Mixing Alcohol And Opioids

Simultaneously using alcohol and opioids can lead to many dangerous and life-threatening consequences. The most significant among these is slowed breathing and heart rate, which can result in fatal overdose.

Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that over half of 4.2 million Americans who misuse prescription opioids also engage in binge drinking. This alarming number underscores the clear and significant risk of mixing these two substances.

Effects On The Body

Alcohol and opioids have overlapping effects on the body, even though they initially affect different areas. Alcohol acts as a depressant in the central nervous system and is rapidly absorbed from the stomach and small intestines into the blood, while enzymes in the liver work to break down alcohol in the body. Ingesting a large amount of alcohol can cause excess alcohol to circulate throughout the body, leading to further depressant effects.

Conversely, opioids affect the body by first affecting its control center: the brain. After ingestion, opioids quickly attach to opioid receptors in the brain. This effectively blocks feelings of pain while simultaneously boosting feelings of pleasure.

When alcohol is taken with opioids, it increases central nervous system depression, further slowing down brain activity, decreasing breathing, and increasing the risk of overdose.


Drinking alcohol while taking opioids can lead to potentially dangerous side effects, such as:

  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Slowed or difficulty breathing

  • Damage to the brain, heart, and other organs
  • Unresponsiveness or coma
  • Death

One of the greatest dangers associated with combining alcohol and opioids is the dramatic increase in overdose fatalities.

In 2020, deaths caused by opioid overdose and alcohol consumption reached 41%.

Is It Ever Safe To Drink Alcohol While Taking Opioids?

There is no safe alcohol consumption while also taking opioids. According to the CDC, the risk of side effects increases with more alcohol intake.

In 2016, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) added a Boxed Warning (the strongest safety warning issued by the FDA) to the labeling of all opioid medications on the risk of severe side effects when combined with other drugs and substances that affect the brain or central nervous system. This Boxed Warning includes the serious risk of using opioids with alcohol.

Find Addiction Treatment Today

The risks of misusing opioids and alcohol are dangerous and many. If you suspect you or your friends and family are impacted by alcohol and opioid use disorders, help is available.

Reach out to a treatment provider today who can assist you in exploring your treatment options.