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Alcohol and Methadone – What Can Happen If You Mix The Two

by Nick

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) programs use the medicine methadone to relieve withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Like many medications, methadone has interactions with other substances, including alcohol. Patients who take methadone for opioid use disorder can benefit from becoming aware of the effects of alcohol while using it.

About Methadone and Alcohol

Methadone has more than 50 years of history in the opioid addiction field. It counts as an opioid drug, but doctors can recommend a course of treatment that minimizes any adverse effects. When taken as directed, methadone can reduce the withdrawal symptoms and cravings caused by opioid use disorder. With these symptoms relieved, the patient can work on coping and recovery skills through counseling.

Alcohol, also known as ethanol, forms from fermented sugars. As a sedative hypnotic drug, it depresses the central nervous system. Many people in the United States drink alcohol recreationally, but it can have dangerous interactions with medications like opioids.

How the Combination of Alcohol and Methadone Happens

A methadone patient may use alcohol for reasons such as:

  • Intentional misuse: Patients with severe substance use disorders may use alcohol and methadone together on purpose to increase the feeling of intoxication. They may underestimate the risk of combining the two substances.
  • Accidental use: In some cases, the patient doesn’t know about the interaction between methadone or alcohol. They may also drink a beverage that they don’t realize contains alcohol.
  • Comorbid alcoholism: When someone has comorbid conditions, they have two disorders that happen at the same time and affect each other. A person seeking treatment for opioid use disorder may also have an addiction to alcohol.

Drinking alcohol for any reason while taking methadone can have severe consequences because of the interactions between the two substances.

The Effects of Alcohol While Using Methadone

Alcohol raises a methadone patient’s risk of overdose. You can stay safe during methadone treatment by following your doctor’s directions and reporting side effects. However, drinking alcohol goes against medical advice. Methadone and alcohol both depress the central nervous system. When this depressant effect becomes too strong, it can cause shallow or stopped breathing and opioid overdose. Additional effects of combining methadone and alcohol include:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Changes in behavior and mood
  • Difficulty with motor control
  • Memory problems

Patients who take methadone should exercise caution with their beverages and choose non-alcoholic alternatives to alcoholic drinks.

How to Get Help After Taking Methadone With Alcohol

If you use alcohol while taking methadone and experience severe symptoms, seek immediate medical intervention. Patients who misuse either of these substances can contact their nearest substance use disorder clinic. For example, if you misuse both methadone and alcohol, you can get care from an opioid use disorder clinic. The clinic can then refer you to programs and resources for alcohol addiction as well.

Learn More About Opioid Use Disorder or Get Assistance

Do you need assistance learning about opioid addiction or treating your opioid use disorder? Let the team at Health Care Resource Centers (HCRC) give you the resources you need. You can browse the rest of our blog for more information about opioids or contact our team for care.

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