Mixing Prescription Drugs With Alcohol

man sleeping on table with open liquor bottle and pill packets

Mixing prescription medications with alcohol can be harmful and dangerous. In some cases, this combination can decrease the effectiveness of your prescription and, in others, lead to internal bleeding, overdoses or even death.

What Happens When You Combine Alcohol With Prescription Drugs?

Combining alcohol with prescription drugs is never recommended. This mixture can have severe effects, depending on the medication you take. In some cases, this combination can produce additive effects like extreme drowsiness, dizziness or sleepiness, making driving very unsafe. In other instances, alcohol can decrease the effectiveness and reliability of your prescription medication. In the most severe cases, this combination can result in overdose or even death. 

FDA-approved medications are safe and effective when taken as prescribed. However, due to the broad scope of interactions possible after mixing prescriptions and alcohol, doing so is never recommended. 

Prescriptions Drugs That Should Never Be Mixed With Alcohol 

Combining certain medications with alcohol can be more dangerous than others. While many more drugs interact with alcohol than listed, it is essential never to mix alcohol and depressants, benzodiazepines, opioids, stimulants and antipsychotics. 

Always consult your doctor or pharmacist for more information about your specific situation. 

Antidepressants

When antidepressants and alcohol are combined, alcohol can heighten feelings of depression or hopelessness, drowsiness, dizziness or the risk for overdose. Other interactions are specific and depend on the depression medication you take. For example, Cymbalta and alcohol have a higher likelihood of liver damage, and Wellbutrin with alcohol can increase alcohol’s effect.

Depressants

Depressant medications are usually used for sleep, anxiety, muscle spasms or seizures. These include benzos (Xanax, Ativan, etc.), barbiturates or sleep medications (Ambien, Lunesta, etc.). Alcohol is also a depressant, so using it while on one of these medications can have an additive effect and result in even more drowsiness, dizziness, slow or difficult breathing and increased overdose risk. Because of this, you should never combine these medications.

Benzodiazepines

Benzos are depressants similar to alcohol, so you should never mix these medications with alcohol. If a benzo like Klonopin, Xanax or Ativan is taken with alcohol, this combination can have an additive effect resulting in even more:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Higher risk for overdose
  • Slow or difficult breathing
  • Impaired motor control
  • Memory problems

Prescription Opioids

Like benzos, mixing opioids like Percocet or Vicodin with alcohol can have an additive effect and should never be taken together. This combination can cause:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Higher chance of overdose
  • Slow or difficult breathing
  • Impaired motor control
  • Memory problems

Stimulants

Stimulants are often used to treat ADHD or narcolepsy and include medications like Adderall, Vyvanse or Strattera. However, stimulants can mask the alcohol’s effects and lead to drinking more than you usually would. The result is dizziness, drowsiness or alcohol poisoning. Other interactions are specific to the stimulant taken and include:

  • Trouble concentrating with alcohol and Ritalin, Concerta or Focalin 
  • Heart problems with alcohol and Adderall, Dexedrine or Vyvanse
  • Liver damage with alcohol and Strattera

Antipsychotics

Like when antidepressants and alcohol are mixed, antipsychotics can also increase drowsiness, dizziness, overdose risk and feelings of depression and hopelessness. Additionally, other interactions depend on which antipsychotic medication is combined with alcohol. For example, Seroquel with alcohol can worsen motor control more than either one alone.

Effects of Mixing Alcohol and Illicit Drugs

Mixing alcohol with illicit drugs also carries significant risks. Opiates, like heroin, are central nervous system depressants, as is alcohol. The combination of these substances can lead to respiratory failure or death. Stimulants, like meth and cocaine, can mask alcohol effects which may lead you to drink more than you usually would and heighten alcohol’s effects, possibly even resulting in alcohol poisoning. 

Treatment for Alcohol and Drug Addiction in Washington

If you or someone you love are struggling with alcohol or drug addiction, The Recovery Village Ridgefield can help. Our compassionate and knowledgeable medical professionals can provide the care needed to regain your life. Located in Ridgefield, Washington, we are near enough to Portland to be convenient but far enough away that you can focus on your health. 

We offer treatment programs ranging from residential and inpatient treatment to outpatient levels of care. We even have aftercare programs to provide the support you need on an ongoing basis. Contact us today to begin the first step on your path to regaining control over your life.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Harmful Interactions.” Revised 2014. Accessed September 4, 2022. DEA. “Drug Fact Sheet: Depressants.” April 2020. Accessed September 4, 2022.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.