Mixing OxyContin and Alcohol

Person holding oxycontin pills in one hand and a glass of alcohol in the other

OxyContin is the brand name for oxycodone, an opioid medication used to treat moderate or severe pain. Mixing alcohol with OxyContin can be more dangerous than some people realize. Whether using oxycodone according to a prescription or recreationally, mixing Oxycontin and alcohol should be avoided.  

Why Do People Mix OxyContin and Alcohol?

Some people may mix Oxycontin and alcohol to get high. Because it is an opioid drug that affects the brain, OxyContin is sometimes misused for its euphoric effects. As a person uses OxyContin more often, they may become tolerant to the drug, where they may need to take higher doses of oxycodone to feel its effects. When this happens, some people may try combining oxycodone with other substances to enhance their high. 

People who are taking OxyContin as a prescribed pain medication may mix OxyContin with alcohol, not realizing the harmful effects it can have. Even when a person is taking OxyContin as prescribed, they should avoid drinking alcohol due to the detrimental effects that combining them can have. It is always a good idea for individuals to speak with their doctor about their prescription and what interactions it may have with other substances.

Effects of Combining Alcohol and OxyContin

Alcohol and opioids, like OxyContin, act on different pathways in the brain, but can have similar effects. Opioids bind to opioid receptors in the central nervous system (CNS) and inhibit their function. Alcohol interacts with several different pathways in the CNS, ultimately inhibiting their actions. 

When the alcohol and Oxycontin are combined, the two substances have an additive effect. Opioids and alcohol interact with each other and suppress the function of the brain and spinal cord. Since the central nervous system is important for normal bodily functions, this can be very dangerous. Mixing OxyContin and alcohol can cause slowed breathing and a decreased heart rate. If severe enough, these effects can lead to death. 

The side effects of mixing oxycodone with alcohol are:

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

Risks of Mixing OxyContin and Alcohol

Combining oxycodone and alcohol significantly increases the risk of overdosing. During an OxyContin overdose, the central nervous system is severely suppressed, which causes bodily functions shut down and can lead to death. If you suspect that someone is overdosing on alcohol and opioids, get help immediately by calling 9-1-1 or your local emergency number. 

Another risk of mixing OxyContin and alcohol is developing a substance use disorder. OxyContin is highly addictive and a person who misuses it has a risk of becoming dependent on oxycodone. When a person is dependent on a drug, they need it to feel normal and will use it despite the other negative consequences 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.

Increased Risks in the Elderly

The side effects of mixing OxyContin and alcohol are even more dangerous in elderly individuals. Elderly people who mix alcohol with oxycodone have been found to exhibit greater depression of respiratory functions such as the amount of air the person breaths in one minute and increased apneic events, or times where they pause their breathing, compared to younger individuals.

Treatment for OxyContin and Alcohol Addiction

A person who has an OxyContin use disorder, or who is combining alcohol with OxyContin despite the dangerous risks, should seek treatment for their disorder. There are several treatment options for people who have OxyContin or alcohol use disorders. OxyContin and alcohol addiction help can often involve medical detox where a person is weaned off substance use with the aid of medications to ease their withdrawal symptoms. The detox process also includes therapy and support for the person to help them stop their drug use. 

After the person stops using OxyContin and alcohol, therapy can continue to help patients abstain from using the substance and address the issues as to why they started using drugs to begin with.

Contact The Recovery Village Ridgefield to speak with a representative about how professional addiction treatment can address substance use disorders. Take the first step toward a healthier future, call today.

Food and Drug Administration. “Oxycodone Prescribing Information.” August 2018. Accessed August 30, 2109.

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. 

Van der Schrier, Rutger; et al. “Influence of Ethanol on Oxycodone-induced Respiratory Depression: A Dose-escalating Study in Young and Elderly Individuals.” Anesthesiology, March 2017. Accessed August 29, 2019.

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.