Tags: mixing | opioids | alcohol | respiratory | side | effect | depression

Mixing Opioids and Alcohol Increases Risk of a Dangerous Respiratory Side Effect

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By    |   Wednesday, 08 Feb 2017 11:07 AM

 

A new study shows once again that drinking and pain pills don't mix. Norwegian researchers found that taking a single oxycodone tablet with even a modest amount of alcohol increases the risk of respiratory depression, a potentially life-threatening side effect that causes breathing to become extremely shallow or stop altogether.
The research, which was published in the Online First edition of Anesthesiology, the medical journal of the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA), found that the elderly were especially vulnerable.
"Unfortunately, we're seeing more fatalities and people in emergency rooms after having misused or abused legally prescribed opioids, like oxycodone, while having consumed alcohol," said study author Albert Dahan, M.D.
"Respiratory depression is a potentially fatal complication of opioid use," he said. "We found alcohol exacerbated the already harmful respiratory effects of opioids."
Oxycodone is commonly prescribed to treat chronic pain and can be highly addictive. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 2 million Americans abuse opioids.
In addition, 78 people die from opioid overdoses every day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A growing number of reports indicate that many of these opioid-related deaths involve other substances, often alcohol.
In the study, researchers examined the effect that taking oxycodone in combination with alcohol had on breathing in 12 healthy young volunteers (ages 21 to 28) and 12 elderly volunteers (ages 66 to 77), who had not been chronically taking or who had never taken opioids.
On three separate occasions, volunteers were given one 20 mg oxycodone tablet combined with an intravenous infusion of ethanol (alcohol). The amount of ethanol was increased with each visit, from placebo on the first visit, to concentrations that equaled one drink in women and three drinks in men on the second visit, and increasing to the equivalent of three drinks in women and five drinks in men during the final visit. Ethanol levels were measured through the volunteers' breath.
Baseline respiratory measurements were taken before drugs were administered and throughout treatment.
One oxycodone tablet reduced baseline minute ventilation by 28 percent, while the addition of ethanol in amounts equal to three drinks in women and five drinks in men decreased minute ventilation by another 19 percent — a total decrease of 47 percent.
The combination of ethanol with oxycodone also caused a significant increase in the number of times volunteers experienced a temporary cessation in breathing — ranging from 0 to 3 events with no ethanol versus 0 to 11 events at the three drink/five drink level.
Overall, researchers found a synergistic effect between opioids and alcohol on breathing as well as on the number of times an individual temporarily stopped breathing. This was especially true in the elderly population, who were more likely to experience repeated episodes where they temporarily stopped breathing.
"We hope to increase awareness regarding the dangers of prescription opioids, the increased danger of the simultaneous use of opioids and alcohol, and that elderly people are at an even greater increased risk of this potentially life-threatening side effect," said Dr. Dahan. "Ultimately, people should know that it is never a good idea to drink alcohol with opioids."
Experts consider the United States in the middle of an epidemic of opioid abuse. Deaths from prescription opioids have almost quadrupled since 1999.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 2 million Americans are addicted to opioids, and more than 14,000 people die from opioid overdoses — 91 Americans every day.
Last June, music legend Prince died from an overdose of fentanyl, a potent opioid.
 

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A new study shows once again that drinking and pain pills don't mix. Norwegian researchers found that taking a single oxycodone tablet with even a modest amount of alcohol increases the risk of respiratory depression, a potentially life-threatening side effect that causes...
mixing, opioids, alcohol, respiratory, side, effect, depression
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2017-07-08
Wednesday, 08 Feb 2017 11:07 AM
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