Methadone and alcohol are two substances that should not be used together. The effects of mixing methadone and alcohol can be profound, and treatment involving one substance should also involve the other. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, about half of the patients who seek treatment for methadone addiction are also addicted to alcohol.
Effects of Mixing Methadone and Alcohol
Methadone increases the effects of alcohol in some people, so taking the two together might make you become drunk more quickly and may inhibit your motor skills. Because alcohol is a nervous system depressant, taking it with methadone can lead to dangerous complications, including respiratory problems, low blood pressure, a weak heart rate, and coma. Taking both methadone and alcohol at the same time can also increase the risk of an overdose. Mixing methadone and alcohol also does not eliminate the side effects caused by each of these substances individually, so you may also experience side effects such as anxiety, insomnia, drowsiness, weakness, sweating, and vomiting.
Reasons Why People Mix Methadone and Alcohol
In some cases, people mix methadone and alcohol to experience the increased sedative effect caused by taking both at once. However, it is more common to find people who have become addicted to both substances separately and now use them both to feed the two separate addictions. Methadone is used in the treatment of heroin addiction or addiction to other opioids, so if a patient is addicted to alcohol as well as the opioid drug, he or she will likely continue to be an alcoholic during treatment with methadone.
Concerns of Mixing Alcohol with Other Opiates
Halting Methadone and Alcohol Use
When taken as directed, methadone is an effective treatment for heroin withdrawal, but mixing prescription drugs with alcohol is never a good idea. If you are on methadone and still drink alcohol in low to moderate amounts, it might be possible to cut back or completely halt your alcohol use before entering a program for methadone treatment. If you are addicted to alcohol, it can be hard to quit on your own, so you might need a medically supervised treatment plan that takes into account both addictions. Halting methadone use without tackling the tendency toward alcoholism is generally not considered a feasible option for individuals trying to recover from both substances. Because halting the use of both substances can cause withdrawal symptoms, a rapid cessation is not recommended. Detoxification from methadone, the first step in treatment, is typically done gradually, so it is often effective to treat the alcohol addiction while gradually tapering off the dose of methadone.
Treatment for Addiction to Methadone and Alcohol
Treatment for addiction to methadone and alcohol can be complicated; the specific course of treatment depends on the individual person and the standard procedures of the treatment facility. Because of the complexity involved in treating two addictions at once, it is important to develop a formal plan of treatment and include follow-up care in the plan. Traditionally, patients who were addicted to both methadone and alcohol were weaned off the methadone first before being treated for alcoholism. Modern inpatient and outpatient facilities now tend to treat both problems simultaneously or treat the alcoholism first and then the addiction to methadone. This can be important because both can affect the liver, so simultaneous treatment helps prevent severe liver problems in people who are prone to organ damage.
If you or someone you know is addicted to methadone and alcohol and wants to learn how to stop using them, call for a free referral. Because the effects of mixing methadone and alcohol can be so dangerous, it is important to seek treatment as soon as possible.