There are many people who wouldn’t think twice about mixing prescription opioid painkillers and alcohol. The reason that so many people do it is because they believe that they’re going to get an enhanced high, and they oftentimes do. They drink because they get a high, and they take prescription opioids because they get the painkilling effects along with a high. These people believe that by taking the two substances together, the only thing that will happen is that they’ll get an even stronger high.
Unfortunately, medication doesn’t work like that. There are many medications that, when taken with alcohol, can cause severe and even deadly results. Prescription medications like Percocet are particularly dangerous when taken in this way.
Percocet and alcohol are commonly taken together. For the reasons mentioned above, they are taken together by people who don’t have addictions and by people who do. The following is information about why taking the two substances together is something that no one should ever do.
The Danger of Mixing Medications and Alcohol
There are medications that cause negative drug interactions when taken together. The same thing holds true when medications and alcohol mixed together. These two substances taken together could cause serious medical issues and even death.
There’s a reason that mixing drugs and alcohol is always warned against by medical professionals: People do it all the time! Drinking is a part of life for many people whether they do it socially or do it as part of their nightly top-up. When people are put on different types of medications, their doctors or pharmacists will warn them that they shouldn’t indulge in their usual drinking practices while taking the meds.
Many medications have ingredients that negatively interact with alcohol, causing dangerous side effects. For instance, some medications like cough syrups have alcohol in them, exponentially increasing the amount of alcohol in your system when you add cocktails into the mix.
Mixing certain medications and alcohol can cause many negative side effects, including nausea, dizziness, heart issues, liver issues and drowsiness. If you add driving into the mix, you’re putting yourself and others at risk. Some medication and alcohol mixes are worse than others: Percocet and alcohol make that list.
What Is Percocet Used For?
Percocet is a prescription medication prescribed by doctors to treat patients who are dealing with moderate to severe pain. As mentioned, Percocet contains a combination of the opioid pain reliever oxycodone as well as the non-opiate pain reliever acetaminophen.
Oxycodone works by changing the way that your brain responds to pain. It’s a Schedule II painkiller, meaning that the DEA has considered it a drug that has a high potential for abuse. Schedule II drugs often cause people who take them to become severely physically or psychologically dependent on them.
When people take Percocet, they feel a sense of euphoria in addition to the pain relief. The euphoric feeling comes from the opioid, and that feeling is something that many people want to hold onto.
Acetaminophen is an analgesic and an antipyretic. The analgesic part of the medication is the pain reliever. This part of the drug works by reducing pain, inflammation, and fever. Sold under brand names like Tylenol, acetaminophen is used to relieve mild to moderate pain from conditions like muscle pain, menstrual periods, backaches, toothaches, and headaches. It’s also used to help reduce fever. The fever-reducing part of acetaminophen makes it an antipyretic. This portion of the drug helps cool the body.
When taken as directed, Percocet is an extremely effective medication that can help people get over moderate to severe pain. The effects of the drug usually start to work within 20 to 30 minutes of taking it, and the feeling of relief generally lasts for anywhere from three to six hours.
Dangers of Prolonged Percocet Use
If people abuse Percocet or take it for a long time, their bodies eventually build up a tolerance to it. Building up a tolerance means that their bodies will no longer get the pain relief they need if they continue taking the same, originally prescribed amount. They’re going to need higher doses of the medication to get relief.
Ultimately, they may also become dependent on the drug. Dependence simply means that the body gets used to the opioids. It’s as if the opioid has become a natural part of the body’s physiology. If they were to suddenly stop taking the drug, they would go through withdrawal symptoms. The symptoms would be very uncomfortable and could last for weeks. This is the reason that doctors taper their patients off of opioids after a certain period of time. As they need the pain relief less and less, they will then be able to require fewer and fewer doses.
People who are now addicted to the drug are unable to taper. Those people will do anything that they can to continue getting the drug. They end up taking larger and larger quantities, putting themselves at risk.
The Ingredients That Make Mixing Alcohol and Percocet a Bad Idea
Many times, people who are addicted to Percocet use alcohol to enhance the effects of the drug so that the euphoria lasts longer. The problem with this thinking is that the side effects of mixing the two together could be life threatening.
Percocet is made up of two critical ingredients that react very negatively with alcohol. These ingredients along with the alcohol raise the risk and probability of serious issues like respiratory depression. If someone were to consume both substances, their breathing could eventually slow, sometimes becoming very shallow and irregular or stopping altogether. The ensuing oxygen deprivation will cause the organs to shut down, and the patient will die.
Effects From Acetaminophen
When people take acetaminophen as prescribed, it’s extremely helpful. They’re able to treat their pain and reduce fever. If they take it in large amounts, it can result in severe liver damage. CYP2E1, the enzyme that breaks down acetaminophen in your body, is also the enzyme that breaks down alcohol. If the two ingredients are present in your system because you took them together, the enzyme will focus its attention on the alcohol. This means that the acetaminophen isn’t being broken down, resulting in higher levels of it remaining in your liver. This is the main reason that doctors recommend that you do not take alcohol when you are taking acetaminophen.
