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Mixing Alcohol and Opiates – Signs, Withdrawal Symptoms and Treatment

Dangers of Mixing Alcohol and Opiates

Opiates are a type of drug used in the treatment of pain. Doctors typically prescribe these medications for patients suffering from intense pain caused by broken bones, strained muscles and surgery. Opiates affect the nervous system and brain, which reduces the amount of pain that you feel. Some over-the-counter medications contain a small amount of opiates, and some medications for diarrhea also contain opiates.

“If you mix alcohol with opiates, you might feel sleepy or lose control.”
When taken properly, opiates can stop a person from feeling any pain. The lack of pain and the pleasurable feeling it brings can lead to an addiction. Doctors and pharmacists often recommend that patients not take alcohol when using opiates because the alcohol intensifies the opiates. If you mix alcohol with opiates, you might feel sleepy or lose control. Someone who is addicted to opiates and alcohol might find that they cannot use one substance without the other.

What Happens When You Mix?

Mixing opiates with alcohol is dangerous because it changes the way your body reacts to the medication. Some of the dangers of mixing opiates with alcohol include:

  • Respiratory problems, including the inability to breathe
  • Shallow breathing
  • Sleepiness
  • Increased risk of overdose
  • Confusion
  • Inability to remember how much medication you took
  • Increased tolerance

Tolerance Issues

opiates and alcoholThose who are addicted to opiates and alcohol have an increased risk of developing a tolerance to both substances. Those who take opiates slowly develop a tolerance to the medication. The addict might find that he needs a higher dose of the medication to get the same effect that he did originally. If you take alcohol with your opiates, you might develop a tolerance to both. When this occurs, you need to drink more alcohol and take more medication to get the pleasurable feeling that you had in the beginning.


The effects of mixing alcohol and opiates are more dangerous than mixing alcohol with another drug because both substances are depressants. Alcohol dulls the senses, making it harder to concentrate, do simple tasks and stay awake. Opiates have the same effects on your body. When you mix the two substances, you have a harder time doing your regular activities.

Withdrawing From Opiates and Alcohol

Withdrawing from opiates can lead to some specific side effects or symptoms. These symptoms can include:

  • Anxious feelings
  • Depression
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Insomnia
  • Stomach cramps
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Cold feelings

The first symptoms can occur within 12 hours after you stop taking the opiates. Some patients who are addicted to opiates and alcohol might swap one substance for the other. For example, the addict starts drinking more because she stopped taking opiates.

Treatment Options

“The addict should learn new ways to handle stressful situations that might otherwise cause her to use opiates and alcohol.”
The type of treatment option that works well for an addict depends on his level of addiction. Some find that cognitive behavioral therapy is the best option, while others require medical treatment in addition to traditional therapy. Medical treatment puts the addict through the withdrawal process. Most often, maintenance medications are needed during opiate detox. Also, medications are often needed to counteract symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.

Treatments for Multiple Addictions

When someone in your life is addicted to opiates and alcohol, you want to help that person get away from the drugs and alcohol in any way you can. The right treatment program is one that treats both addictions. The addict should learn new ways to handle stressful situations that might otherwise cause her to use opiates and alcohol. You can contact us at to find out more about the different treatment programs that can help you or an addict in your life.


  • Poppy seeds naturally contain a small amount of opiates.
  • College students and younger user sometimes call the mixture of opiates and alcohol “farming.”
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