People need to be careful about how they use drugs and what they mix them with. That’s as true for prescriptions as it is for street drugs. Mixing Suboxone with alcohol can be dangerous. For example, both of these substances can have a depressant effect on the respiratory system. This can cause the slowing or even cessation of breathing.
To understand why not to combine alcohol and Suboxone, it’s important to know how each of these drugs works. Remember that any drug has the potential to interact with other substances. Even some herbal, all-natural supplements interact with alcohol and drugs. Being aware of the risks is a great way to avoid trouble. It’s also crucial for people to be honest with medical providers about their patterns of substance use.
Doctors have heard everything during their training and while on hospital rounds. It will not shock them to know that someone drinks. Being honest with a prescriber can help them give you the right advice to avoid drug interactions. In some cases, they may even be able to provide an alternative medication that will not interact with alcohol. If not, they can at least give you an idea of the risks of mixing substances.
Suboxone is a drug that’s mostly used to treat people with substance use disorder. Sometimes, it’s also used to treat pain. Suboxone is made up of two medications: naloxone and buprenorphine. Buprenorphine is a narcotic and a partial opioid agonist. An agonist is something that triggers a response when it reaches a receptor.
Buprenorphine engages with the same receptors as opioids, but it doesn’t produce the same high. What basically happens is that the drug fools the receptors. It fits in them perfectly, but the effect is not the same. People who take buprenorphine don’t get the same euphoric feeling that comes from opioids like heroin or oxycodone. Ultimately, buprenorphine helps to stop cravings. Naloxone is different. It’s an opioid antagonist. It binds to opioid receptors, preventing opioids from attaching to them. More than that, it can force opioids from receptors they’re already attached to. Naloxone is used to end overdoses. It also produces withdrawal symptoms once it kicks in.
As a replacement for opioids, Suboxone helps people deal with cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Typically, Suboxone is taken once per day. This use of Suboxone is a type of medication-assisted treatment. There’s evidence for the effectiveness of medication-assisted treatment. Other medications used in this way include methadone and naltrexone. Usually, these medications are not given alone. Instead, they’re combined with talk therapy.
In some cases, people may become dependent on Suboxone in a way that isn’t healthy. It may become a part of the opioid use disorder instead of a treatment for it. That’s part of the reason people who use this medication are monitored closely and why they’re advised to participate in one-on-one therapy and in support groups.
Recreational Use of Buprenorphine
Although it’s only a partial opioid agonist, some people do take buprenorphine recreationally. It does not make people as high as other opiates and opioids do. Sometimes, users will try to increase the effects of the drug by taking more of it. Buprenorphine doesn’t work that way; it produces only mild effects. Compared to actual opioids, there’s an upper limit to the pleasant effects a user can get from using buprenorphine.
That said, it’s still dangerous to use buprenorphine in this way. In fact, in 2011, over 21,000 people were treated at hospitals in the U.S. for recreational use of this drug. This is most commonly seen in younger people. Most of the people seen in emergency departments for this have been 18-25. It’s very rare to see this kind of use in adults over the age of 55.
The Effects of Alcohol on the Body
Alcohol is a depressant. This term doesn’t refer to mood. It can make people feel buzzy and energized when they first take a drink. However, what ethanol actually does in the body is different. This substance has a depressant effect on the central nervous system. In practice, it slows processes that are occurring in the brain.
In the body, alcohol makes things duller. It affects people’s reflexes and reaction times. That’s one reason that operating heavy machinery after drinking is so dangerous. Alcohol is absorbed slowly compared to many opioid medications. Most absorption happens in the small intestine, and some occurs in the stomach. That’s why it’s sometimes recommended that people eat something before drinking. Having some food in the way can slow absorption and help prevent feelings of drunkenness.
Many people know about the long-term negative consequences of heavy alcohol use. Its impacts on the liver are well-known. Long-term alcohol use can lead to issues like hepatitis, liver fibrosis, and even cirrhosis. However, alcohol can also negatively impact other systems in the body. It’s been linked to the development of several cancers. Alcohol can also have negative impacts on cardiovascular health. High blood pressure and strokes can be consequences of heavy drinking.
In the short-term, alcohol poisoning can be incredibly dangerous. This is closely related to binge drinking, where women have at least four drinks over a two-hour span, or men consume five. In alcohol poisoning, the body has absorbed so much alcohol that it’s causing serious problems. The depressant effects can cause the breathing to slow or stop. It can affect things like the gag reflex. That means it’s more likely that someone can choke to death on their own vomit.
