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What are the Effects of Mixing Alcohol and Codeine?

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Codeine is a type of pain-relieving medication that doctors prescribe for patients with moderate pain. Some over-the-counter medications contain small doses of codeine because the drug relieves pain associated with coughing. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, those who drink large amounts of alcohol should not take codeine.

What are Depressant Drugs?

“… those who drink large amounts of alcohol should not take codeine.”
Depressant drugs refer to any type of drug that has a depressive or sedative effect when taken. Both alcohol and codeine are depressant drugs. A sedative effect is one of the more common effects of mixing alcohol with codeine. When you take the two substances, you might feel too tired or too sad to get through your regular activities. You can become addicted to codeine and alcohol because you take the two substances, and your body builds up a resistance to the substances.

Do You Have a Tolerance to Codeine and Alcohol?

Tolerance refers to how much of a substance you must take before you feel its effects. If you have never used codeine before, a single dose might be strong enough to reduce the pain you feel. If you have a higher tolerance to the medication, you might require a higher dose. The problem is that as you keep taking a higher dose, you slowly build up a resistance to the medication. You must take a much higher dose to get the same results that you did when you first took the medication.

Those who are addicted to codeine and alcohol can develop a tolerance to both substances. An addict might mix codeine with alcohol because the alcohol increases the effects of the codeine. After repeatedly mixing the substances, the addict must take larger amounts of both substances to get the same effects. This can even occur when you wean yourself off one of the substances. For example, you might stop drinking alcohol and need to take more codeine to feel relaxed and reduce your pain.

Warning Signs of an Addiction

If someone you know suffers from an addiction to alcohol and codeine, they might exhibit some specific symptoms. These symptoms and signs of addiction can include:

  • Depressive thoughts when the substances are not available
  • Inability to take one substance without the other
  • Frequent thoughts about taking codeine and drinking
  • Inability to stop taking either substance
  • Drinking more alcohol and taking more codeine over the course of the day
  • Anxiety or depression caused by the loss of the substances

Various Effects of the Mixture

The dangers of mixing codeine with alcohol can include respiratory distress. This distress makes it harder to take a single breath, and you might notice that your breathing seems shallow. Other dangers of mixing the substances can lead to a person becoming addicted to codeine and alcohol or cause one of the other effects:

  • Impaired judgment
  • Poor motor skills
  • Confusion
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Coma

Looking for Treatment and Help?

“…a doctor or detox facility might help the addict withdraw from the substances before beginning the treatment.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that more than 50 percent of all adults have had at least 12 drinks in the last year. When you start mixing alcohol with codeine, it could be the sign of addiction. Those who are addicted to codeine and alcohol should get help from a professional program. Depending on the severity of the addiction, a doctor or detox facility might help the addict withdraw from the substances before beginning the treatment. When you need help for yourself or a loved one, call . We can help you learn more about the right detox program or treatment plan for codeine and alcohol addictions.

Did You Know?

  • According to the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, more than 30 million people over the age of 12 abused prescription drugs one or more times.
  • A Drug-Free World reports that more than 2.2 million people misused or abused prescription and over-the-counter cough syrups, including those that contain codeine.
  • “Purple drank” refers to a type of party drink that mixes codeine cough syrup with a clear liquid. Some users add alcohol as the liquid in the drink.
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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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