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Dangers Of Mixing Lyrica And Alcohol

Authored by Granite Recovery Centers    Reviewed by James Gamache    Last Updated: August 27th, 2021


James Gamache Medical Reviewer
Jim is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) and Licensed Masters Level Addictions Counselor (MLADC). He has been working in the field of mental health/addiction treatment since 1995. Jim earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services from Springfield College in 2000, and a Masters Degree in Social Work from Boston University in 2002. In 2002 Jim was hired by the Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester holding the position of Clinical Case Manager. From 2004-2019, Jim was employed at WestBridge Inc. During his time at WestBridge, Jim held the following positions; Clinician, Team Leader, Director, & Chief Operations Officer. In 2019 Jim transitioned employment to GateHouse Treatment Center as the Clinical Director for 10 months. In October of 2020 Jim transitioned to Granite Recovery Centers and is currently serving as the Senior VP of Clinical Services and Quality Assurance.

Mixing drugs of any kind with alcohol can be a dangerous game. It can cause serious interactions that lead to fainting, vomiting and other physical symptoms. Sometimes, alcohol intensifies the effects of a drug. At other times, it competes with them. When that happens, people may take more of the drug than they intended to in order to try and feel it. This can lead to overdoses.

Some Factors Make Drug Interactions Worse

Drug interactions can affect anyone adversely. However, for some demographic groups, mixing alcohol with drugs can be more dangerous than others. For example, senior citizens can face more serious effects than young adults. This is due to the way alcohol is processed in the body.

As people age, it takes longer for the body to metabolize alcohol. That means it stays in the system longer. The other factor is that older people tend to have more health problems in general. They take more medications, and that increases the risk that something they take will interact with alcohol.

There can also be a gender divide when it comes to alcohol and drug interactions. Women have a higher percentage of body fat, on average, than men do. This body composition affects the way alcohol is processed. Since alcohol is water-soluble, it doesn’t typically enter fat cells. Women tend to have less water in their bodies proportionally than men.

For women, this means that alcohol is more concentrated in the body for a longer time. Even if women drink the same number of drinks as a man, they may feel more effects. It can also make the organs in their body work harder. Women are more likely than men to have negative impacts on their liver that are related to drinking. Mixing alcohol with drugs can tax the internal organs even more. The liver, heart, and respiratory system can all be negatively impacted.

The Basics of Lyrica

Lyrica is the brand name for pregabalin. This drug is classified as an anticonvulsant. It’s often used to treat epilepsy, generalized anxiety disorder, nerve pain and focal seizures. Lyrica’s also used for painful disorders like fibromyalgia.

Like all drugs, pregabalin does have some side effects. These can include insomnia, dizziness, weight gain, and constipation. In a small percentage of people, more serious effects can include blurred vision, swollen limbs, kidney trouble, and even shallow breathing. Lyrica can also impact people’s moods. In some users, it has been linked to depression and even suicidality. People who experience these need to let the prescriber know that right away.

Lyrica works by affecting nerve cells. It lowers the number of pain signals that these cells are able to send out. Lyrica can be very helpful to people who need to manage their pain, but it’s not a narcotic or an opioid. However, pregabalin can be habit-forming in a similar way to those classes of drugs. Patients may even experience symptoms of withdrawal when they stop using Lyrica. Doctors often determine dosage by considering the weight of the patient and the likelihood of side effects in them. Typically, they start off low and increase as needed.

This particular side effect is especially true for people who already have a track record of substance use disorder. People who stop using it abruptly sometimes face issues including a rapid heartbeat, sweating, insomnia, and headaches. In general, it’s wise to step down off this medication gradually, with a doctor helping the user reduce the dose over time.

Pregabalin is a drug that generally needs to be taken frequently. Many people need to take this drug two or three times every day. The goal is to keep the level in the body the same at all times. This is important because things like seizures and nerve pain are a constant risk. When people stop using Lyrica suddenly, it can make their condition worse. One example of this can be seen in people with a seizure disorder. An abrupt stoppage actually raises the risk of a seizure happening. Because the goal is to always keep a stable level of Lyrica in the body, people must be aware of its interactions with other substances.

There are hundreds of known drugs that interact with Lyrica. They include common over-the-counter drugs like aspirin, steroids like prednisone, and pain medications like oxycodone. Lyrica also has known interactions with alcohol. When these two drugs are used at the same time, the result can be drowsiness and slower reaction times. Taking these two drugs together can be dangerous, especially when doing things that require concentration, like driving. It’s important to follow a physician’s instructions when it comes to drinking while taking pregabalin.

Alcohol In the Body

Alcohol is a depressant. This doesn’t mean it changes people’s moods. It’s classified this way because of how it impacts the central nervous system. Alcohol may make people feel more energized when they’ve had one or two drinks. But it actually slows the nervous system down, making it harder for the brain to get messages to the rest of the body. It can also slow the breathing.

