Alcohol use in common, and some people find having a drink or two in the evening to be a great way to unwind after a long day. Those taking prescription drugs, however, need to be cautious: Mixing alcohol and prescription drugs can have unpleasant or dangerous side effects. Here are a few reasons to pay attention to warnings about mixing drugs and alcohol.
Common Side Effects
One of the most common side effects of prescription drug and alcohol interactions is an upset stomach, including the possibility of severe nausea and vomiting. For some drugs, mixing in alcohol can lead to profound fatigue or drowsiness, making it difficult to maintain an appropriate sleep schedule. Alcohol alone can lead to a loss of coordination, but mixing in certain prescription drugs can lead to an even greater effect, increasing the possibility of falls and other accidents. Healthy individuals might even faint, potentially causing significant injuries.
Even if drinking alcohol while taking prescription drugs doesn’t have noticeable side effects, many drugs lose their effectiveness due to alcohol. This can lead to patients not receiving the benefits needed from taking a particular drug, and doctors might respond by increasing the dosage, which increases the risk of side effects from the drug itself. Doctors tend to prescribe the safest drugs and those with the least side effects first. If alcohol use causes the first drug to fail, patients might be asked to take less pleasant drugs or one more likely to lead to negative health effects. Prescription drug management can be difficult for both doctors and patients. Ingesting alcohol can make the problem even more challenging to deal with.
Not all side effects of alcohol and drug interactions are transient. Alcohol has been linked to heart problems, and adding in prescription drugs can increase this risk significantly. Prescription drugs and alcohol can both be taxing on the liver, and a combination of the two can be potentially disastrous, leading to liver damage or even failure; liver cancer risk can rise as well. In some cases, even the brain can be damaged from chronic alcohol use, especially when mixed with certain prescription drugs. Alcohol is associated with a large number of deaths across the globe, and prescription drugs play a role in many of these deaths.
Increased Chance of Abuse
Alcohol alone can be an addiction, and many prescription drugs have the possibility of causing addiction. Studies have shown that mixing both alcohol and prescription drugs can increase the likelihood of a person becoming addicted. Addiction affects people of all ages, income levels and walks of life, and researchers are finding that prescription drug abuse is more common than many previously realized. Even if you haven’t dealt with addiction in the past, mixing alcohol and drugs can increase your susceptibility to facing severe addiction and the health and social risks that come with it.
Alcohol has a clear effect on personality, and many prescription drugs can change behavior as well. Mixing the two can lead to even more profound changes. Alcohol lowers inhibition, which can cause what would otherwise be minor personality changes caused by prescription drugs to become extreme. Many of these behavioral changes could lead to potentially dangerous scenarios. A person who would never consider driving while intoxicated, for example, might end up behind the wheel of an automobile. Public misbehavior can lead to a host of potential problems, and those under the influence of prescription drugs and alcohol might end up saying hurtful things to family or friends. Unfortunately, many people who engage in this behavior often end up not remembering their actions, as mixing alcohol and prescription drugs can cause short-term memory loss.
Risk of Overdose
Overdoses can cause life-threatening effects, and combining alcohol with prescription drugs increases the risk of overdose from both substances. Even seemingly innocuous drugs, such as over-the-counter painkillers, thin the blood, which increases the likelihood of overdosing from alcohol, and prescription drugs can be even more dangerous. Furthermore, alcohol can lower the overdose threshold of certain prescription drugs. This effect is amplified due to the lowered inhibition that alcohol use causes. A person taking opioids, for example, might end up taking more than prescribed to become higher.
Changes in Mood
When taking prescription drugs, patients should monitor their mood to find out what effect, if any, the drug is having. Alcohol use, even in small amounts, can increase the likelihood of a patient becoming depressed partially due to their prescription drug use. Patients taking drugs known to cause depression may find their doctors unwilling to write more prescriptions, denying patients the benefits of these drugs. Alcohol can lead to or exacerbate depression, and depression has been linked to increased rates of alcohol abuse. Adding a prescription drug to the mix can increase the likelihood of encountering a potentially dangerous cycle of substance abuse and depression.
Some people are able to drink small amounts of alcohol regularly without any repercussions. However, one of the major reasons why doctors advise specific patients to avoid alcohol consumption is to avoid potentially dangerous interactions with specific drugs. If you drink alcohol, make sure to ask your doctor if there are any potential interactions if you’re prescribed a new drug as side effects can be disastrous. If you or a loved one feel that you may be struggling with drug or alcohol use, contact us for more information.