Oxycodone and Alcohol

Oxycodone and alcohol are a deadly combination. Both substances are central nervous system depressants that can slow a person’s breathing or stop it entirely. Some versions of oxycodone also contain acetaminophen, which can cause severe liver damage when mixed with alcohol.
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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.

Side Effects of Mixing Oxycodone and Alcohol

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:

  • Slow or arrested breathing
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of coordination
  • Unusual behavior
  • Memory problems

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.

Liver Damage

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.

How Rehab Can Help

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.

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.

Amy Keller, RN, BSN
Content Writer, DrugRehab.com
As a former journalist and a registered nurse, Amy draws on her clinical experience, compassion and storytelling skills to provide insight into the disease of addiction and treatment options. Amy has completed the American Psychiatric Nurses Association’s course on Effective Treatments for Opioid Use Disorder and continuing education on Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT). Amy is an advocate for patient- and family-centered care. She previously participated in Moffitt Cancer Center’s patient and family advisory program and was a speaker at the Institute of Patient-and Family-Centered Care’s 2015 national conference.
Kim Borwick, MA
Editor, DrugRehab.com

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