Drug and Alcohol

Mixing Prescription Drugs with Alcohol: Why It’s So Dangerous

Why Mixing Prescription Drugs & Alcohol Is So Dangerous

Mixing prescription drugs with alcohol is incredibly risky ... and potentially lethal. Learn more about the dangers of drugs and medication here.

Written by

brian-mooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

jeremy-arztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

Drug and Alcohol

March 15, 2023

Mixing drugs (whether authorized or otherwise) with alcohol is always a bad idea.

Recognizing the hazards can potentially save lives, however.

By the Numbers:

As reported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), more than 86 percent of individuals in the United States aged 18 and above consume alcohol at some point in their lives, with approximately 56 percent consuming alcohol at a monthly rate.

Prescription drug abuse is regrettably frequent in the United States, particularly with opioid painkillers. Addiction to prescription medications requires integrating them with liquor to become intoxicated. Likewise, those who are dealing with alcohol abuse and prescribed drugs might find it challenging to quit consuming while on the drug. If a person has an alcohol use issue, mixing legitimate pharmaceutical drugs alongside liquor can have several negative outcomes.

Why Is Mixing Prescriptions With Alcohol So Dangerous?

Whenever somebody combines a substance with alcohol, they may encounter a variety of negative impacts that range in degree and hazard. Certain pharmaceutical drugs can be rendered ineffective by alcohol, and alcohol consumption can also interact dangerously with prescription medications

Who Is Most Likely to Mix Prescriptions With Alcohol?

As per the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), in recent studies on college students, 12.1% of individuals abused prescribed medications and liquor. Furthermore, 5% of key problem alcoholics report mixing pharmaceutical and illicit drugs with liquor, not counting cannabis. The preceding are possible causes for prescribed medication and binge drinking:

  • Being in your twenties, starting from the ages of eighteen and twenty-five

  • Not completing higher education

  • Being a solitary person

  • Possessing a tendency to drink excessively or hard drinking

Which Prescription Drugs Are the Most Dangerous to Mix With Alcohol?

Numerous prescription medicines should not be combined with alcoholic beverages. Individuals should talk to their physicians regarding their medications and whether they would react negatively to liquor. Individuals who suffer from alcohol dependency and addiction and require pharmaceutical drugs seek alcohol misuse disorder services.

Choosing to consume while taking meds for numerous health issues can impair health results, and sufferers may have serious complications when combining liquor and prescription painkillers.

The following pharmaceutical drugs are among the most likely to result in harmful interactions with alcohol:

  • Anti-anxiety and seizure medications. These can have a wide range of serious adverse reactions. If these medicines are combined, one of the most frequently occurring negative impacts includes decreased inhaling, breathlessness, cognitive impairment, sleepiness, nausea, and liver problems.

  • Fever, sickness, allergen medications, and cough relievers. Individuals who consume anti-inflammatories or multi-ailment common cold drugs must abstain from alcohol. The most classic signs are vertigo, sleepiness, and poor judgment. Such connections can result in accidents or operating big machinery extremely dangerous. In addition, drunkenness while using such medicines increases the probability of fatality.

  • Angina medicines. Ischemic heartburn, often known as angina, is a chest discomfort triggered by a lowered blood supply to the heart. When angina drugs are used alongside liquor, they might produce palpitations, disorientation, collapsing, and hypertension abnormalities.

  • Antibiotics. The combination of alcoholic beverages and antibiotics might result in various hazardous side effects, notably heightened blood pressure, pulse rate, gastrointestinal trouble, migraine, and kidney damage.

  • Anticoagulants. Even moderate alcohol consumption while using prescribed blood thinner might result in internal hemorrhaging. Excessive drinking can also cause abdominal leakage and an elevated chance of developing blood clots. Individuals who imbibe while using a blood thinner seem more likely to have a cardiac event.

  • Pharmaceutical sleeping pills. When administered alone, liquor and sleep drugs induce slower respiration and reduced motor function. The effects can be amplified to deadly degrees whenever these two medications are combined. Individuals who mix sleeping tablets and liquor run the danger of memory impairment and syncope.

