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Dangers of Mixing Prescription Drugs & Alcohol

If you’re taking at least one prescription medication, you’re not alone. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), an arm of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the United States has 5 percent of the world’s population, but it consumes 75 percent of the world’s prescription drugs.

In reality, prescriptions pose a serious public health concern, even for people who have perfectly legal prescriptions from their physician. This is especially the case when people combine powerful narcotics with alcohol, or when they overdose.

We know that alcohol is often used as a self-prescribed sedative, muscle relaxant, or depressant to deal with anxiety, chronic stress and pain. However, alcohol can cause more problems than it solves so it should never be used to treat anxiety, depression, or pain. Even though alcohol acts as a muscle relaxant, it actually has no analgesic (pain killing) effect.

Hollywood Actors Do It

The world has watched as A-List stars have chartered into dangerous territory: Elvis Presley, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Heath Ledger, Michael Jackson, and Anna Nicole Smith – all who have died in part due to prescription drug overdoses, and often in combination with alcohol.

The prescription drug-alcohol problem isn’t only affecting the Hollywood elite. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every day 44 people in the United States die from overdosing on prescription pain killers.

The NIDA reports that in 2013, nearly 25,000 people died from prescription drug overdose – the deaths more than doubled over 12 years. According to Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, around 3 to 5 percent of people who take pain medications end up addicted, and individuals with a history of substance-use disorder from drinking, smoking or other drugs – are at an even greater risk.

Drugs & Alcohol: a Deadly Duo

Prescription drugs and alcohol can be a deadly combination. Painkillers and alcohol are some of the worst to mix since they both slow down breathing and inhibit a person’s coughing reflex.

Alcohol can interact with antipsychotics, antidepressants, muscle relaxants, and anti-anxiety drugs such as Xanax, thereby intensifying the sedative effects of both substances. This interaction causes drowsiness, dizziness, and makes DUI accidents more likely.

A 2011 study published in the American Journal of Therapeutics found that those who visited the ER after taking too much Ambien were over twice as likely to end up in intensive care if they also drank alcohol vs. Ambien patients who had nothing to drink. Xanax and alcohol both affect the central nervous system, thereby lowering heart and breathing rates, and creating a synergistic effect. Meaning, their combined effects are greater than their individual effects.

Since Xanax and alcohol inhibit memory, when a user combines them they can forget their actions and reach for another pill or another drink, increasing their risk of impairment and a deadly overdose – not to mention a DUI.

Arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol and a prescription medication ? To fight your charges, call the Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry, Inc. today!