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Mixing Oxycodone & Alcohol: Effects, Dangers, & Risks

Oxycodone is a commonly prescribed opioid medication used to treat moderate to severe pain.1 Opioids are a class of drugs derived from the opium poppy plant.1 Opioids are generally considered safe when taken as prescribed. However, they can be highly addictive and should be taken with caution and used only as prescribed.1

Both oxycodone and alcohol have sedative effects on the body. The combination of both can cause enhanced sedative effects that can increase the risk of injury or of life-threatening respiratory depression (i.e., overdose).2 It is important to know that combining substances can have serious consequences, even when prescribed by a doctor. If there is a warning on your medication not to use alcohol with it, be sure to take that seriously.

This article will discuss the dangers of combining prescription opioids, like oxycodone, with alcohol.


Find Out If Your Insurance Plan Covers Alcohol or Oxycodone Addiction Treatment 

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What Is Oxycodone?

Oxycodone is a semi-synthetic narcotic analgesic. It’s a powerful pain reliever that is often misused for its ability to produce intense feelings of euphoria and relaxation, particularly at higher doses.1 The opioid medication may be prescribed alone or in formulations where it is mixed with acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) and it is commonly known by brand-name versions of the drug, including Percocet and Oxycontin.1

Opioids bind to and activate opioid receptors in the central nervous system, blocking pain signals. Opioids also increase the activity of dopamine, which is associated with feelings of euphoria as well as reinforcing use.1 Oxycodone, like all opioids, can be extremely addictive and has a high potential for misuse.1


What is Alcohol?

Alcohol is the most frequently used and misused substance in the United States. A central nervous system (CNS) depressant, alcohol interferes with communication between nerve cells in the brain, causing sedation as well as problems with cognition and memory, controlling balance, and exercising judgment.3 These disruptions can increase the likelihood of injuries as well as other negative outcomes.4

Alcohol is the 3rd leading cause of preventable death in the United States, with approximately 95,000 Americans dying each year of alcohol-related causes.6 Approximately 3 million deaths worldwide, each year, are attributed to alcohol consumption, contributing to more than 5% of the global burden of disease.6


What Happens When You Mix Alcohol and Oxycodone?

Increasing evidence suggests that alcohol and opioids are commonly used together, with alcohol being a contributing factor in many opioid-related overdose deaths.2 This is due in large part to the fact that alcohol and oxycodone both depress the body’s respiratory drive and slow breathing. They work synergistically, which means that the effect of each substance is stronger when taken together than when taken separately. This can produce significant respiratory depression (i.e., slowed or stopped breathing) that can lead to respiratory arrest, when someone stops breathing altogether, Slowed or stopped breathing can lead to brain hypoxia, which is when not enough oxygen reaches the brain.7 This can lead to coma, brain damage, or death.

The Dangerous Effects of Oxycodone and Alcohol Use

Combining oxycodone and alcohol, polysubstance abuse, may lead to enhancing the sedative and respiratory depressing effects of both drugs including:8

  • Drowsiness.
  • Dizziness.
  • Impaired motor control.
  • Slowed breathing.
  • Unusual behavior.
  • Memory problems.

Combining oxycodone or another prescription opioids with alcohol can lead to over-sedation and profound respiratory depression. Over-sedation can lead to a decline in coordination and resultant injury as well as blackout, loss of consciousness, and memory loss. Combining opioids and alcohol increases the risk of life-threatening overdose as a result of profound respiratory depression.9 From 2007 to 2017, alcohol was involved in about 15% of prescription opioid overdose deaths.10

Alcohol and opioid use are commonly implicated in suicidal behavior; however, it is unknown if the risk of suicidal thoughts or behavior increases when the substances are combined.11

Oxycodone is often prescribed as a combination drug like Percocet, which includes acetaminophen as well as oxycodone. Acetaminophen has been associated with cases of acute liver failure, particularly when it is taken in high doses. Combining alcohol with acetaminophen increases the risk of acute liver failure.9


Why Do People Mix Oxycodone and Alcohol?

People combine alcohol and oxycodone for a variety of reasons. Just as combining the two substances may enhance each substance sedative effects, pleasurable and reinforcing effects are also enhanced.

Alcohol use is common in the U.S, with over 85% of adults reporting they have used alcohol at some point in their lives, while more than 14 million people ages 12 and older, in the U.S. alone, were diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder in 2019.6


How Long Should I Wait Between Drinking and Oxycodone Use?

It is essential when taking any prescription medication, and especially an opioid medication, to take it only as directed and abide by all warnings on the label. Talk to your doctor or prescriber about possible interactions with alcohol when taking prescription opioids like oxycodone or other medications. Mixing alcohol with oxycodone or any prescription opioid will enhance the sedative and respiratory effects, leading to increased drowsiness, dizziness, slowed or impaired breathing, unusual behavior, memory problems, and impaired motor control that is greater than that which occurs when the substances are taken separately.12


Help is Available

If you or someone you know is struggling with oxycodone and/or alcohol use, there is help available. Misuse and addiction to either or both substances can be dangerous, even life-threatening.

There are multiple alcohol addiction treatment and oxycodone addiction treatment options available, and they will vary based on each person’s unique needs. However, effective treatment often includes a combination of the following:13

  • Medically assisted detox to help manage acute symptoms of withdrawal.
  • Behavioral therapy to address negative self-talk and behavioral patterns.
  • Medication for opioid use disorder, which can help prevent a return to illicit opioid use, decrease the likelihood of relapse, and eliminate or greatly lessen opioid withdrawal symptoms.
  • Mental health treatment to address any co-occurring disorders and learn relapse prevention strategies.
  • Aftercare to address relapse prevention strategies and ongoing support.

Please remember that there is help available and that many insurance plans will cover at least some of the cost of treatment. American Addiction Centers has admissions navigators on hand 24/7 who can help guide you through the process and verify the benefits of your individual insurance policy. Don’t wait. Call or click here to learn more today.


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