Talk about making a bad situation worse. It’s widely known that mixing alcohol with any sort of medication – even harmless over-the-counter cough medications – can cause harmful adverse effects. When alcohol is mixed with fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that already has a deadly reputation on its own, it’s a combination that gets lethal fast. The interaction of these two drugs can cause dangerous slowing of the heart and respiratory systems leading to coma and possibly death. Scary stuff right? To fully understand why mixing fentanyl and alcohol is so dangerous, we’ll be taking a closer look into how each substance affects the body individually and how those side effects compound on one another when present in the system at the same time.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid analgesic that, like most other opioids, is used to help manage severe or chronic pain. It’s commonly used post-surgery, for individuals who already have a tolerance to other kinds of opioids. It’s 100 times stronger than morphine and 50 times more than heroin – a Schedule I drug. Its unrivaled potency is one of the reasons why fentanyl is one of the most addictive opioids in existence. This drug is available in a number of forms including lozenges, patches, and nasal sprays in addition to the usual pill or intravenous liquid.
There are a growing number of fentanyl analogs and derivatives made in clandestine manufacturing facilities. This illicit version is often even stronger than the medical-versions, and are therefore that much more dangerous. One of the biggest risks recreational drug users face is the increasing commonality of fentanyl being used to lace other drugs like cocaine and marijuana to unknowing users.
How Fentanyl Affects the Body
Fentanyl works as your typical opioid would, preventing pain messages from reaching the brain by occupying mu-receptors. Once occupied, these receptors cause increased levels of dopamine output which can lead to feelings of euphoria along with pain relief. Fentanyl also affects the central nervous system which can cause other side effects such as:
- Lowered consciousness: sedation and drowsiness are common, but often ironically accompanied by restlessness, difficulty falling asleep, or full-on insomnia.
- Cognitive impairment: basic motor functions and decision making-can be severely affected. This can also result in auditory, visual, or tactile hallucinations, delirium, or nightmares.
- Neurological damage: A major factor in the development of tolerance. Damage to neurons and receptors can cause a myriad of physiological effects on the body such as muscle spasms and increased pain sensitivity.
- Slowing of autonomic functions: Respiratory and gastrointestinal systems are disrupted to cause slowed breathing and digestional issues
How Alcohol Affects the Body
Alcohol is a depressant that mirrors several of fentanyl’s effects on the brain and central nervous system along with a host of side effects that are all its own. While fentanyl primarily disrupts the dopamine transmitter, alcohol also interferes with GABA, serotonin, and glutamate circuits. This causes impairment of motor skills, cognition, impulse control, and mood regulation, in addition to slowed breathing, heart function, digestion.
The Effects of Fentanyl and Alcohol
It is primarily this overlap in side effects that makes the combination of fentanyl and alcohol so dangerous. They both have a significant impact on the central nervous system, the effects of which are amplified when both substances are present in the body at the same time.
- Low blood pressure and cardiac distress
- Severely impaired memory or memory loss
- Drowsiness or unconsciousness
- Dangerously slow breathing
- Hypoxia (which can lead to coma or death)
In addition to these dangerous physicological and psycoholgical effects, combining alcohol with another drug greatly increases the likelihood of developing an addiction and of incurring severe withdrawal symptoms.
Polysubstance Drug Abuse Dangerous – Get Help Now
Regularly using multiple drugs at once is known as polysubstance abuse. Besides exponentially increasing the risk factors of each individual drug, the side effects can compound, which makes them difficult to treat. The extent of dual sources of neurological damage often means that the chance of relapse is significantly higher.
In these instances, the use of medical detox treatments are recommended. During withdrawal, your body is shedding the effects of multiple drugs in a system at one time which can cause unexpected symptoms that require medical intervention. If you or a loved one find yourself addicted to multiple drugs at the same time, contact us today so that we can help you safely manage dual withdrawal symptoms.