Mixing Fentanyl and Alcohol

Mixing any opioid with alcohol is dangerous and potentially deadly. Both alcohol and fentanyl are central nervous system (CNS) depressants, so they enhance each other. Read more about the risks when mixing alcohol and fentanyl and how to find treatment for co-occurring disoders.

What is Fentanyl

Fentanyl is a potent narcotic opioid drug used to treat severe pain. Fentanyl comes in a variety of different formats and the available variety might be responsible for the high rates of addiction associated with the drug. Recently, many drug dealers have cut heroin with fentanyl or sold fentanyl in place of other illicit narcotics. This has rapidly increased the number of deadly overdoses in the US.

Fentanyl slows down your breathing rate, which is the leading cause of death in opioid overdoses. 

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Dangers of Mixing Alcohol and Fentanyl

Mixing any opioid with alcohol is dangerous and potentially deadly. Both alcohol and narcotics are central nervous system (CNS) depressants, so they enhance each other’s effects. If a person is prescribed fentanyl, the warning label advises not to mix this powerful painkiller with alcohol, as the combination can be deadly.

Many people may accidentally abuse fentanyl, intending to take illicitly purchased versions of oxycodone or hydrocodone. Unfortunately, the practice of abusing opioids and alcohol together is very common. According to the CDC alcohol was involved in 18.5 percent of opioid abuse ER admissions, and 22.1 percent of opioid-related deaths also involved alcohol.

A person who overdoses on a combination of fentanyl and alcohol may display symptoms of both issues, although the overdose symptoms are very similar as both drugs are CNS depressants. It is extremely important to call 911 if a person is believed to be overdosing on either fentanyl or alcohol; emergency medical attention is the only way they will survive.

It is never safe to mix prescription or illicit drugs with alcohol. Taking fentanyl to get high puts a person at great risk of overdose; mixing this potent narcotic with alcohol increases that risk even more.

Side Effects of Fentanyl and Alcohol

Fentanyl is used for severe pain and is often prescribed after surgery. If you mix alcohol, a central nervous system depressant, with fentanyl the risk of death increases. Other side effects when fentanyl and alcohol are used together include:

  • Irregular heart rate
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Uncontrollable vomiting
  • Respiratory depression
  • Constricted pupils
  • Nausea
  • Decreased coordination
  • Slurred speech

Treating Fentanyl and Alcohol Addiction

Addiction is a complex disease with potentially wide-reaching effects on brain functioning and behavior. If you’ve been misusing drugs or alcohol for a long time, you may have developed enough physiological dependence to these substances to put you at risk of significant withdrawal when trying to suddenly quit or slow your use. In such instances, medical detox can be a huge help during this early stage of recovery. Medical detox should not be seen as a substitute for comprehensive substance use disorder treatment, but rather the period of supervision and any needed interventions to safely manage withdrawal, while better preparing you to transition for continued rehabilitation or treatment.

Both inpatient and outpatient treatment facilities can help an individual work toward recovery through a mix of behavioral therapies, motivational tools, peer support, and addiction-related education.

Sources:

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Polysubstance Use Facts. 
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, January). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition).
  3. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2014). Mixing Alcohol with Medicines.
  4. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Principles of Effective Treatment.