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Fentanyl and Alcohol Use Disorder

Fentanyl, a potent synthetic opioid, has become a familiar name in the news. Many people also live with fentanyl and alcohol use disorder. Fentanyl has become the next wave of the opioid epidemic, contributing to hundreds of thousands of overdoses every year. The drug is an opioid that can be 50-100 times as strong as morphine, particularly when sold on the street. The attention placed on fentanyl as a street drug has been significant due to its involvement in the ongoing opioid overdose crisis in the United States. However, few people realize the risks associated with alcohol use and fentanyl.

People often use drugs that contain trace amounts of fentanyl; for some drug users, this can be dangerous territory and lead to an overdose. For people with alcohol use disorder (AUD), any amount of fentanyl use is a gamble.

Yet many people misuse more than one drug and mix the two, hoping to intensify the effects of both. Fentanyl is well-known for its high potency and rapid onset of action. Combined with alcohol, these amplified effects can lead to respiratory depression and overdose.

People who use these substances together are at high risk of overdose. They usually live with co-occurring substance use disorders.

Understanding Fentanyl and Alcohol Use

Using fentanyl and alcohol together is often associated with polysubstance use, a category of substance abuse where individuals rely on multiple substances to achieve the desired effect. Polysubstance use can complicate the treatment of alcohol use disorder, as well as opioid addiction, and requires comprehensive care. Integrated treatment programs that address both the psychological and physiological aspects of addiction are important for people with polysubstance abuse. People with multiple addictions may need additional help when it comes to cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

Other factors may be at play when a has both a fentanyl and alcohol use disorder. Economic hardships, social isolation, and limited access to healthcare may drive individuals to self-medicate with alcohol and opioids.

Some people with mental health disorders may use multiple substances regularly, exacerbating the risks associated with these substances. Addressing these underlying factors is crucial for harm reduction and prevention efforts. When a person gets sober, they may need Medication-Assisted Treatment or mental health interventions.

Effects of Fentanyl and Alcohol When Used Together

The combination of fentanyl, a potent synthetic opioid, and alcohol can result in a range of serious complications due to their individual and interactive effects on the body. Many people who use both drugs may not understand the dangers.

Some of the critical complications associated with the simultaneous use of fentanyl and alcohol include:

  • Respiratory Depression Both fentanyl and alcohol are central nervous system depressants, which means they slow down brain activity and can lead to respiratory depression. This is the primary reason for fatal overdoses associated with this combination.
  • Cognitive Impairment: Both substances can impair cognitive function and coordination, and when used together, they can intensify these effects. This may lead to accidents, falls, and impaired decision-making. Many people participate in risky behaviors when high, resulting in injuries or arrests.
  • Decreased Sensation of Pain: Fentanyl is a potent analgesic, and when combined with alcohol, it can diminish the perception of pain. People often injure themselves when on the painkiller.
  • Cardiovascular Complications: The combination of drugs can stress the cardiovascular system. It may increase heart rate, elevate blood pressure, or cause an arrhythmia. These effects can be dangerous for individuals with unknown underlying heart conditions.
  • Tolerance: Chronic use of fentanyl with alcohol can lead to the development of tolerance, where individuals require higher doses to achieve the desired effects. With this tolerance comes increased side effects and the potential for overdose.
  • Withdrawal Symptoms: People who use fentanyl and alcohol will likely have trouble if they attempt to quit or reduce their use. Fentanyl is a highly addictive drug that can cause severe withdrawal symptoms. These can include anxiety, nausea, vomiting, tremors, and, in some cases, seizures. These symptoms can be challenging to manage and may require medical intervention, especially if the drug user is also experiencing alcohol withdrawal, which can be life-threatening in some cases.
  • Long-Term Health Consequences: Prolonged use of fentanyl and alcohol can have severe long-term health consequences, including damage to vital organs, cognitive impairment, and an increased risk of mental health issues. Addiction is also a disorder that can have a profound impact on an individual's overall quality of life.

Harm reduction strategies, such as the distribution of naloxone (for fentanyl overdose reversal) and education about the dangers of combining these substances, are essential public health tools for minimizing the risk of overdose.

Getting Sober From Fentanyl and Alcohol

Quitting fentanyl or alcohol can be challenging, but it's possible! While polysubstance use can be complicated when it comes to detox, treatment centers are seeing more people who use fentanyl and alcohol. They are prepared to help you seek recovery.

Treatment typically involves detoxification, medical supervision, and counseling to address a substance use disorder. People learn about their addiction, triggers, and new coping mechanisms as they get sober and begin to work on themselves.

Learn More About Present Moments Recovery

If you or somebody you love is struggling with substance use, we're here to help. Recovery is a journey that starts with taking the step of asking for help. Call us to learn more about our programs and how we can help you or your loved one.



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Mark G
Mark Gladden brings both personal and professional experience to his role as co-founder of Present Moments Recovery. Now in long-term recovery himself after struggling with addiction for years, Mark understands firsthand the challenges men face in achieving and maintaining sobriety. It was this insight, combined with a desire to help others, that led Mark to establish Present Moments Recovery.

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