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Alcohol And Opioids: How This Addiction Can Occur

Alcohol and Opioids are 2 of the most dangerous classifications of drugs. Alcohol though widely used, is extremely addictive. The social acceptance of binge drinking and heavy drinking contributes to society’s relaxed attitude towards the substance. Still, long-term alcohol use wreaks havoc on the body by damaging vital organs like the liver and kidney. Drinking can even change the chemical structure of the brain. As a result, many who abuse alcohol may find it extremely difficult to stop using due to physical and emotional cravings. The body’s battle with alcohol withdrawal symptoms is one reason why quitting drinking is associated with the inability to control one’s intake.

The Opioid crisis has claimed the lives of millions of Americans. For many, their dependence stemmed from doctors prescribing medicine for chronic pain. Unfortunately, some have abused Opioids like OxyContin for non-medical purposes. For example, because of the medication’s ability to create euphoria, patients using it for back pain may find the effects useful for alleviating irritability or bad moods. Once they decide to use it for this purpose, it can be very easy to develop a tolerance, needing more pills or a higher dose to feel the effects. A dependence or addiction can occur, illustrating the individual’s need or craving for the substance to feel normal.

Combining Alcohol And Opioids: The Facts

Opioid abuse is not uncommon, and adding alcohol can seem like the logical thing to do when someone suffers daily chronic pain. The Centers For Disease Control And Prevention (CDC) noticed a combination of Opiate abuse and binge drinking. The results noted 4.2 million people who “misuse prescription Opioids in the US also binge drink.” Interestingly enough, younger people who binge drank having higher rates of prescription Opioid abuse, “2 out of 3 people who binge drank and misused prescription Opioids were 26 and older” and “prescription Opioid abuse misuse increased with the frequency of binge drinking.”

Lastly, “over 50% of teens who misuse Opioids” combined them with alcohol during one year. The teens who abused alcohol and Opioids and the adults who did the same make up 18% of ER visits that resulted from this combination in 2010. Out of these target groups, older individuals experienced more risks associated with respiratory complications.

The Effects Of Combining Alcohol And Opioids

Similar to alcohol abuse, once the body becomes used to Opioids, the individual can experience highly uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms that disrupt everyday life. To avoid worsening such conditions and side effects, they can feel motivated to continue using and not feel “dopesick.” Dopesickness is very much like a severe flu. When combined, these 2 substances can create a powerful but fatal combination. However, “dopesickness” is extremely uncomfortable; it’s important to note that alcohol withdrawal, with or without opioids, in addition to being painful, can be fatal.

The effect of both substances creates a depressive impact on the respiratory system. Opioids work to ease pain while also decreasing the heart rate and pace of breathing. Comparatively, alcohol functions to slow reflexes, lower blood pressure, and reduce breathing rates. When these 2 chemicals are combined, the effect increases respiratory depression or a fatal overdose.

Elderly Populations, Alcohol, And Opioid Abuse

A study published in the journal Anesthesiology recorded the connection between alcohol and OxyCodone, citing an increased risk of respiratory depression, particularly in the elderly population. An examination focused on binge drinking with OxyContin revealed that participants struggled with breathing compared to those who took placebos.

Some enduring depression due to painful health conditions and physical limitations may cause sufferers to abuse Opiates for their ability to enhance moods and reduce pain. Furthermore, some may believe alcohol can further numb physical and emotional distress caused by chronic pain and isolation; as a result, combined Opioids and alcohol can occur. In addition to the intoxication of alcohol and the effects of Opioids, both act more strongly when combined. Unfortunately, alcohol can make a chronic pain situation worse by increasing depression and creating complexities in relationships.

When To Be Concerned With Opioid And Alcohol Use

Alcohol mixed with other drugs should not occur due to the many health risks involved. If someone chooses to combine the two chemicals and cannot taper use, this indicates a problem. Signs someone should get help or consider detox when combining Opioid and alcohol use can include:

  • Developing a tolerance and inability to function without increasing their dose of Opioids and alcohol.
  • Specific health risks due to using Opioids.
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms ranging from sweating, nausea, and shaking to alcohol withdrawal symptoms of hallucinating and uncontrolled shaking.
  • Financial problems due to substance abuse.
  • Alcohol or Opioid abuse getting in the way of daily activities or commitments.
  • Self-isolation due to drug abuse.
  • Having depression or anxiety if they cannot get the substance.

The list of other traits can continue and depend on which drug the individual is abusing, the frequency of use, the dosage, and other factors. Medical detox would be ideal in such cases, as both Opioids and alcohol can be deadly. Treatment provided in facilities offers a litany of therapies to correct substance abuse. Prospective patients have hands-on support, medication, peer groups for growth, and other tools for recovery.

Explore Treatment Options Today

Seeking recovery from addiction can bring feelings of shame and guilt to the surface. Don’t let that stop you. Treatment providers are available to answer rehab-related questions. Contact a treatment provider today.

  • Author: Krystina Murray | Last Updated: October 5, 2021

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    Krystina Murray

    Digital Content Writer

    Krystina Murray has received a B.A. in English at Georgia State University. She has over 7 years of professional writing and editing experience, and over 17 years of overall writing experience. She enjoys traveling, fitness, crafting, cooking, and spreading awareness of addiction recovery to help people transform their lives.

  • Medical Reviewer: Deborah Montross Nagel

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