Chemically, the type of alcohol that people drink is ethanol. It’s absorbed partly in the stomach and mostly in the small intestine. Eating before drinking or while drinking can slow the absorption of alcohol and help people feel less drunk. Like many depressants, alcohol can help people to feel less anxious and improve their mood. When people drink, though, it slows them down, affecting their coordination and reflexes. That’s part of the reason people shouldn’t drive when they’ve been using alcohol.

Alcohol interacts with a number of drugs, including over-the-counter prescriptions and street drugs. For example, alcohol should never be taken with acetaminophen. It may be okay to have a drink during the same day that someone has taken Tylenol. But when they’re combined, these drugs can cause serious damage to internal organs like the liver and kidneys. This is particularly true for people who drink heavily.

Street drugs like heroin interact with alcohol, too. In fact, they’re both depressants. The combination of alcohol and opioids can cause death very easily. Together, they have the potential to slow and eventually stop breathing. When used with seizure and anti-anxiety medications, risks include changes to behavior, slow breathing, and even loss of memory.

Alcohol can also interact with other classes of drugs. These include antidepressants, antibiotics, diabetes medications, and even drugs designed to lower cholesterol. When people are taking any prescription medication, it’s always important to talk to the doctor or pharmacist about possible interactions. That includes when taking Lyrica with alcohol. Alcohol is a legal drug. Some kinds of alcohol, including red wine, even offer health benefits in the form of antioxidants when used moderately. If people have questions about using it with other medications, it’s always appropriate to bring that up.

Combining Alcohol and Lyrica in the Body

In practice, Lyrica interactions often involve opioid pain medications. However, when people use alcohol and Lyrica together, there can also be serious effects. Together, alcohol and pregabalin have a depressant effect on the nervous system. The combination can make it harder to breathe, for example. It also slows people down and affects their thinking and reaction times. But it’s not just the depressant effect that is problematic.

The combination of Lyrica and alcohol has problematic effects on the skin, like itchiness and hives. It can even cause the lips, tongue, and throat to swell. Drinking while using pregabalin can be dangerous. If people who’ve been prescribed Lyrica want to continue drinking while using it, they need to discuss that with a medical professional. Usually, doctors recommend that people stop drinking while they are taking Lyrica.

Recreational Use of Lyrica

Although Lyrica is produced and marketed as a prescription drug, there is a market for it on the street. In 2013, doctors in the UK published an article in the BMJ about recreational use of Lyrica. In Belfast, Northern Ireland, they were starting to see several patients who’d taken Lyrica in the emergency room. These people had suffered seizures after taking the drug. For most, it was their first experience of a seizure. Lyrica also affected breathing in two of these users: they had to be intubated.

These people had sought pregabalin out because of what they perceived as its pleasant effects. They bought the drug expecting that it would affect them in the same way alcohol does. They wanted to feel a pleasant buzz and expected it would feel like being drunk. Although Lyrica abuse is not exactly common, it’s clear that it does exist.

Since these users wanted to feel drunk, it’s possible that recreational users may think it’s a good idea to combine Lyrica and alcohol. In fact, the slang term for recreationally used Lyrica in Belfast is “Budweisers.” Alcohol and pregabalin seem to be linked in these people’s minds. Possibly, they are also linked in actual use.

Getting Help

For people who combine Lyrica with alcohol, the risks are serious. Both pregabalin and alcohol are potentially habit-forming. There can be side effects when discontinuing either. Quitting alcohol abruptly is particularly dangerous: it can cause seizures that are sometimes fatal. The best way to stop using alcohol, Lyrica, or both is with help.

At Granite Recovery Centers, we have experience helping people recover from several kinds of substance use disorder. We employ a number of different programs to help them do that. No two people are the same, and no single journey to recovery is standard. Everyone has their own personal and family circumstances to deal with along the way.

Because of this reality, we don’t rely only on 12-Step programs. These programs have helped millions of people over the years. They help resocialize people, understanding how to share and be in fellowship, in addition to quitting a substance. But they simply aren’t enough for everyone. We understand the need for evidence-based methodologies, including things like medication-assisted treatment in some people.

We also understand the many different phases of a recovery journey. At Granite Recovery, we are able to provide a medically supervised detox in addition to traditional rehab. When our clients complete inpatient, we can offer them continued services on an outpatient basis. Recovering from substance use disorder is complex. It’s not just about discontinuing use. It can also mean changes to other patterns and even relationships. Our aim is to help our clients at every step along the way. Granite Recovery Centers provides medical detoxification for people who do not need immediate medical intervention, are not a danger to themselves, and are capable of self-evacuation in the event of an emergency.

If you need help with Lyrica, alcohol, or both, reach out today. We have helped thousands of people rebuild their lives and find a healthy new future. We would be proud to help you and your family on the road to recovery, too.

At Granite Recovery Centers, we want to provide accurate information about health and addiction so that our readers can make informed decisions.

We have credentialed medical doctors & clinicians who specialize in addiction treatment review the information on our website before it is published. We use credible sources such as government websites and journal articles when citing statistics or other medically related topics.