Medical attention is crucial when someone has alcohol poisoning. Even after an individual has lost consciousness due to drinking, the body may still be absorbing alcohol in the stomach and small intestine. Alcohol poisoning can cause seizures and even death. Alcohol use disorder is the most common substance use problem seen in the U.S. In spite of the fact that it’s a legal drug, it’s not inherently safe to use. Alcohol can also have serious interactions with a number of substances.
Alcohol can have drug interactions with several medications. That includes over-the-counter medications. When mixed with the common pain reliever aspirin, alcohol can increase irritation in the GI tract. Alcohol and acetaminophen, or Tylenol, can be particularly dangerous. At normal doses, it may be safe, but Tylenol is processed by the liver, and so is alcohol. When large doses are combined, this can create serious damage to a very important organ.
Alcohol can interact with a whole host of other medications, too. It interacts with anxiety medications like Xanax and Klonopin. Drinking while taking blood thinners can actually cause an increase in bleeding. Seizure medications like Lamictal and Lyrica can interact negatively with alcohol, too. Even over-the-counter allergy medications like Benadryl and Claritin are a bad mix with alcohol. Taking them can lead to dizziness and other negative impacts. It’s always important to check with a doctor or pharmacist before mixing alcohol with a drug.
Effects of Mixing Suboxone and Alcohol
Whenever a doctor prescribes an opioid to someone, they are supposed to advise them not to use it with alcohol. This is very important due to the depressant effects of both of these substances. When they’re taken together, these effects are amplified. In essence, they each make the side effects of the other drug worse.
The effects of mixing Suboxone and alcohol can be very uncomfortable. They include an increase in sweatiness. Mixing these drugs can make it hard to think clearly or move. Together, they decrease reaction times and coordination. When they’re using Suboxone and alcohol, people may become dizzy, faint, or have heart palpitations. They may also experience changes in their blood pressure. In some people, blood pressure can become dangerously high. In others, it drops to lower than the normal range. Drinking while taking Suboxone increases the risk of having a heart attack.
Finally, there can also be gastrointestinal effects from mixing Suboxone with alcohol. People may become nauseous and vomit. Opioids can cause constipation, and this is an issue when mixing these drugs, too. Compared to these many downsides, there are few pleasant effects when mixing these drugs.
Long-Term Use of Suboxone and Alcohol
Some people will go so far as to mix alcohol and Suboxone for long periods of time. This can produce more serious effects than occasional use. For example, both alcohol and Suboxone depress the respiratory system. Long-term use of these drugs together can cause tissue damage, respiratory infections, and even brain damage.
Changes to heart rate can eventually produce chronic problems, too. These are related to decreased blood flow over a long period of time. The lack of blood supply essentially starves tissues of nutrients and oxygen. Over time, this can lead to organ damage.
The central nervous system comprises cells called neurons that are involved in sending and receiving messages from the brain. Long-term use of Suboxone and alcohol can affect the way these cells function. If the neurons located in the brain stem are impacted, the user may become comatose. This can lead to death.
Substance use disorder is a serious disease. At Granite Recovery Centers, we take recovery seriously. We offer traditional approaches to recovery, including the 12 Step model. Of course, we know that total abstinence is not for everyone. Sometimes, people need to be prescribed medications to assist in their recovery journey. Medication-assisted treatment is available here, too.
We know that everyone is different, and everyone came to their problem differently. They may have negative and highly stressful experiences on the job. Our uniformed professionals treatment program may be appropriate in those situations. Women sometimes share common stressful experiences that men don’t understand quite as well. Or, women who have been assaulted by men in the past may not be comfortable sharing with them. That’s why we offer a specific program tailored for women.
At Granite Recovery Centers, we’re able to help people through every phase of recovery. We can provide supervised medical detox from substances like alcohol and opioids. 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. After detox, many clients are ready to progress to traditional inpatient rehab. Following that, people may want to continue in our outpatient program. We also make it easy for our clients to keep getting the support they need. Like many colleges, we have an alumni network that makes it easy for people to stay in touch and continue to help one another.
It’s possible to recover from substance use disorder. We take pride in helping people find their footing and rebuild their lives. If you or a loved one needs help, don’t be afraid to reach out. Contact us today.