Alcohol And Opioids

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Alcohol And Opioids: How This Addiction Can Occur

Alcohol and opioids are two of the most dangerous classifications of drugs available. For one, alcohol is extremely addictive and widely available, used for a variety of purposes. The social acceptance of binge drinking and heavy drinking can contribute to relaxed attitudes involving the substance. Long-term alcohol use wrecks havoc on the body by damaging vital organs like the liver and kidney, and can change the chemical structure of the brain. As a result of the damage done by alcohol, those who have abused it find it may be extremely difficult to stop drinking as they crave it. The body goes through withdrawal and can be a factor in the difficulty associated with the inability to control one’s self.

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 he or she decides to use it for this purpose, it can be very easy for them to develop a tolerance, needing more pills or a higher dose to feel the effects. A dependence or addiction can occur, which illustrates 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 U.S. also binge drink.” Interestingly enough, despite 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 a one year period. The teens who abused alcohol and opioids and the adults who did the same equate to the 18% of ER visits that resulted from this combination in 2010. Out of these target groups, older individuals experience more risks associated with respiratory complications and with rises in binge drinking in the elderly, many have become concerned.

The Effects Of Combining Alcohol And Opioids

Similar to alcohol abuse, once the body becomes used to opioids, the individual can endure extremely uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms that disrupt everyday life. In order to avoid the worsening of such conditions and side effects, he or she can feel motivated to continue to use and not feel sick. When combined, these two substances can create a powerful but fatal combination.

The effect of both substances creates a depressive effect on the respiratory system. Opioids work to reduce pain but also decrease the heart rate and slow breathing. Comparatively, alcohol functions to slow reflexes, decrease blood pressure, and reduce breathing rates. When these two chemicals are combined, the effect is an increase in 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. There was an examination focusing on binge drinking with OxyContin, to discover they struggled with breathing when compared to those who had placebos.

Some enduring depression due to painful health conditions and physical limitations may abuse opiates for their ability to enhance moods and reduce pain. Furthermore, some may believe alcohol can further numb physical and emotional pain 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. Someone could feel frustration from the uncertainty or financial standing due to their health condition. Unfortunately, alcohol can make chronic pain worse, increase feelings of depression and create 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 cannot function without increasing their dose of opioids and alcohol.

  • Suffers specific health risks due to using opioids.

  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms ranging from sweating, nausea, and shaking to alcohol withdrawal symptoms

  • When someone endures specific health risks due to using opioids.

  • Having financial problems due to substance abuse.

  • Alcohol and/or opioid abuse getting in the way of daily activities or commitments.

  • Self-isolation due to drug abuse or finding drugs to abuse.

  • Having depression or anxiety if they cannot use 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.

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