Combining any drug with alcohol can lead to an overdose and should be avoided. Some combinations, such as hydrocodone and alcohol, are especially dangerous. Generally speaking, drinking alcohol should always be avoided after taking any kind of medication. However, in order to understand why, it is important to know the risks of mixing drugs.
What is Hydrocodone?
Hydrocodone is an opioid agonist which is used to treat moderate-to-severe pain. It is a moderately potent opioid containing acetaminophen. It works by binding to and activating the mu-opioid receptors in the central nervous system, which in return causes analgesia (inability to feel pain), euphoria, cough suppression, respiratory depression and physical dependence. Hydrocodone’s other side effects include:
- Stomach pain
- Dry mouth
- Back pain
- Muscle tightness
- Painful urination
- Ringing ears
- Swelling of extremities
Its ability to cause a sense of euphoria is common amongst all opioids. This euphoria is one of the primary reasons hydrocodone and opioids in general are considered to be highly addictive substances. However, hydrocodone is not commonly considered a powerful opioid, and some people mistakenly see it as a “safe” drug.
The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) categorizes drugs based on their potential for abuse and medical utility. For example, a Schedule I drug has no medical uses and has a very high potential for abuse. These include heroin, LSD, ecstacy and peyote. Hydrocodone is classified as a Schedule II drug, as it has some identified medical purposes but a high potential for abuse, addiction, and other health risks.
Hydrocodone is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant. Depressants actively slow down critical nerve functions, such as breathing and cognitive ability. Alcohol is also a CNS depressant and has similar effects. Mixing the two increases the risk of experiencing an overdose.
What Happens During an Overdose?
An overdose is simply the body’s negative response to more of a drug or chemical than it can handle. It can occur when taking too much of a drug or when combining two or more drugs which have similar effects. CNS depressants cause critical nerve function to slow down – specifically, the risk lies mostly with the respiratory system (since opioids slow down breathing). If you consume too much of a depressant, an overdose can occur. Not all overdoses are fatal; however, they can cause long-term organ damage. Without a consistent oxygen supply, the brain can experience permanent damage. If breathing is severely or completely impaired for any length of time, a fatal overdose is very likely.
Other signs of an overdose include:
- Dilated pupils
- Chest pain
- Gurgling sounds
- Blue lips and fingers
- High body temperature
If you think someone has overdosed, call emergency services immediately. The ability to recognize an overdose in its early stages could be the difference between a fatal and non-fatal overdose.
What Happens When You Mix Hydrocodone and Alcohol?
Given that both drugs are CNS depressants, combining them makes overdose is more likely. The the body will suffer the combined effects of the opioid and alcohol, which may be too much for it to handle. Generally speaking, when combining two or more drugs, the drugs work to enhance each other’s negative side effects (without increasing any positive ones). This applies to hydrocodone and alcohol. However, even without the overdose risk, the combined influence of the two drugs can cause you to engage in dangerous behavior (such as driving) while under the influence, and increase the risk of accidents.
How long does Hydrocodone stay in your system?
Hydrocodone has a half-life of 3-5 hours. This means it will take 3-5 hours for the ingested dose to effectively reduce to half of its original dose. If you take 10mg of hydrocodone, it will take 3-5 hours for that to reduce down to 5mg in your body. Even after the effects have worn off, drug tests can reveal the presence of hydrocodone in the body for days or weeks. Hydrocodone leaves the body faster than other opioids, but can still be detected in saliva 12-36 hours after last ingestion, in urine 2-4 days, and in hair for up to 90 days.
How quickly the body metabolizes hydrocodone differs from person to person. Various factors such as body fat percentage, age, history with the drug, and organ function all play a role in how effectively your body is able to process drugs and chemicals.
Hydrocodone and Alcohol: Getting help
Addiction is considered a chronic illness ,which means it has the same relapse rates as other chronic diseases. This can make lifelong sobriety very difficult. However, it does not make it impossible. The journey is different for everyone, and most people need professional assistance. A professional can help diagnose and treat the underlying causes behind the addiction, rather than just attempting to manage the symptoms. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, please contact us today so that we can help begin your journey to sobriety.