Fentanyl And Alcohol

It’s been a heck of a long day. You’ve spent most of it at the doctor’s office, away from home, at a time when you’re craving its comforts more than ever. When you finally make it home, you’re grateful for your surroundings and quickly slip into your comforting routine -- which includes pouring yourself a drink. Soon after, it hits you that you just mixed alcohol with your new treatment medication, fentanyl. 

You remember the doctor and pharmacist warning about the dangers of mixing alcohol with fentanyl. But how serious is that warning? Did you just put yourself in danger, or are the warnings mostly hype?

Last year, there were 1,927 opioid-related deaths, and 3,423 confirmed non-fatal opioid-related overdoses in Arizona. If you or someone you know is managing a substance or alcohol use disorder, the caring staff at Pinnacle Peak Recovery can help. We provide clinical excellence in care and a comfortable, home-like environment that feels more like a community than a facility. 

In this article, we explain the side effects and risks of combining alcohol and fentanyl, plus help you understand what to do if you accidentally combine the two.

Mixing Fentanyl and Alcohol: An Easy Mistake to Make?

Fentanyl and alcohol are a dangerous combination that can lead to serious health consequences, overdose, or even death. Yet, it only takes a temporary lack of awareness to accidentally mix the two substances and put your health at risk.

For example:

  • You may forget to tell your doctor about the drink(s) you had a couple of hours before an emergency or scheduled surgery.
  • When you start treatment that includes fentanyl, you might absentmindedly reach for a drink as part of your daily routine, forgetting that you must abstain.
  • You might borrow or accept a pill from a friend or neighbor or order your medication online. It seems innocent, but obtaining medication from anywhere other than a legitimate pharmacy puts you at risk of unintentionally ingesting fentanyl. By looking at it, you can’t identify a fake prescription pill; more than half of them now contain fentanyl.
  • Perhaps you’re seeking illicit fentanyl to help you sleep or manage pain. This puts you at exceptionally high risk for overdose since non-pharmaceutical fentanyl is often more potent than what’s safe. Because it’s such a powerful substance, it’s easy for drug dealers to mis-measure and create a potentially deadly dose. Mixing alcohol with illicit fentanyl or fake prescription opioids can lead to a high-risk and immediate health situation.

Fentanyl and alcohol should never be mixed or taken together. However, sometimes people combine the two without intending to. That’s why, if you’re taking any form of fentanyl, you should understand how to prevent an overdose and what to do in case an overdose happens.

What Are the Side Effects of Mixing Fentanyl and Alcohol?

Fentanyl and alcohol share a handful of similar side effects, such as:

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Drowsiness
  • Impaired judgment (alcohol) and confusion (fentanyl)
  • Respiratory depression (for fentanyl, anytime when not under a doctor’s directions, or for alcohol in large amounts)

When you co-consume alcohol and fentanyl, their common side effects amplify each other. 

For example, you may become exceptionally dizzy or drowsy and unable to sit, walk, or stand. Your ability to drive or make the logical decision not to get behind the wheel becomes impaired. The common sense you rely on to avoid dangerous situations is no longer reliable. Your risk of respiratory failure, overdose, and severe health consequences rises dramatically.

Vomiting can lead to choking or aspiration while sleeping.

When combined with alcohol, the deadliest drug in the U.S., fentanyl, becomes even more dangerous.

How Do Alcohol and Fentanyl Affect the Body?

Fentanyl is an opioid-class drug intended for medical use under the careful guidance of a physician. It’s often used for pain during the treatment of cancer, chronic pain, or end-of-life care. It’s also used safely by anesthesiologists for surgical reasons. When medical-grade fentanyl is used carefully according to your doctor’s guidelines and safety precautions, it can be a safe and helpful medication.

When fentanyl is misused, however, it can have devastating effects on the body. The primary health concern when mixing alcohol and fentanyl is the heightened chance of respiratory depression. The respiratory side effects decrease oxygen levels in the blood and can potentially harm the brain.

Additionally, mixing alcohol with fentanyl increases the risk that you’ll experience a potentially fatal overdose or long-term damage to your brain or organs. The chances of aspirating while you sleep or are passed out are also a serious concern.

What Are the Dangers of Mixing Alcohol and Fentanyl?

Fentanyl and alcohol are central nervous system depressants (CNS), so when you mix them, they work double-duty to slow down your CNS. This alone puts your health at risk. 