  • Antidepressants. The combination of antidepressant medications and alcohol decreases the efficacy of the treatment. When MAOI antidepressants are coupled with liquor, the danger of internal bleeding and heart problems increases.

  • Arthritis medicine. Mixing liquor with several of the most commonly used arthritic drugs might result in gastrointestinal bleeding, organ failure, and ulcerative colitis.

  • Diabetes medication. Combining alcohol and diabetic medicines can result in critically low blood glucose levels. This impact can cause vomiting, diarrhea, arrhythmia, and unexpected rapid depressurization.

  • Medicines for antipsychotics. Consuming when using an antipsychotic drug for psychosis or another psychiatric disease reduces the drug's effectiveness. In addition, people may develop drowsiness and extreme weariness whenever these two substances are combined.

  • Acid reflux prescriptions. Mixing liquor and prescribed indigestion medicine might result in hazardous blood pressure elevations and arrhythmia.

  • Meds for increased blood pressure. Having a drink while on medication for high blood pressure can produce dizziness, vertigo, and an increased heart rate, raising the likelihood of heart disease or stroke.

  • Pharmaceutical muscle relaxants. These, combined with alcohol, might cause decreased respiration, disorientation, memory problems, and hazardous convulsions.

  • Cholesterol-reducing medicines. This might cause liver damage, hemorrhaging, and irritation.

  • Opiate pain relievers. Liquor and pharmaceutical pain relievers decrease respiration and weaken motor coordination. Users are more inclined to succumb when these substances are coupled. Cognitive impairment could also occur when these two medications are combined. A 2017 research study published in the Journal of the American Society of Anesthesiologists discovered that pairing even tiny quantities of alcoholic beverages with pharmaceutical opioids resulted in dangerously low respiration levels. The major source of mortality in prescription painkillers incidents is an inadequate oxygen supply.

Individuals must consume their prescription medications exactly as their physician prescribes for them to be helpful. This may imply that the sufferer must refrain from drinking for several medicines. Pharmaceutical abuse or misuse can result in dependence, hazardous negative impacts, and the possibility of an overdose. Individuals who have a past of alcohol dependence or alcoholism should tell their physician concerning their issues.

These individuals require the assistance of a certified addiction treatment center. If you or somebody you love is abusing substances or prescription medicines, feel free to contact a substance abuse therapist immediately to discuss your therapeutic approaches.

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Combining Prescriptions with Alcohol Is Risky

Many people suffer from varied incarnations of alcohol dependency, particularly excessive drinking while using, misusing, or abusing pharmaceutical drugs. Abusing prescription drugs is fairly widespread, and it includes getting additional medication than required or combining the medication with other harmful products, such as liquor. Unintentionally taking a powerful prescription medicine with liquor is dangerous enough; however, some individuals battle with pharmaceutical substance abuse and might even blend these with liquor.

Typical side effects associated with the combination of pharmaceutical drugs and drinking usually involve:

  • Uncomfortable abdomen, sickness, or diarrhea

  • Lethargy, exhaustion, or an insufficient amount of sleep

  • Convulsing or disorientation

  • Brain fog

  • Variations in heart rate or cardiac damage

  • Behavioral Modifications

  • Emotional or psychological state shifts

  • Mistakes occur as a result of a lack of concentration

There is a considerable risk of overdosing on alcohol or drugs, or another form of bodily harm if anyone combines a prescribed medication with liquor, whether by mistake or purposefully. If you observe someone who appears to be suffering from medication abuse or excessive alcohol consumption, call the emergency services instantly.

In addition, mixing alcohol and prescription medicines can lead to various persistent medical problems. They could include:

  • Complications with the heart, blood clots, or cardiac arrest

  • Impairment, dysfunction, or malignancy of the liver

  • Hemorrhaging

  • Disruption of the brain

  • Stress, mood disorders, and other psychiatric conditions

While these adverse effects will assist you in comprehending how risky it can be to take alcohol alongside prescription meds, certain pharmaceuticals can induce distinct adverse effects when combined with a cognitive depressant such as liquor/alcohol. 

Which Prescriptions Are the Most Dangerous to Mix With Alcohol?

