Dangerous Implications of Mixing Vicodin and Alcohol

Were you aware that nearly 50,000 people died in 2019 from overdosing on an opioid? The Centers for Prevention and Disease Control report that opioids are the main factor in overdose deaths in this country. But, what is most disturbing is that some of those deaths result from drinking alcohol while using the drugs. We all have been told to avoid alcohol when taking certain medications and perhaps never really think about it. But now is the time to think about it! We are specifically looking at alcohol and Vicodin because of the current popular trend. We hope that we provide the right information to make people think twice before drinking and drugging.

Is Vicodin an Opioid?

Yes, Vicodin is an opioid! When we hear about the opioid crisis in the country, many people go straight to illegal drugs like heroin. Prescription opioids are still prescribed, albeit more carefully these days. Vicodin is a brand name for a synthetic called hydrocodone and acetaminophen. It is prescribed for severe pain, often stemming from a serious injury or surgery. People with chronic pain will also get prescribed the active ingredient hydrocodone for relief. Sadly, the medication can create a feeling of euphoria while providing relief. Because of the rise of Vicodin abuse, doctors are a little slower to prescribe Vicodin these days, and when they do, they are prescribing in smaller doses. Unfortunately, that does not stop people from trying to obtain it illegally.

How Long Does Vicodin Stay in Your System?

The short answer is that Vicodin can be detected up to 90 days after the last use. Now let’s get into the more complicated answer about this prescription drug. You will feel the effects of the medication for about 3.5 hours. If you are physically dependent on the painkiller, you will feel withdrawals set in roughly 12 hours later. That could be sooner, depending on the level of addiction you are suffering.

Testing for opioid use is where it gets complicated. A saliva test can detect Vicodin up to 36 hours after the last use. Urine tests are more commonly used and can detect opioids up to 4 days after the last use. Hair follicles store opioids for up to 90 days. However, hair tests are rarely used to test for prescription medication.

How Does Vicodin Work?

All prescription painkillers do the same thing; they change how the brain responds to pain. It is known as a CNS depressant; CNS is the central nervous system. It essentially tells the brain that there is not as much hurt present. Acetaminophen, a fever reducer, will increase your pain threshold at the same time. Those two combined will create the feeling of painlessness and euphoria. If you are painless while abusing Vicodin, you will feel increased euphoria more than a person with pain issues. This is why the drug can create physical dependence so easily, and mixing it with alcohol is so dangerous.

What are the Effects Of Alcohol Vs. Vicodin?

Alcohol and Vicodin are both depressants, so that they will have overlapping effects on the body. Therefore, it is helpful to review how each affects the body.

The common side effects of alcohol include:

  • slower speech or slurred speech
  • struggle with coordination
  • unable to think clearly
  • slow or shallow breathing
  • impaired vision
  • lapse in memory
  • intense mood swings
  • slow heartbeat

The effects of Vicodin include:

  • lightheadedness
  • dizziness
  • anxiety
  • nausea
  • constipation
  • mood swings
  • dry mouth
  • ringing in the ears
  • vomiting, upset stomach
  • drowsiness
  • fainting
  • confusion
  • shallow breathing
  • seizures

These side effects will be based on how much alcohol or Vicodin is used and how often they are used. So naturally, if too much alcohol or Vicodin can put someone at risk of accidental overdose.

Is Mixing Alcohol with Other Substances Dangerous to the Central Nervous System?

Absolutely! As mentioned before, these are two depressants being used together. This means that both substances are slowing down body functions. This is especially dangerous for our respiratory system. Both create respiratory distress, which means they will exacerbate one another. Because it also makes the body want to rest and causes speech impediments, mixing the two is extremely dangerous. One cannot tell someone that they are struggling to breathe. They can’t get to a phone and ask for help because their motor skills have been compromised. They need to see a doctor immediately and cannot alert others. They are now at an increased risk of overdose and death.

A shortlist of problems include:

  • loss of consciousness
  • vomiting
  • difficulty breathing
  • coma
  • death
  • weak heart rate

Can You Become Addicted to Alcohol and Vicodin Use?

Since one can be addicted to alcohol or Vicodin, yes, you can be addicted to the combination of alcohol and Vicodin. This is often referred to as polysubstance abuse in treatment facilities around the country. It’s not a new thing; people have been mixing substances for a long time. However, as the opioid crisis has become the forefront of the daily news, people are getting creative with mixing their substances.

Are There Withdrawal Symptoms From Taking Vicodin?

As with any other drug, Vicodin and alcohol use come with withdrawals that make it difficult to want to stop. The withdrawals are severe enough that it is recommended you never stop on your own. It would be best if you were in a detox center so they can monitor your health throughout the process. The pain is excruciating at times and you will need the support.

Other withdrawal symptoms include:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • increased anxiety
  • insomnia
  • restlessness
  • confusion
  • agitation
  • sweating and clammy skin
  • goosebumps
  • hallucinations
  • seizures

While in detox, the doctors can use other drugs to help ease your discomfort and make it easier. It will be recommended that you take inpatient or outpatient treatment to help you address your substance use disorder.

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

The good news is that many people recover from Vicodin and alcohol abuse. An assessment usually takes place to determine if there are any mental health concerns and evaluate the types of drug abuse. The addicted and the assessor then come up with a plan for successful treatment. Options include:

  • Inpatient hospitalization – occurs after detox to stabilize mind and body
  • Residential rehabilitation – last from several months to a year
  • Outpatient treatment – includes group and individual therapy
  • Support groups

We are here to help; call us today and we can guide you through the process of recovery.


  1. https://americanaddictioncenters.org/prescription-drugs/vicodin-stay-system
  2. https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-3459/vicodin-oral/details
  3. https://www.healthline.com/health/alcohol/effects-on-body

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