Dangers Of Mixing Prescription Meds And Alcohol/Illegal Substances

4 packets of prescription medicine with a purple background.

Dangers Of Mixing Prescription Meds And Alcohol/Illegal Substances

Whether prescribed or not prescribed, mixing medications with alcohol or other illegal substances can have unwanted and unpredictable consequences. We can help ourselves, our loved ones, and our community by understanding the dangers and taking necessary steps to protect each other.

When mixed with alcohol, certain medications could interact with the substance and result in the following:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Fainting
  • Drowsiness 
  • Loss of coordination  

In addition, mixing drugs and alcohol can put you at risk for more severe symptoms such as:

  • Heart problems
  • Brain damage
  • Stroke
  • Liver damage
  • Liver cancer
  • Liver failure
  • Internal bleeding 
  • Breathing difficulties  
  • Mental health issues like anxiety and depression

On top of these dangers, alcohol could cause the medication to become less effective or even useless. The mixture could also make the medication toxic or harmful to your body and mental health.

Some medicines that individuals might never suspect could adversely react with alcohol. These include many medications that you can buy without a prescription. Even some herbal remedies could have damaging effects when mixed with alcohol.  

Below is a list of medications that could cause impairment when taken with alcohol. It also highlights the possible side effects when combined with alcohol/illegal substances.


When combined with alcohol, medications like Valium and Xanax have a synergistic effect that has the potential to cause severe or even lethal consequences. These include a rapid onset of stumbling, dizziness, loss of memory, loss of sphincter control, and potential death.

Prescription Opiates 

When combining prescription medications like Percocet, OxyContin, and Tylenol 3 with codeine and Vicodin, alcohol could react with them in a very negative way. Doing this could lead to arrested or slowed breathing, lowered blood pressure and pulse rate, unconsciousness, and may even put you in a coma.  

The individual could also potentially die from this level of drug abuse. This seems to be a common theme, unfortunately.

Prescription Stimulants 

Combining stimulants like Concerta, Ritalin, and Adderall with alcohol can conceal the effects of the alcohol. As such, individuals will not be able to gauge the extent of their intoxication, which could lead to overconsumption. For example, this could result in considerable impairment of judgment/coordination, blackout, and again, potential death.

Like some medicines, alcohol can make you tired, sleepy, or lightheaded. Consuming alcohol while taking meds could amplify the impact. You could have problems concentrating or carrying out mechanical duties.  

Small quantities of alcohol could make it risky to drive; when alcohol is mixed with certain meds, you are at an even greater risk. Mixing alcohol with certain meds could result in falls and severe injuries, particularly among older individuals.  


Individuals who take antipsychotics such as Zyprexa or Seroquel require continuing treatment.  This is because these medications are only prescribed when an individual has schizophrenia. 

It is crucial to manage this mental health disease effectively so the person can have a healthy, happy life. However, many individuals who struggle with psychosis like schizophrenia are more likely to abuse drugs or other substances like alcohol, marijuana, and cigarettes.  

Combining antipsychotics with alcohol makes the former less effective; therefore, delusions and hallucinations may come back. Taking antipsychotics could result in sleepiness, sedation, or excessive fatigue; consuming alcohol could amplify these effects. 

It is important to note that the misuse of prescription medication is illegal. 

This involves:

  • Continuing to use the medication after the prescription is no longer in force 
  • Using prescription drugs that were not prescribed to you
  • Using prescription drugs in a way that they were not prescribed 
  • Selling or giving prescription drugs to another individual

Misusing prescription drugs can result in the individual being convicted and could face jail time. 

Getting Help 

Individuals need to take prescription drugs based on their doctor’s instructions.  When it comes to many prescription medicines, avoiding alcohol is necessary.  

Abusing prescription drugs could result in addiction, and consuming alcohol could amplify the risk of chronic health problems, severe side effects, and an overdose on the combination. 

If you have an issue with alcohol use disorder or problems drinking, your doctor should be informed of this issue, as this can alter how your doctor manages your prescriptions. They may refer you to an addiction specialist for treatment, especially if severe physical harm might have resulted from underlying alcohol abuse.

Getting help for drug addiction or dependence on alcohol, especially when taking prescription medication, is vital.  With proper support, you can get to a healthier and happier place and live a fulfilled life.