A lot of people using and abusing pharmaceutical pain pills and sedative hypnotics tend to occasionally or more than occasionally consume alcohol concurrently to maximize the intoxication effects of the drugs. We all read the warnings that come with each and every package of pills, and since almost all of them seem to dictate an avoidance of alcohol; I think that we become complacent as to the real risks of concurrent alcohol and pharmaceutical consumption.
I was always suspicious as to the real risks, and since pharmaceutical companies seem to include just about everything under the sun within the fine print, I always thought that they just saying to avoid alcohol to cover their collective "butts" in the event of rare disaster and resultant legal responsibility. It generally starts with pills and one drink, and when nothing tragic occurs, that one drink can become two, three and more. Unfortunately, research has shown that the dangers of alcohol and pain pills together are real, and when taken together there is an increased risk of addiction, overdose, and toxic effects.
Basically, the pharmaceutical companies aren’t just kidding around when they warn of the dangers of concurrent alcohol and pharmaceutical consumption.
The dangers are essentially three fold. There is an increased risk of dependence and addiction, there is an increased risk of overdose, and there are increased risks of bodily harm.
1 Greater addiction
Whenever the intoxicating effects and perceived pleasures of a high are increased, the psychological addiction to that substance increases. A lot of people use alcohol to increase the potency of the pills and to get a more intense and pleasurable high. This unfortunately accelerates the risks of dependence, and when dealing with already very addictive substances like prescribed opiates, doing anything to increase the risks of dependence should not be considered wise. Additionally, once addicted, the detox off of opiates and alcohol together is far worse than the very difficult detox off of opiates alone. Opiate detox is torture, and I can’t imagine going through an intensified version. Don’t mess with alcohol and pills unless you’re prepared to pay a very high price come detoxification time!
2 greater health risks
Addiction to both alcohol or opiates results in cognitive declines and an increased risk of psychiatric conditions, but these risks are exacerbated when there is a co addiction. Additionally, the danger to the liver, already taxed through a single addiction, increases when there is the co consumption of two drugs simultaneously; and since so many of the most widely abused opiates contain high amounts of acetaminophen, the risk of liver failure when taken with even moderate amounts of alcohol increases substantially. Basically, taking alcohol and pills together amplifies the harm of either substance and accelerates the bodily damage.
3 Risk of death
Because both opiates and sedative hypnotic prescription medications are central nervous system depressants like alcohol, there is a very real risk of accidental overdose and death. When too much of a central nervous system depressant is taken, the brain can slow to the point at which basal respiratory and cardiac functioning's are curtailed. It's just a very bad idea to take pills and alcohol together. The temptation to increases the potency of a limited supply of opiate type pills increases the temptation to co abuse alcohol, but the potential price of this co abuse is very high.
I've been addicted to alcohol and pills, but not together, and I feel for anyone that needs to tackle these two dependencies concurrently. Since the detox is so tough, a supervised rehab and detox should probably be considered as the best bet. If you are taking or abusing pharmaceuticals, don’t fall into the trap of adding alcohol to your problems. The effects of both addictions compound the damage of either, and the resultant poly drug addiction is even more difficult to break free from. I'm not too trusting of pharmaceutical companies, but it seems that when reading the warnings against alcohol consumption with opiate type drugs, they're telling the truth at least this once.