When you mix two depressants, such as fentanyl and alcohol, the dangers include:

  • Overdose (potentially fatal)
  • Brain damage
  • Organ damage
  • Aspirating while you are sleeping or passed out

Other depressant substances you should not mix with fentanyl include (but are not limited to):

  • Benzodiazepines, such as Xanax and Restoril 
  • Sedative hypnotics such as Lunesta and Ambien
  • GHB
  • Ambien
  • GHB

Alcohol and fentanyl are categorized as “psychoactive substances,” meaning they alter the function of the central nervous system. Other examples of psychoactive substances which should not be mixed with fentanyl include caffeine, cocaine, heroin, cannabis, stimulants like amphetamines or methamphetamines, and other opioids. 

A good rule of thumb is not to take any substance while on fentanyl without approval from your doctor. Nearly all depressants, stimulants, and psychoactive substances create a dangerous cocktail when mixed with fentanyl.

Is It Possible to Have a Stroke When Mixing Alcohol and Fentanyl?

Currently, no research supports any known link between the combined effects of fentanyl and alcohol leading to a stroke. This doesn’t mean that it’s not possible to have a stroke when mixing the substances. However, the risk of stroke would be indirect and not a direct consequence of the drug combination itself.

Fentanyl and Alcohol Overdose: What to Do if It Happens to You

Mixing fentanyl and alcohol puts you at high risk of overdose. Overdoses aren’t always deadly, especially if you call for help immediately. Understanding the symptoms of overdose and what to do if you or someone you care about experiences one can help you determine when and if to call for medical assistance.

To prevent an overdose, follow the tips below:

  • Never mix alcohol and fentanyl. 
  • Never borrow or accept prescription medication from a friend or anywhere other than a pharmacy as directed by your doctor. Doing so puts you at risk of ingesting fake prescription pills, which often (60% of the time) contain potentially deadly doses of fentanyl.
  • Be open and honest with medical professionals about how much and how often you drink alcohol and when you last had a drink. This helps them gauge when and if they can safely prescribe or administer fentanyl.
  • Having surgery? Ask your doctor or anesthesiologist how long you should wait before drinking alcohol. This could be up to two weeks. 
  • Taking a fentanyl prescription under the guidance of your doctor? Ask them exactly how long you should wait before drinking alcohol, and follow their instructions without deviation.
  • Taking illicit fentanyl for recreation, insomnia, or pain management reasons? Reach out to caring and compassionate recovery professionals for guidance. They can help you with a treatment plan that addresses those needs safely and effectively.

Signs of a Fentanyl-Alcohol Overdose

If you accidentally or intentionally mix alcohol and fentanyl, you should seek medical attention without waiting for signs of an overdose. 

Signs of a fentanyl-alcohol overdose include slowed or no breathing, weak pulse, losing consciousness, confusion or altered mental state, gurgling or choking sounds, clammy skin, blue or discolored skin, or small, pinpoint pupils.

What to Do in Case of an Alcohol-Fentanyl Overdose in Arizona

A fentanyl-alcohol overdose is always life-threatening and immediate. However, it is not always fatal, and chances of survival are good when 911 is called. 

If you or someone you know has mixed alcohol and fentanyl or is experiencing an overdose: 

  • Call 911 immediately. Don’t waste time wondering whether you’ll get in trouble with the law. Arizona’s Good Samaritan law protects people acting to save someone’s life (including yours), even for fentanyl overdose.
  • Follow the instructions of the 911 operator while waiting for help to come. This may include administering Naloxone or CPR. 
  • Wait for help to arrive, and do not leave the person alone.

When it comes to overdose, every moment counts. Be prepared that someone who overdosed may lose consciousness or appear dead but still be alive. Never hesitate or delay calling 911 in case of an overdose. 

Compassionate Treatment for Fentanyl and Alcohol Use Disorder in Arizona

People managing fentanyl and alcohol use disorder may experience a challenging physical and mental detox process. Sometimes, the idea of an alcohol rehab or fentanyl detox brings up negative images that overwhelm people considering getting help.

However, getting treatment from compassionate professionals in a comfortable environment can help you detox more safely and move into recovery more effectively. 

At Pinnacle Peak, our caring team includes masters-level licensed therapists plus a staff of people who have been where you are and are now in recovery. We offer compassionate care without judgment and recovery plans tailored to your needs and lifestyle.  To take your first steps toward recovery from a fentanyl or alcohol use disorder or (both), please call us at (866) 377-4761.


Can you drink alcohol after fentanyl sedation?

Mixing any form of fentanyl, including sedation, with alcohol is risky. Ask your doctor or anesthesiologist how long you should wait after sedation before drinking alcohol.

Why can you not drink alcohol after sedation?

Alcohol is a depressant that interacts with other sedatives, including fentanyl (a surgical anesthetic). Drinking alcohol while sedatives are still in your system puts you at risk for respiratory depression.

Is fentanyl dissolvable in alcohol?

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, fentanyl (and other synthetic opioids) has varying levels of dissolvability depending on what form is used.

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