The Risks of Combining Oxycodone and Alcohol

Both depress the central nervous system

When opioids such as oxycodone and alcohol are combined, it can have devastating effects. Drinking alcohol while using opioids comes with many risks, including slower breathing, impaired judgment, and potentially overdose and death.

According to the CDC, alcohol was involved in 22% of deaths caused by prescription opioids and 18% of emergency department visits related to the misuse of prescription opioids in the United States in 2010. The risk of harm increases with the amount of alcohol consumed, but for people who use opioids, there is no safe level of alcohol to consume. 

Why You Shouldn't Combine Oxycodone With Alcohol

Verywell / Theresa Chiechi

What Is Oxycodone?

Oxycodone—also called “oxy”— is a drug in the opioid family. It is a prescription pain medication derived from the poppy plant. This slow-acting medication is released into the bloodstream over time, helping treat several types of moderate to severe pain.

Oxycodone acts on the central nervous system (CNS) to deliver pain relief. Because oxycodone works in the pleasure centers of the brain, it has a high potential for abuse and addiction.

Oxycodone and other opioids bind to the opioid receptors in the brain and act to partially or fully suppress pain and create feelings of euphoria for the user. For this reason, oxycodone is federally classified as a Schedule II drug, meaning its use may potentially lead to addiction as well as severe psychological or physical dependence.

The amount of oxycodone needed for pain relief varies depending on each individual’s pain levels and body. Your healthcare provider will most likely start you on a low dose, and slowly increase until the pain is well-controlled.

Oxycodone is taken orally (by mouth). Most people feel the effects of the immediate-release formulas of oxy within 20-30 minutes of consumption. The drug reaches peach concentrations in the body within 1-2 hours following ingestion. Extended-release formulas of oxycodone can take 4-5 hours to reach peak concentrations in the body.

It is very important to follow your healthcare provider's orders for dosage and time taken to avoid misuse, overdose, and/or death. Overdoses involving opioids killed nearly 47,000 people in 2018, and 32% of those deaths involved prescription opioids. 

Common Brands/Names

Oxycodone is the primary ingredient in many opioid painkillers. These pills come in many shapes, sizes and doses, depending on the brand. Oxycodone is most often prescribed in pill or liquid form. It is used either alone (OxyContin, Roxicodone, Oxaydo, Xtampza ER) or in combination with other non-narcotic analgesics such as aspirin (Percodan) or acetaminophen (Percocet). 

How Alcohol Affects Your Nervous System

Alcohol acts as a depressant to the nervous system, meaning it slows down the neurotransmitters in the brain that communicate with the rest of the nerves in the body. In the short term, this can lead to impaired judgment and vision, as well as slowed coordination and reaction time.

That’s why individuals who drink too much alcohol often slur their speech or stumble around a bit. These effects are generally temporary and do not cause permanent damage.

Excessive drinking/long-term alcohol misuse can lead to serious issues with cognitive impairment and memory. Alcohol interferes with communication between nerve cells in the body, which can lead to permanent damage to the nervous system and even cause a permanent imbalance in the body. 

Not only that but drinking profoundly alters your mood, behavior, and neuropsychological functioning. Though many people drink as a form of relaxation, it actually often has the opposite effect and increases anxiety and stress. If a person consumes too much alcohol quickly, it can depress the central nervous system so much that it leads to respiratory failure, coma, or even death.

Is Alcohol a Drug?

Alcohol is a drug. Classified as a central nervous system depressant, drinking alcohol impairs brain functioning and neural activity, and reduces the function of various systems in the body.  

Risks of Combining Oxycodone and Alcohol

Combining oxycodone with alcohol can have unwanted, unpredictable, and dangerous consequences. Both drugs can both make you drowsy, light-headed, and impair judgment. Drinking alcohol while taking oxy can intensify these effects. Even small amounts of alcohol combined with the drug can be harmful. 

Respiratory Depression

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, combining oxycodone with alcohol can lead to respiratory depression (slowed breathing or cessation of breathing). Lack or loss of oxygen can lead to paralysis, nerve damage, kidney failure, fluid build-up in the lungs, pneumonia, or death. 

Heart Rate

Because alcohol and oxycontin are both depressants on the central nervous system, taking both at the same time leads to slowed down heart rate as well as lower blood pressure. If overdose occurs, combining the two drugs can lead to heart failure and death. 

Long-Term Risks

Chronic (long-term) use of oxycodone and alcohol can have serious long-term health consequences and may lead to:  

  • Liver and/or kidney damage
  • Memory loss
  • Heart failure 
  • Increased risk of cancer

Do Not Mix Alcohol and Opioids

Do not mix alcohol with prescription medications, particularly opioids, as this can lead to slowed breathing, impaired judgement, overdose, and/or death. 

Signs of Intoxication/Overdose

Taking oxycodone combined with alcohol can lead to severe consequences and elevate the risk of overdose. Signs of overdose include: 

  • Loss of consciousness/fainting
  • Confusion/disorientation
  • Poor motor control
  • Cold/clammy to touch 
  • Fingernails and lips have purple/blue color
  • Vomiting 
  • Slowed breathing and heart rate

Medical intervention—such as naloxone treatment—is required in case of overdose to avoid death. 

Call 911 If...

If you think someone is having an opioid overdose (e.g., slowed or stopped breathing, disoriented, blue lips), call 911 immediately.

Treatment 


If you or your loved one are battling an alcohol and/or oxycodone addiction, it is important to seek out treatment. There are different treatment options, depending on the situation and individual’s needs.

Signs of Addiction

It is not always easy to recognize an addiction problem in someone you know. Common signs of oxycodone/alcohol addiction include: 

  • Lack of control: Is unable to stay away from oxycodone and/or alcohol.
  • Negative impact on life: Career, family/personal life, and hobbies are affected as a direct result of substance misuse.
  • Lack of focus: Cannot focus on anything beyond intense cravings for substances,
  • Physical effects: Needs more of the substance for desired effects and/or experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not using.

Emergency Treatment  

If an opioid overdose is suspected, naloxone can be given to reverse the effects of an overdose. Narcan (naloxone)—either injected into muscle or sprayed into the nose—binds to opioid receptors in the brain, and can help stop the overdose for a period of time.

Keep the person awake/alert if possible, and stay with them until EMS has arrived. Medical attention should be sought after the use of Naloxone. 

Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient treatment is provided in special units of hospitals or medical clinics. It offers both medical detoxification (to help the individual through physical withdrawal symptoms) and rehabilitation services. The individual in inpatient treatment generally lives in the center anywhere from a month to a year.

Inpatient treatment centers often have phases of treatment, with different expectations and activities during each phase. These programs are best for individuals who have very serious substance use disorders who need additional support to get and stay sober. 

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment is offered in health clinics, community mental health providers, counselors offices, hospital clinics, and residential programs. Outpatient treatment programs vary—some require daily attendance, whereas others meet a couple of times per week.

Most outpatient programs last anywhere from two months to a year. People who do best in an outpatient program generally are willing to attend counseling, have a strong support system, housing, and reliable transportation to get to their treatment sessions. 

A Word From Verywell

Mixing alcohol and oxycodone can have dangerous and dire consequences. Speak with your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns about drinking alcohol while taking oxycodone.

If you or a loved one are battling addiction, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services of American (SAMHSA) has a national helpline that offers free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

Call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

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7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  4. National Institute on Alcohol Use and Alcoholism. Alcohol’s effects on the body.

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