Effects From Oxycodone
The other ingredient in Percocet is oxycodone. Combining alcohol and oxycodone is also dangerous. The two substances taken together result in a decreased heart rate, lower blood pressure, reduced or halted breathing, and death. Many people who take Percocet and alcohol have diminished mental capacity, so they frequently end up mistakenly taking even more Percocet. This makes the risk of those terrible side effects and the risk of overdose even more likely.
Effects From Alcohol
People don’t drink alcohol for medicinal purposes. They use it for its mood-altering effects. Alcohol works in the body via the central nervous system, and it slows down the functioning of different parts of the brain. If you drink too much alcohol, your body is unable to process it all at once. Once this happens, the extra alcohol remains in your blood and travels to your brain. At this point, you’re dealing with slowed reflexes, lower blood pressure, lack of coordination, loss of consciousness, a lower heart rate, and reduced breathing.
Another issue with people who mix alcohol and oxycodone is that their body builds up a tolerance for the two substances, leading to dependence and possibly addiction.
Side Effects of Taking Alcohol with Percocet
There are serious side effects that result from combining Percocet and alcohol. Some of those side effects include dehydration, mood changes, loss of consciousness, respiratory issues and slowed breathing, the inability to function or focus, dehydration, constipation, nausea and vomiting, and death.
Addiction to Both Substances
Another risk of mixing Percocet and alcohol together is that people can become addicted to both substances. Alcohol abuse and opioid abuse are extremely serious issues, affecting families and communities around the world. Once people become used to the combination of Percocet and alcohol, they’re going to become dependent on both of them in order to achieve the high that they’re looking for.
They’re going to consume more and more of both substances, putting their lives in danger. Without any sort of intervention, they could be looking at severe illnesses or worse. Alcohol addiction and opioid addiction come with their own challenges, so people who are dealing with addictions to both substances have a hard way to go.
Luckily, it’s not impossible to get over an addiction to Percocet and alcohol. It is absolutely critical and vital that a person suffering from an addiction to both of these substances get the help they need as soon as possible.
Withdrawals From Alcohol and Percocet
There are several withdrawal symptoms common with people withdrawing from alcohol and Percocet, and they can be severe since they’re withdrawing from two different substances.
Some of the symptoms include anxiety, muscle aches and pains, panic attacks, diarrhea, agitation, rapid heartbeat, sweating, panic attacks, lightheadedness, seizures, sweating, flu-like symptoms, full-body tremors or shaking hands, disorientation, and delirium tremens (DTs). Delirium tremens are actually a serious, potentially deadly side effect that involves hallucinations and delusions.
How We Can Help
At Granite Recovery Center, we’ve seen it all. We have dealt with people who are struggling with an addiction to Percocet and alcohol, and we know it can be devastating. For the person going through it, it may seem like an impossible issue to surmount, but it’s not. The process will involve a medical detox, therapies, and a supportive aftercare system to help the recovering person go from a position of weakness to a position of strength.
When people seeking help with rehab and recovery first arrive at the Granite Recovery Center, their situations will be assessed. People who are addicted to Percocet and alcohol are struggling with two separate addictions, so each addiction will need to be handled properly. Our medical staff can determine exactly how to begin the detox process, figure out any mental or emotional issues that they may be dealing with, and set up a plan for their post-detox treatment.
The next part of the process will be detox. Detox is often the scariest part of rehabilitation for many addicts because they fear the withdrawal symptoms. At Granite Recovery Center, our goal is to make our clients as comfortable as possible as they go through withdrawal. One way we do so is through the use of MATs, medically assisted treatment programs. With these programs, we use medicines that help make the withdrawal process much more comfortable for our clients. This not only allows us to safely remove the drug from their systems, but it also helps them feel less traumatized and more comfortable.
Medications like methadone and buprenorphine can help people safely withdraw from opioids like the oxycodone found in Percocet. These medicines work by working on the same receptors in the brain that oxycodone works on, helping reduce cravings for the drug. Naltrexone is a medicine that completely blocks opioid receptors. This drug helps prevent relapse, and it’s generally used on people who have already gone through a complete withdrawal of opioids from their systems. Drugs like disulfiram, naltrexone, and acamprosate are used to help people withdraw from alcohol.
After the detox process is over, the next step is helping our clients learn how to develop and use other coping mechanisms and skills. This can be accomplished through therapy, using both holistic and traditional methods. Traditional methods could involve group, individual, or family therapy options to help uncover and heal old wounds that may have precipitated the addiction. Holistic therapies can help our clients develop clean, emotionally uplifting mechanisms to handle life’s stressors going forward. Our clients are introduced to these therapies in both our inpatient and outpatient treatments options.
Once our clients are on the road to recovery, we don’t just leave them and wish them luck. Our aftercare programs have been developed to help them move forward with their lives even after they’ve completed treatment. Knowing that they have somewhere and someone to turn to if times get tough is an important part of the recovery process.