Hydrocodone and Alcohol Mixing – Dangers and Effects of Interaction

Last Updated: June 3, 2020

Authored by Olivier George, Ph.D.

Reviewed by Michael Espelin APRN

Hydrocodone is one of the most frequently prescribed painkillers, often under the brand name Vicodin, Lortab, Norco, or Lorcet. There are generic versions of the drug that vary in Hydrocodone strengths and are cheaper than branded ones. With this opioid medicine being quite widespread, drinking on hydrocodone remains a big concern both for doctors and the society.
The drug works to inhibit pain signals to the brain hereby relieving serious pains, making this drug highly effective as a pain reliever. This drug also falls into the category of schedule II drug which is highly addictive on abuse and presents with a remarkable amount of health problems especially when one is drinking alcohol while taking hydrocodone.

Why Mixing Alcohol with Hydrocodone is Dangerous

Often time’s ardent drinkers indulge in mixing alcohol with hydrocodone. This is common with illegal self-medication as mixing alcohol and hydrocodone introduces a “party time” effect.
Mixing hydrocodone with alcohol willman with a bottle of alcohol and a handful of hydrocodone pills increase the feeling of high but will also put pressure on the nervous system which becomes visible over time.
Hydrocodone-alcohol combination can cause irreparable damage to the body. Hydrocodone and alcohol may have pleasurable effects on the on-set such as a feeling of euphoria and a numbing highness; however, this feeling has long-term risks if unchecked.
Both alcohol and hydrocodone have similar neurologic effects such as intoxication and a feeling of high, as both can cause relaxative changes in the system. Hydrocodone with alcohol can cause escalated distortions in breathing and heart rate which can lead to heart failure, Coma and even death.
It is quite unfortunate that a remarkable number of people die every day from the misuse of drugs such as Adderall and hydrocodone, with alcohol mixtures. The United States alone records hundreds of millions of opioid prescriptions yearly and these cuts across all demographics. A large number of these opioid prescriptions contain pain inhibitors, such as hydrocodone chlorpheniramine syrup and the likes.

Side Effect of Drinking on Hydrocodone

The drug is usually administered as a cure for chronic pain, the mode of reaction is to create a drowsy effect which relaxes the muscles and numbs the pain. Alcohol is a known depressant and presents with the same feeling of high as the drug; this combined intoxication immediately leads to the breakdown of the nervous system with major effects on the breathing. A list of side effects include:

  • seizures man lying on the floor with seizures
  • loss of consciousness
  • shallow breathing
  • low heartbeat
  • damages to the liver
  • loss of hearing
  • heart failure
  • drowsiness
  • coma

Drinking alcohol while taking hydrocodone puts extreme pressure on the liver and can result to the following:

  • liver failure
  • ulcerations
  • internal bleeding

Some of these effects can also be experienced through hydrocodone lean. This usually involves mixing the drug with various carbonated drinks for pleasure or indulging on hydrocodone – homatropine syrup high. It is also mention-worthy that the route of exposure does not decrease the content of drug from the body; this refers to harmful crude techniques such as snorting hydrocodone.
The symptoms of hydrocodone overdose alone are quite broad but often less spontaneous than mixtures with alcoholic drinks. There are other extended reactions that can emanate from other combinations such as the side effects of hydrocodone acetaminophen.

How Long After Taking Hydrocodone Can One Drink?

When opioids are taken, they find their way into the bloodstream and are absorbed into the body. After these opioids are metabolized and re-absorbed they are channeled to the excretory system and deposited in the urine.

How long after taking hydrocodone can I drink?

A safer period to consider taking alcohol would be from the 5th day after the last dosage typically. It is imperative to talk to a medical professional about specifics such as the dosage amount and other factors that may affect the half-life of the opioid such as age, weight, and other factors associated with alcohol with hydrocodone reactions.

How long after drinking can I take hydrocodone?

Alcohol metabolizes within 10-12 hours in the body and is eliminated from the system within 3-5 days. This would suggest that the 6th day after drinking alcohol is safe to take hydrocodone. This is an estimation on when it is safe to take hydrocodone. Drinking on hydrocodone is a huge risk, so in order to be completely safe from a health crisis, it is best to confide in a medical doctor for further directives.

“Safe Amount” of Alcohol to Take With Hydrocodone

wine glasses and bottle with prescription hydrocodoneAgain, this is highly dependent on earlier mentioned factors, and there are no safe amounts. Discussing these probabilities and conditions with one’s doctor is imperative. It would be unsafe to make assumptions as both contents have a strong effect on the nervous system and can lead to an overdose.

Getting Professional Help Immediately

Drinking with hydrocodone often occurs out of ignorance, addiction to alcohol while on medication or vice versa. In cases where hydrocodone and drinking are likely to occur due to addiction to the opioid, it is necessary to seek the help of a medical professional who would provide adequate counseling on hydrocodone acetaminophen alcohol interactions and how to manage addictions.
Many facilities offer treatments for drug abusers and provide counseling for early detection, management, and system detoxification to enable a complete body cleansing from the addictive drug. If someone is experiencing signs of addiction to opioids or interactions between hydrocodone acetaminophen and alcohol, contact us immediately for counseling and support.

Page Sources

  1. Medline Plus. Hydrocodone Combination Products. 2019. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a601006.html.
  2. Farr SJ, Robinson C. Y., Rubino C. M. Effects of food and alcohol on the pharmacokinetics of an oral, extended-release formulation of hydrocodone in healthy volunteers. The Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. 2015; 7: 1–9. doi:10.2147/CPAA.S70831. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4307648/.

Published on: November 18th, 2016

Updated on: June 3rd, 2020

About Author

Olivier George, Ph.D.

Olivier George is a medical writer and head manager of the rehab center in California. He spends a lot of time in collecting and analyzing the traditional approaches for substance abuse treatment and assessing their efficiency.

Medically Reviewed by

Michael Espelin APRN

8 years of nursing experience in wide variety of behavioral and addition settings that include adult inpatient and outpatient mental health services with substance use disorders, and geriatric long-term care and hospice care.  He has a particular interest in psychopharmacology, nutritional psychiatry, and alternative treatment options involving particular vitamins, dietary supplements, and administering auricular acupuncture.


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