Oxycodone is a potent prescription opioid used to treat moderate to severe pain. When it’s combined with alcohol, it can be deadly.
Jack and Nick Savage were 18 and 19 years old when they attended a house party where oxycodone was being passed around. The Indiana brothers were both found dead the next day in their parents’ home. Toxicology reports revealed the young men had overdosed on oxycodone and alcohol.
The lethal combination also took the life of Derek Boogaard, a professional hockey player for the New York Rangers.
Boogaard’s oxycodone addiction started in 2009, when a doctor prescribed the drug following knee and shoulder surgeries. His use of the substance quickly spun out of control. He was just 28 when he overdosed on a mix of oxycodone and alcohol in 2011.
On its own, oxycodone may cause slow or shallow breathing and make a person sleepy. Mixing the drug with alcohol can cause a person’s heart rate and blood pressure to plummet, and they may stop breathing entirely.
The side effects of combining alcohol and oxycodone may include:
Combining even one oxycodone tablet with a modest amount of alcohol can increase the risk of respiratory depression, according to a 2017 study in the journal Anesthesiology. Elderly people are especially vulnerable to these effects.
On three separate occasions, the researchers gave two dozen volunteers a 20 mg dose of oxycodone and varying amounts of alcohol.
With one oxycodone tablet alone, test subjects’ breathing decreased by 28 percent. Breathing rates dropped by 47 percent after the volunteers received the equivalent of three to five alcoholic drinks in combination with the painkiller.
On at least 11 occasions, the volunteers stopped breathing temporarily. Elderly participants in the study experienced more frequent episodes of suspended breathing, known as apnea.
Mixing oxycodone and Xanax can cause severe sedation, breathing problems, coma and death. People should avoid combining oxycodone products with tranquilizers, muscle relaxers, and antipsychotics and other depressants for the same reasons.
Combining oxycodone and alcohol can cause serious liver damage.
Many formulations of oxycodone, including Tylox and Percocet, contain the non-opioid painkiller acetaminophen. Acetaminophen, which is known by the brand name Tylenol, can cause liver failure if taken in high doses.
Mixing acetaminophen with alcohol increases the risk of liver damage.
Despite the grave dangers, people often combine alcohol and oxycodone. Some individuals mix the two to enhance the high they get from the substances. Others aren’t aware of the danger.
Whatever the reasons, mixing drugs can cause significant harm. The dangerous practice is a contributing factor to the ongoing opioid overdose epidemic.
In 2010, nearly 36,000 people visited emergency departments for an emergency involving oxycodone abuse, according to an analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Close to 20 percent of those patients had also consumed alcohol.
If you or someone you care about is using oxycodone and drinking, know that help is available. Oxycodone withdrawal can bring on severe symptoms, as can alcohol cessation. Detox centers can ease the process by ensuring that you are safe and as comfortable as possible.
Once the substances are out of your system and you’re feeling better, treatment professionals will help you work on conquering your opioid addiction and rebuilding a healthy and drug-free life. It won’t be easy, but opioid addiction treatment has worked for thousands of people addicted to oxycodone and it can work for you.
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