According to the NIAAA, the following prescription medicines are altered by drinking and become detrimental:

Narcotic Pain Relievers

Pain medications, or prescribed pain medications, are among the most often misused medicines in the United States, contributing to the opioid addiction pandemic. Based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), opioid overdose kills 91 individuals each day. Cocaine, opium, amphetamine, hydrocodone, Vicodin, and morphine are examples of dangerous drugs.

Prescribed opioid pain relievers are hazardous enough on their own, but taking them with liquor intensifies their calming, sleepy impacts and dramatically raises the likelihood of overdosing. For example, according to a 2017 research study published by the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA), mixing even regular prescribed doses of hydrocodone with the equivalency of 1-3 beers can result in severely depressed respiration. In addition, a lack of oxygen causes overdose deaths among those battling opiate addiction.

Prescription Stimulants

Pharmaceutical dosages of psychoactive medications such as Prozac, amphetamine, and Vyvanse support individuals with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). These medications change the amounts of neurons in the brain, which helps people with ADHD remain concentrated and on target. Yet, some individuals battle with amphetamine addiction due to "exam drugs," the practice of misusing stimulant substances to prepare for an examination or spend all night composing school assignments.

Because young adults and teens who take methamphetamine for such purposes do not have ADHD, such medicines impact their minds uniquely, and their misuse is likely to cause physical dependence and addiction. Many teens who started consuming stimulants in college are now misusing them at work. They may combine misdirected ADHD medications with liquor. The following are dangerous impacts of combining ADHD prescription meds with a depressant such as alcohol:

  • Lightheadedness and fatigue

  • Concentration issues

  • Heart dysfunction or problems are more likely.

  • Disruption of the liver


These anti-anxiety drugs work quickly by activating the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) transmitters, resulting in a feeling of relaxation that can help ease nervousness, increased anxiety, sleeplessness, and perhaps even hyperactivity disorder, including epileptic seizures. Because alcohol also works on GABA receptors, several medical associations advocate monitored diazepam dosages, mainly long-acting Valium, to assist persons suffering from drunkenness to wean off the physiological need for liquor.

Since benzodiazepines and alcohol work on comparable neural circuits, those who drink excessively may consume benzodiazepines to increase the impact of alcohol or conversely. Unfortunately, this risky procedure can result in toxicity, overdosing, and fatality.

Adverse effects that are more severe and can soon become serious include:

  • Tiredness

  • Lightheadedness

  • Breathing that is sluggish or problematic

  • Motor coordination impairment, resulting in mishaps

  • Strange conduct

  • Cognitive issues or amnesia

  • Disruption of the liver


Individuals who take psychotropic medications such as Prozac or Olanzapine need continuing care because these medications are not authorized except if the individual has a disorder such as schizophrenia. Although this psychiatric disease can be adequately handled so the patient can lead a contented and healthier lifestyle, individuals who have schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders are more inclined to use drugs and liquor, particularly tobacco, hard liquor, and cannabis.

When alcohol is mixed with antipsychotic medications, the prescribed drugs become less efficient, and delusions and convulsions may reappear. Antipsychotic drugs can cause drowsiness, tiredness, or extreme exhaustion, and drunkenness might amplify these symptoms.


While antidepressants, notably SSRIs, are a crucial advancement in managing stress or anxiety, clinical depression, and other psychiatric conditions, such medications must never be consumed without therapy or treatment sessions. Antidepressant misuse is rare, but it does occur, particularly due to prescription drug abuse. Combining antidepressants and liquor can have negative consequences. Your antidepressant might be less efficient when taken with liquor, causing you to become depressed or nervous. Cognition and thought functions might be impaired, or you might appear excessively drowsy or drugged.

When combined with liquor, older kinds of antidepressants known as MAOIs could induce cardiac problems. Hypertension, an elevated incidence of internal bleeding, and cardiac arrest can all cause long-term damage or death. Any antidepressant used with liquor might have serious adverse effects, which may include:

  • Tiredness and lightheadedness

  • Overdose and toxicity are more likely.

  • Intensified distress, pessimism, and suicidality

  • Motor function issues can result in crashes

  • Impairment to the liver

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