 to discuss treatment options with a caring recovery support advisor.
Vicodin and Alcohol: Combined Effects
There are many detrimental effects that can occur when alcohol and Vicodin are used together. Vicodin contains acetaminophen, which can damage the liver when taken in large amounts. Alcohol – also a hepatotoxic agent – lowers the threshold at which acetaminophen toxicity may occurs. Concurrent use of this opioid painkiller and alcohol will increase the risk of liver damage significantly.
Liver toxicity isn’t the only health concern with this potentially deadly combination. The harmful effects of mixing Vicodin and alcohol also include:
Potential Alcohol/Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms
- Muscle aches.
- Goose bumps.
- Hand tremors.
- Slow movements.
- Liver problems:
- Hepatic cancer.
- Alcoholic hepatitis.
- Fatty liver.
- Cardiovascular problems:
- High blood pressure.
- Cardiac arrest.
- Breathing difficulties during sleep.
- Bone fractures.
- Endocrine (hormone) disruption.
- Impaired decision-making and behavioral regulation, potentially leading to accidental injury.
These combined effects can be fatal, and each patient reacts differently to the mix of Vicodin and alcohol. Most doctors prescribing Vicodin recommend that their patients avoid alcohol altogether because the potential mix is extremely dangerous to experiment with.
Treatment for Co-occurring Alcohol and Vicodin Addiction
There are several national and local rehab programs for concurrent alcohol and Vicodin addictions. Patients suffering from these addictions may seek help at either an inpatient rehab facility or an outpatient treatment program. These facilities treat patients for a set duration — usually 30, 60 or 90 days.
Patients progress through the programs at their own pace and get the structured help that they need in order to get sober and stay clean. Inpatient rehab programs require that patients reside at the facility location for the duration of treatment. Outpatient programs offer care and therapy during the day but allow the patient to live at home during the course of treatment. An addiction treatment support specialist can help you decide which type of program will work best for you, just give us a call at 1-888-744-0069 .
Ethanol (alcohol) is abused at a higher rate than any other drug among treatment program attendees, as reported by a 2017 survey from Recovery Brands. Nearly 70% of people who took the survey went to treatment to get help with a drinking problem, and a surprising 52.87% of those who responded reported seeking treatment for a problem with alcohol more than any other substance. No matter how many substances of abuse there are, the one that causes the most extensive harm is ethanol.
Fortunately, alcohol abuse treatment is only a phone call away. Speak with our recovery support specialists at 1-888-744-0069 to start working toward recovery.
Statistics for Alcohol and Vicodin
Nearly a quarter of opioid painkiller overdoses involve concurrent alcohol use.
— Centers for Disease Control
- In almost 19% of prescription opioid emergency department visits, the patient had also used alcohol, per the CDC.
- An estimated 20% of those with an addiction to alcohol actually get treatment (Conner, Haber, & Hall, 2015).
- According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), more than 2 million people in the U.S. are addicted to an opioid painkiller.
- In 2010, 14% of those who were addicted to opioid painkillers also used heroin, per NIDA.
- The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that over 4 million people in the United States abused prescription opioids in the past month
Teen Drinking and Vicodin Abuse
Nearly 8% of adolescents from 8th to 12th grade have reportedly abused Vicodin, according to NIDA. With the common perception among young people that prescription drugs like Vicodin aren’t as addictive or dangerous as illegal drugs, teens are particularly at risk for developing an addiction. This is why it is vital that teens be educated on the physical and psychological effects of Vicodin.
Education on the dangers of alcohol abuse is equally paramount. In the United States, alcohol is the most common substance used by teens. The CDC found that more than 4,000 underage deaths are caused by alcohol each year. Among underage people who consume alcohol, 90% of the drinking behaviors are considered binge drinking. Add Vicodin to the mix and young people sharply increase their risk for overdose.
Alcohol and Vicodin abuse continues to be a major issue amongst adolescents despite the known consequences. Teens who drink alcohol are more likely to suffer from interpersonal, school, and social problems, as well as car accidents associated with alcohol consumption. NIDA states that this population is also more likely to abuse other drugs, which increases the chances of adverse or fatal effects.
Resources, Articles and More Information
If you or someone you know is suffering from alcohol or Vicodin abuse, help is available. If you are looking to take those first steps toward getting sober, then give us a call at 1-888-744-0069 . You will speak with a treatment support specialist who can help you find the best recovery center for you.
For further reading on alcohol and Vicodin, please see:
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- Alcohol and the Brain. (n.d.). Retrieved January 18, 2016, from http://mapi.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/saywhen/know-the-facts/how-alcohol-works-alcohol-and-the-brain
- Alcohol Involvement in Opioid Pain Reliever and Benzodiazepine Drug Abuse–Related Emergency Department Visits and Drug-Related Deaths — United States, 2010. (2014, October 10). Retrieved January 19, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6340a1.htm
- Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5 (Vol. 5). (2013). Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association.
- Baldini, A., Korff, M., & Lin, E. (2012). A Review of Potential Adverse Effects of Long-Term Opioid Therapy. The Primary Care Companion For CNS Disorders Prim. Care Companion CNS Disord., 14(3).
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- Prescription and Over-the-Counter Medications. (2015, November). Retrieved January 27, 2016, from http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/prescription-over-counter-medications
- Connor JP, Haber PS, Hall WD. Alcohol use disorders. Lancet 2015 [Epub ahead of print].
- Abuse of Prescription Pain Medications Risks Heroin Use. (2014, January). Retrieved January 27, 2016, from http://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/infographics/abuse-prescription-pain-medications-risks-heroin-use
- (2015, October 30). Retrieved January 27, 2016, from http://www.samhsa.gov/atod/opioids
- Prescription Pain Medications (Opioids). (2016, January 15). Retrieved January 27, 2016, from https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/opioids-and-pain-relievers
- Fact Sheets – Underage Drinking. (2015, November 12). Retrieved January 27, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/underage-drinking.htm