It’s widely known that drinking too much alcohol or taking too many drugs can be dangerous and even deadly. But even in small doses alcohol and prescription painkillers can be harmful when mixed together. Doctors caution that drinking alcohol while on the prescription painkiller Vicodin can be an especially dangerous combination.
Enhanced Side Effects
Prescription drugs and alcohol, separately, can have their own unique side effects. Vicodin is composed of hydrocodone and acetaminophen. The hydrocodone has been known to cause memory loss, confusion, and breathing problems in patients. The acetaminophen can harm the liver. Vicodin can also cause stomach upset, severe nausea, and vomiting. Vicodin is also a depressant.
Drinking too much alcohol can produce all the same side effects as mentioned above. Combining the side effects of Vicodin with the effects of drinking alcohol dangerously compounds the effects.
Researchers have found that those who consume more than three alcoholic drinks each day and who are on Vicodin greatly increase the risk of harming the liver. Breathing problems can be more severe. Both depressants weigh extra-heavily on the mind.
A Dangerous Mixture
The Food and Drug Administration advises that people should not drink any alcohol while taking Vicodin. Each individual’s body chemistry is different. Each person has their own tolerance for substances. What may be a safe mixture for some may be deadly for others. The safest way for someone to consume alcohol while on prescription painkillers is to ask their doctor’s expert opinion. For those who have a doctor’s recommendation on a safe amount to drink, the following signs may indicate the body is reacting dangerously to too much alcohol mixed with Vicodin:
- Shortness of breath
- A weak pulse
- Stomach pain
- Loss of consciousness
- Lack of coordination
If any of these signs appear, the individual should immediately be taken to a doctor.
How Much is Too Much
A physician can help a person determine how much alcohol is too much alcohol while taking a prescription painkiller like Vicodin. Multiple factors can help determine a person’s tolerance and possible reactions to the mixture.
The dosage that an individual takes will be one consideration in determining the amount of alcohol one can safely consume. One study on Vicodin suggested a guideline to help prevent liver damage. Since the acetaminophen in Vicodin has been linked with liver damage, the research study suggested that if someone were taking more than 2,000 mg of Vicodin (or more than two pills) each day that more than three alcoholic drinks in a day could cause dangerous effects.
Mixing prescription drugs and alcohol can compound the intoxication of an individual and lead to severe side effects, overdose, and even death. Abstinence from alcohol can prevent the risk of a deadly mixture, and guidance from a health professional can aid in the security of safely taking medications.