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Mixing Alcohol and Buprenorphine

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Mixing drugs can be extremely dangerous, and someone who is addicted to buprenorphine and alcohol may not realize or think about how deadly this combination can be. In some cases, mixing the two substances may be accidental. This can happen when a person who is using legitimately prescribed buprenorphine has a glass of wine, a beer, or another drink containing alcohol.
“…someone who is addicted to buprenorphine and alcohol may not realize or think about how deadly this combination can be.”
In other cases, substance abusers sometimes purposefully take both buprenorphine and alcohol at the same time in order to increase the effects of one or both substances. If you or someone you know is addicted to buprenorphine and alcohol and often combines the two substances, contact for information about how to stop this dangerous practice.

Buprenorphine and Opiate Addiction

Buprenorphine is prescribed for the treatment of opiate addiction and helps relieve withdrawal symptoms in individuals who are going through detoxification from morphine, codeine, heroin, oxycodone, and other related drugs. When used for a long time or in high doses, buprenorphine can be addictive. In some cases, buprenorphine is combined with another drug, naloxone, which reduces the potential for addiction. Because both buprenorphine and the combination drug containing buprenorphine and naloxone can depress the central nervous system and respiration, they should never be taken with alcohol. People who are addicted to alcohol before starting treatment for opiate addiction should be treated for alcoholism before being given buprenorphine. Alcoholics who start taking buprenorphine may find themselves addicted to buprenorphine and alcohol.

As the use of buprenorphine increases, this type of dual addiction may become more common. According to a 2007 article in the journal Psychiatry, buprenorphine use increased from about 12,000 prescriptions in the early part of 2002 to almost 300,000 prescriptions by the middle-to-end of 2006, a phenomenal rate of growth. Buprenorphine is often used in place of methadone for treating opiate addiction because it is just as effective yet causes milder withdrawal symptoms than moderate doses of methadone.

Effects of Mixing Buprenorphine and Alcohol

The effects of mixing buprenorphine and alcohol range from uncomfortable to deadly. Combining these two substances can increase drowsiness and disorientation, which can make accidents, including car accidents and household accidents, more likely. Someone who is addicted to buprenorphine and alcohol may also be at higher risk for an overdose because the effects of the two drugs combine. Symptoms of an overdose include:

  • Extreme weakness
  • Clammy skin
  • Failing
  • Extremely dilated pupils
  • Weak pulse
  • Shallow breathing
  • Slow heart rate

“The effects of mixing buprenorphine and alcohol range from uncomfortable to deadly.”
In some cases, these effects can cause a coma or death, so anyone experiencing these symptoms as a result of mixing buprenorphine and alcohol should be brought to a hospital for immediate medical assistance.

Abusers sometimes crush extended-release buprenorphine tablets, mix the crushed powder with water, and inject the solution to get a high. This can increase the risk of side effects, overdose and death. Combining crushed tablets and alcohol is especially dangerous. According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, about 1.1 percent of the US population has a problem with co-occurring drug and alcohol use disorders, such as drug abuse or addiction.

Treatment for Addiction to Buprenorphine and Alcohol

Someone who is addicted to buprenorphine and alcohol needs a rehabilitation treatment program tailored to his or her specific situation. Both addictions must be treated simultaneously and the recovery managed in a way that helps prevent relapses. Because of the complications involved with treating two addictions at once, treatment at an inpatient residential facility is more likely to be effective than outpatient treatment. Treatment typically involves multiple phases. The patient first undergoes withdrawal and detoxification from both buprenorphine and alcohol. After the withdrawal symptoms have subsided, the patient can then begin a course of therapy that helps him or her recognize the effects of each substance as well as the dangers of mixing buprenorphine with alcohol.

The patient will also learn new ways to act and develop new habits that help him or her resist the temptation to drink or take drugs in the future. While the treatment program may be complex, someone who is addicted to buprenorphine and alcohol can successfully recover and go on to live a clean and sober life. To find the best treatment for addiction to buprenorphine and alcohol, call to discuss your particular situation with a trained specialist who can assess your circumstances and recommend a program for you.

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The editorial staff of is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed thousands of pages for accuracy and relevance. Our reviewers consistently monitor the latest research from SAMHSA, NIDA, and other reputable sources to provide our readers the most accurate content on the web.
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