Mixing Morphine with Alcohol

Morphine paraphernalia sitting on top of a counter

Morphine is an opioid-containing prescription pain medication that is used to treat short- and long-term pain. Mixing morphine with alcohol can be very dangerous. When taking morphine as a pain medication, drinking alcohol should be avoided. 

Why Do People Mix Morphine with Alcohol?

If a person is taking morphine as a pain medication, they should avoid drinking alcohol. People who drink and are using morphine to control pain may mix morphine with alcohol, not realizing the harmful effects it can have. As with any drug, when taking a prescription medication, it is important to know if it will interact with other drugs or substances. Your doctor or pharmacist should warn you about any possible interactions the drugs you are taking may have.

Morphine is also often misused recreationally for its euphoric effects. Some people may mix morphine and alcohol to enhance their high. When a person uses morphine for its recreational effects and does so frequently, they may become tolerant to it. This development means that the same dose of morphine that they have been taking will no longer give them the desired high. If tolerance develops, they may need to take larger doses of morphine to feel the same euphoria. Some people may try combining morphine with other substances, like alcohol, to enhance their high. 

Effects of Combining Alcohol with Morphine

Opioids, like morphine, and alcohol interact with each other because they have similar effects on the central nervous system. Both are central nervous system (CNS) depressants that suppress pathways in the brain and spinal cord that control normal functions of the body. Morphine does so by binding opioid receptors in the CNS and inhibiting their action. Alcohol works by interacting with several different pathways in the central nervous system, ultimately resulting in their inhibition. 

When mixed together, morphine and alcohol have an additive effect. Mixing depressants, such as opioids, with alcohol, can cause slowed breathing and a decreased heart rate, which may lead to death. 

The side effects of mixing morphine and alcohol include:

  • Decreased or irregular heartbeat
  • Suppressed breathing
  • Feeling dizzy or losing coordination
  • Fainting
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Feeling confused
  • Excessive drowsiness
  • Coma

Risks of Mixing Morphine with Alcohol

One of the dangers of morphine is that taking too much can lead to an overdose. For this reason, morphine should always be taken as prescribed and never in higher amounts or more often than recommended. Combining morphine and alcohol significantly increases the risk of overdosing, which can lead to death. If you suspect that someone has overdosed on alcohol and morphine, get help immediately by calling 9-1-1 or your local emergency number. 

Morphine is highly addictive and a person who misuses morphine is at risk for becoming dependent on it. When a person is dependent on a drug, they need it in order to feel normal. They will use it despite the other negative effects it may have on their life. A person who misuses one drug is more likely to try other drugs or use more than one drug at a time. This is certainly the case with opioids and alcohol, as they are often misused together

Using alcohol with morphine may directly contribute to the development of morphine use disorder. Studies in mice have shown that alcohol slows the reaction time to morphine. When alcohol was present, it took longer for the effects of morphine to kick in. If this happens in a person using morphine to get high, they may try taking more morphine in response to not feeling the euphoric effects as fast as they normally do. This would increase the risk of overdosing and could lead to dependence or addiction.

Treatment for Morphine and Alcohol Addiction

People who have morphine, alcohol or a dual-use disorder have several treatment options. Morphine alcohol addiction treatment will usually involve medical detox, where a person has weaned the substance use with the aid of medications to ease their withdrawal symptoms. Detox will include therapy and emotional support for the person to help them successfully stop using the drug. 

Once they have stopped using it, therapy will continue to help the person abstain from using the substance and address to root of the problem as to why they started using drugs. 

Naltrexone

Following detox, one treatment option for morphine addiction is to use maintenance drugs, which reduce cravings and help maintain normal functioning in the absence of morphine. One of those drugs, naltrexone, can be used to treat both alcohol use disorders and opioid use disorders. Naltrexone works by binding opioid receptors and blocking some of their functions. It has less chance of dependence or addiction compared to some of the other maintenance therapy drugs. 

The Recovery Village Ridgefield uses naltrexone in the treatment of morphine and alcohol use disorders. Contact us today to learn more about this treatment option.

Food and Drug Administration. “Morphine Prescribing Information.” August 2018. Accessed August 30, 2019.

Trescot, Andrea M.; Datta, Sukdeb; Lee, Marion; Hansen, Hans. “Opioid Pharmacology.” Pain Physician, 2008. Accessed August 29, 2019.

Valenzuela, C. Fernando. “Alcohol and Neurotransmitter Interactions.” Alcohol Health and Research World, 1997. Accessed August 29, 2019.

Witkiewitz, Katie; Vowles, Kevin E. “Alcohol and Opioid Use, Co-Use, and Chronic Pain in the Context of the Opioid Epidemic: A Critical Review.” Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research, March 2018. Accessed August 29, 2019.

Chang, Sulie L.; Huang, Wenfei; Han, Haijun; Sariyer, Ilker K. “Binge-Like Exposure to Ethanol Enhances Morphine’s Anti-nociception in B6 Mice.” Frontiers in Psychiatry, January 22, 2019. Accessed August 30, 2019.

Substance Use and Mental Health Services Administration. “Naltrexone.” May 7, 2019. Accessed August 30, 2019.