Hydrocodone and Alcohol

If you’re prescribed Vicodin or Lortab, avoid alcohol. Mixing hydrocodone and alcohol can lower heart rate, suppress breathing and cause liver damage. If you are unsure about the dangers of mixing substances, talk to your doctor.
Topics On this page
| | 12 sources

Many people mix drugs to experience a more intense high or to alleviate the effects of one substance by adding another. Using multiple drugs at the same time is particularly common among high school and college students at parties or other social gatherings.

But combining the prescription opioid hydrocodone with alcohol can produce a range of health effects, from drowsiness to severe liver problems. In some cases, drinking while using the medication can lead to death.

Hydrocodone can be found in popular painkiller brands such as Vicodin, Lortab and Lorcet. Do not drink alcohol while using these medications, and ask your doctor about other substances that may interact with hydrocodone.

Physical Effects of Mixing Hydrocodone and Alcohol

Alcohol increases the effects of opioids on the central nervous system, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Consuming painkillers and alcohol together produces sedative effects, causing people to feel extremely tired.

Vicodin, Lortab and Lorcet contain acetaminophen, a substance used to treat minor aches and pains. When mixed with alcohol, acetaminophen breaks down into a toxic product that can lead to liver damage.

Other physical side effects of mixing hydrocodone and alcohol include:

  • Dizziness
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Arrested breathing
  • Unconsciousness
  • Coma

Opioids and alcohol have depressant effects. Sometimes called downers, depressants slow brain activity and reduce anxiety. Combining downers such as hydrocodone and alcohol can inhibit breathing and lower your heart rate, which can be fatal.

Consuming a single Vicodin pill with a small amount of alcohol can result in respiratory depression. A 2017 study published in the journal Anesthesiology found that mixing painkillers and ethanol, the intoxicating ingredient in alcohol, can cause dangerous breathing problems.

Elderly people were most likely to experience respiratory effects after mixing opioids and alcohol, the report found.

Hydrocodone Overdose

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, mixing alcohol with prescription opioids, such as hydrocodone, can also result in overdose. An overdose occurs when someone experiences harmful reactions caused by taking too much of a substance.

A 2014 study published in the journal Postgraduate Medicine stated that alcohol can make extended-release opioids release their entire dose at once. This phenomenon, known as “dose dumping,” can increase the risk for overdose.

An untreated overdose can cause death. If your loved one experiences breathing problems after combining hydrocodone and alcohol, call 911 immediately. Emergency workers may be able to prevent an overdose from resulting in long-term health complications.

Psychological Effects of Mixing Hydrocodone and Alcohol

Hydrocodone and alcohol affect brain function. Each substance releases a neurochemical in the brain called dopamine. But drugs and alcohol can also cause psychological distress. Simultaneously using multiple substances exacerbates these problems.

For example, mixing hydrocodone and alcohol can impair judgment. People who take these substances together have an increased risk for engaging in risky behaviors, such as driving while intoxicated. It is dangerous to operate heavy machinery after consuming alcohol and opioids separately, and it is even more dangerous after consuming them together.

Other physical side effects of mixing hydrocodone and alcohol include:

  • Impaired motor control
  • Memory problems
  • Difficulty concentrating

Researchers in the Postgraduate Medicine study examined the prevalence and consequences of alcohol use among opioid users. They found that many individuals who combined opioids and alcohol felt like they were in a dreamlike trance or not in control of their thoughts.

Talk to Your Teens

In 2018, CNN reported a story about an Indiana mother whose two sons died on the same night. The teens had overdosed after mixing hydrocodone and alcohol at high school graduation parties. The mother said her children had never before been in trouble for drinking or using drugs. One bad choice ended their lives.

Your doctor can explain the consequences of mixing painkillers and alcohol. Then you can present this information to your teens so they might be less likely to simultaneously use these substances.

Alcohol is found in many over-the-counter medicines, including cough syrups. Be sure to read the label of any medication you purchase.

To learn more about the effects of mixing hydrocodone and alcohol, you can also call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s national helpline at 800-662-4357. This 24/7 hotline offers information about prescription opioid abuse and nearby treatment options.

Adolescents experiencing addiction have an increased risk for mixing drugs and alcohol. If your teen is battling hydrocodone addiction, he or she needs treatment. Rehab centers offer evidence-based treatment for various substance abuse problems.

Medical Disclaimer: DrugRehab.com aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

Matt Gonzales
Content Writer, DrugRehab.com
Matt Gonzales is a writer and researcher for DrugRehab.com. He graduated with a degree in journalism from East Carolina University and began his professional writing career in 2011. Matt covers the latest drug trends and shares inspirational stories of people who have overcome addiction. Certified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in health literacy, Matt leverages his experience in addiction research to provide hope to those struggling with substance use disorders.
Kim Borwick, MA
Editor, DrugRehab.com

Was this article helpful?

How helpful would you rate this article?


    DrugRehab.com logo

    Thanks for helping us make our website better for visitors like you!

    View Sources

    Ready to make a change?

    Get cost-effective, quality addiction care that truly works.

    Start Your Recovery
    We're here to help you or your loved one.
    Question mark symbol icon

    Who am I calling?

    Calls will be answered by a qualified admissions representative with Advanced Recovery Systems (ARS), the owners of DrugRehab.com. We look forward to helping you!

    Question mark symbol icon

    Who am I calling?

    Phone calls to treatment center listings not associated with ARS will go directly to those centers. DrugRehab.com and ARS are not responsible for those calls.