Prescribed primarily as a sedating painkiller, oxycodone falls into the drug classification of “opioid”. It is, however, unique within this classification due to its partially natural and partially synthetic production.
Oxycodone is the generic term for the substance that appears under brand names such as Oxycontin, Oxaydo, and Roxicodone/Roxycodone. As with all polysubstance abuse combinations, this drug interacts poorly if combined with alcohol.
How Does Oxycodone Work?
Before understanding how oxycodone and alcohol interact, it can be helpful to get a sense of the opioid’s action in the brain. Knowing how substances affect the brain and recognizing similar substances can reduce the number of accidental interactions.
Like most all opioids, oxycodone affects the brain’s pain-sensing pathways. Specifically, it effects the brain’s receptors, decreasing neuron excitability, and reducing communication between brain cells.
In terms of potency, oxycodone parallels the strength of morphine–another opioid.
Oxycodone has, however, been found to be less toxic in the long-term than morphine. For patients suffering from moderate-to-severe pain, therefore, oxycodone can be an excellent help for managing it.
Unfortunately, ease of access to oxycodone means individuals often abuse this opioid. Substance abuse almost always naturally progresses to dependence, creating a heightened tolerance to the drug that leads to addiction.
Consequences of Oxycodone Misuse
While opioids can be a literal life-saver in the medical field, they can also be life-threatening when misused. The likelihood of discomfort, pain, or even death increases in the case that a user ingest incompatible substances at the same time.
Individuals who misuse opioids may experience some unpleasant symptoms, and might also suffer from withdrawal symptoms if they suddenly stop. Even with prescribed use, the symptoms of oxycodone generally include:
- Pain Relief
- Slowed Breathing
Some kinds of oxycodone leave the user with liver damage after an extended use time. Habitually taking too much oxycodone can cause a tolerance to form, where the user must then progressively ingest more of the substance in order to experience its effects.
This increased dose-size can put them at risk of an overdose, which exhibits symptoms such as:
- Extreme Sleepiness
- Light Breathing
- Cold or Clammy Skin
- Slow Heart Rate
If you think a loved one is experiencing an overdose, call emergency services immediately.
Opioids and Ethanol – A Deadly Pair
The effects of oxycodone are remarkably similar to those of most sedatives: pain-killing and drowsiness are common effects of such substances. While these can be helpful when applied to individuals suffering from pain or other conditions, abuse of the prescriptions for the effects can lead to devastating outcomes.
Unfortunately, one of the most widely used and abused substances is also one that reacts dangerously with oxycodone: alcohol.
As a sedative, the symptoms of alcohol use commonly include drowsiness, unconsciousness, muddy thoughts, or slow speech. If these effects pair with oxycodone’s sedative-like effects, the symptoms can result in dangerously slowed body processes.
Combined, these substances often produce effects similar to a life-threatening overdose. While many believe they understand the risk and take adequate lengths to avoid combining substances, alcohol’s tendency to impair the decision-making process can lead to accidental mixing.
Other Dangerous Interactions
Alcohol is likely the most common substance mixed in the body with oxycodone. However, other interactions can also be dangerous for an individual on a prescription or suffering from an addiction.
One other commonly used substance–marijuana–can be dangerous to combine with oxycodone. Studies examining the combination in the human body found that individuals experienced a compounded pain-killing effect.
This effect is markedly less dangerous than alcohol and oxycodone, but the dual-enhanced sedative effect of the two may amount to a dangerous dosage size.
A similar situation arises if oxycodone and stimulants are combined. Stimulants, like amphetamines (e.g. Adderall, Concerta, etc.) are substances that increase energy or activity processes in the body. Taking the two drugs together enhances the painkilling effects of the opioid, and the individual may end up taking too much of either.
Most of the time, combining any prescription with another–or even with an OTC medication–results in a dangerous combination. In the case of mixing oxycodone and alcohol together, the combination can be fatal.
Finding Freedom from Polysubstance Abuse
Opioid misuse can be a dangerous road, and combinations with other substances can yield unpredictable, often dangerous, effects. If you think a loved one is suffering from substance abuse, contact us today.
Connecting to knowledgeable resources can help you make a decision about where to go from here. Understanding the options is a crucial first step in helping a loved one overcome a substance abuse disorder.