Substance Use

What Happens When You Mix Alcohol with Prescription Drugs?

TABLE OF CONTENTSTable of Contents

woman taking prescription pill with liquor

56% of U.S. adults over the age of 21 drink alcohol at least once per month. Drinking alcohol in moderation is a safe practice for millions of people, but about 16 million people in the U.S. struggle with alcohol use disorder. Problem drinking can take many forms, including dependence on drinking, drinking to extreme levels of intoxication, and mixing alcohol with prescription drugs or illegal drugs.

Unfortunately, prescription drug misuse is common in the U.S. This misuse includes mixing prescription drugs with alcohol to get high. Additionally, people who struggle with alcoholism and are prescribed medication may be unable to stop drinking while taking the prescription. If someone is struggling with alcohol use disorder, they can experience many adverse health consequences when they mix their legal prescription drugs with alcohol.

What are the dangers of mixing prescription drugs and alcohol?

When someone mixes drugs with alcohol, they can experience many different side effects, varying in intensity and danger.

  • Alcohol can prevent some prescription drugs from working.
  • Alcohol can raise the levels of drugs in the bloodstream to toxic levels.

Who is most at-risk for mixing prescription drugs and alcohol?

Current research on undergraduate students found that 12.1% of them misused prescription drugs and alcohol. What’s more, 5% of current problem drinkers claim they’ve mixed both prescription and illegal drugs with alcohol, not including marijuana. The risk factors for prescription drug and alcohol abuse include the following:

  • Being young, between the ages of 18 and 25.
  • Not graduating from high school.
  • Being single.
  • Having a pattern of heavy drinking or binge drinking behaviors.

What prescription drugs should someone never mix with alcohol?

There are many different prescription drugs that someone should never mix with alcohol. It’s important that patients talk to their doctor about their specific prescriptions and ask whether their medicine will interact poorly with alcohol.

People who struggle with alcohol dependence and addiction but need to take prescription medications should seek treatment for alcohol use disorder. Continuing to drink while taking drugs for various health problems can worsen health outcomes, and patients can risk dangerous side effects when mixing alcohol and prescription substances.

The following prescription medications are the most likely to interact dangerously with alcohol.

  • Flu, cold, cough suppressants, and allergy medications
  • Antibiotics
  • Anti-anxiety and epilepsy medications
  • Angina medications
  • Prescription sleep aids
  • Narcotic pain medicines
  • Antidepressants
  • Prescriptions for arthritis
  • Cholesterol-lowering medications
  • Blood thinners
  • Diabetes prescriptions
  • Prescriptions for heartburn
  • High blood pressure prescriptions
  • Muscle relaxers
  • Antipsychotic medications

Patients must take prescription medications according to their doctor’s instructions for prescription medications to be most effective. For many prescriptions, that might mean that a patient will have to abstain from alcohol.

Abusing or misusing prescription medications can lead to addiction and dangerous side effects, including the risk of overdose. People with a history of problem drinking and alcohol dependence will need to inform their doctor about these problems. It’s vital that these patients get help from a qualified addiction rehabilitation center. If you or someone you care about is struggling with alcohol or prescription medication abuse, please reach out to a drug abuse counselor today to explore your treatment options.