Mixing Fentanyl and Alcohol

Two lines of powdered fentanyl next to a syringe

Fentanyl is a type of opioid that can be used to treat severe pain, and is up to 100 times stronger than morphine. When used as prescribed, fentanyl can be a helpful medication but may come with some side effects. These side effects and risks can be worsened if fentanyl is mixed with alcohol.

Fentanyl is misused recreationally for its relaxing “high.” Some people use fentanyl accidentally when using other drugs that are unknowingly cut with fentanyl. Using fentanyl recreationally is particularly dangerous, and combining it with alcohol is risky and even deadly. Learning the dangers of using fentanyl and alcohol together can prevent dangerous use or help you find help if you need it.

How Fentanyl and Alcohol Interact

Fentanyl is a powerful painkiller that acts on the central nervous system by binding to specific opioid receptors. Fentanyl is known as a central nervous system depressant because it slows or reduces some of the functions of the body and brain. This can include slurred speech, low blood pressure or a dangerously low rate of breathing.

Alcohol is also a central nervous system depressant, and interactions between fentanyl and alcohol can cause serious damage or even death. Because they act on the same systems, alcohol can heighten the risks or side effects of fentanyl use. This combination can be dangerous regardless of whether fentanyl is taken as a pill or used in the fentanyl patch form along with alcohol.

Side Effects of Mixing Fentanyl and Alcohol

A danger of using fentanyl and alcohol together is that the combination can make risky side effects more severe. In general use, some of the fentanyl side effects can include:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Drowsiness or confusion
  • Slurred speech
  • Slowed breathing rate
  • Lower blood pressure

Side effects while using heroin can be fairly common, particularly when a person is just starting to take the drug. Using alcohol has its own group of side effects, and the combination of the two can make it hard for the body to perform basic functions. Combining fentanyl and alcohol can increase the severity of side effects to a dangerous or even fatal level.

Risks of Mixing Fentanyl and Alcohol

Because combining alcohol and fentanyl can worsen potential side effects, using the two together — even if using fentanyl as prescribed — can be a very high-risk combination. The effects of fentanyl and alcohol can depend on the person and can be impacted by factors like gender, height, size and tolerance for the drug. Because of this, it is difficult to predict how you will react to a combination of fentanyl and alcohol.

One of the main risks of mixing fentanyl and alcohol is the slowing of important functions — like heart rate or rate of breathing — to the point that the body does not get the oxygen it needs. Without oxygen, the body begins to shut down and can result in loss of consciousness or death. As a result, fentanyl medication guides recommend avoiding alcohol when using the drug, particularly as the body becomes used to fentanyl.

Fentanyl and Alcohol Overdose

As a result of the combined effects of the drugs, fentanyl and alcohol overdose can happen even after using relatively small doses. A fentanyl overdose can be amplified by alcohol, and the signs and symptoms can include:

  • Seizure
  • Slowed breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Passing out
  • Death

Combining these substances can have long-term effects on physical and mental health and can result in severe disability or loss of life.

Getting Help for Fentanyl and Alcohol Addiction

As an opioid, fentanyl belongs to an addictive class of drugs and is a high-risk substance for abuse. Some people may regularly combine fentanyl and alcohol to increase their “high” and can become addicted to both fentanyl and alcohol. 

Fentanyl addiction treatment can help to address the body’s physical dependence on the drug, and also help a person develop skills and strategies to cope without substances. If you or someone you know is abusing both fentanyl and alcohol, then alcohol addiction treatment may be necessary as well. Treatment may include medical detox, inpatient or outpatient rehab to address underlying thoughts, behaviors and mental health conditions that may contribute to substance use.

Getting help for a fentanyl and alcohol addiction can seem intimidating, but can reduce the risk of serious consequences from mixing drugs. If you or someone you love is struggling with a substance use disorder, The Recovery Village Ridgefield can help. Call today to discuss the treatment options that are available to you.

Alcohol and Drug Foundation. “Fentanyl.” August 15, 2019. Accessed August 15, 2019.

Jones, Christopher M; et al. “Alcohol involvement in opioid pain reliever and benzodiazepine drug abuse-related emergency department visits and drug-related deaths – United States, 2010.” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 2014. Accessed August 15, 2019.

Kandel, Denise B; et al. “Increases from 2002 to 2015 in prescription opioid overdose deaths in combination with other substances.” Drug and Alcohol Dependence, September 1 2017. Accessed August 15, 2019.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Fentanyl.” February 2019. Accessed August 15, 2019.

New Zealand Government. “Data Sheet (Fentanyl Injection).” May 8, 2017. Accessed August 16, 2019.