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What Happens If You Mix Vicodin and Alcohol?

Last Updated: November 10, 2022

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There are plenty of painkillers available, both in prescription and over-the-counter form, for those in pain. Vicodin is one of them.

Some people also reach for alcohol as a means to reduce the pain they may feel. They may even use alcohol in conjunction with any pain medication they may be taking. This is not a good way to manage pain; the mixture of alcohol and Vicodin can be a dangerous and even life-threatening one.

Why Is Mixing Vicodin and Alcohol So Dangerous?

Both Vicodin and alcohol depress the central nervous system. When the central nervous system is depressed, its activities are slowed. If this critical system is depressed too much as a result of the combined effects of both Vicodin and alcohol, respiration can slow down so much that it can put a person in grave danger.

Vicodin is a combination of hydrocodone, an opioid pain reliever, and acetaminophen, which works in the brain to alter how the body feels in response to pain stimuli. Because of the presence of hydrocodone, Vicodin is considered similar to other opioids, like morphine and heroin.

Vicodin works by attaching to specific brain receptors and triggering neurons in the brain to increase a person’s tolerance for pain.

Alcohol directly impacts how neurotransmitters behave. It slows down or impedes the firing of neurons in the brain by reducing the action of neurotransmitters responsible for this neuron firing.

Mixing Vicodin with other substances that also depress the central nervous system — like alcohol — can result in severe respiratory problems, coma or even death.

Vicodin may help to alleviate pain, but it can also make a person more drowsy and unable to physically function properly. Alcohol intensifies this effect. Alcohol does not always have to come in the form of a glass of wine or a bottle of beer. It can also be hidden in some over-the-counter medicines including cough syrup. That is why it is important to read labels to make sure not to inadvertently mix alcohol with Vicodin.

How Long Does Vicodin Stay in Your System?

Most of the hydrocodone, the active ingredient in Vicodin, passes out of the body through the urine 24 hours after the last dose. That said, it can be detectable in the urine for as long as four days. The amount of time that Vicodin can stay in a person’s system depends on factors such as a person’s metabolism, level of hydration, body fat content, use of other drugs and the dosage of Vicodin.

What Are Signs That Emergency Medical Help Is Warranted?

If Vicodin and alcohol are taken simultaneously, they can cause a number of side effects, many of which are dangerous and may require medical attention right away. These may include:

  • Slow heart rate
  • Slow, shallow breathing
  • Seizures
  • Confusion
  • Clammy skin
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Feeling faint

If any of the above symptoms are readily noticeable, seek medical help immediately.

When Vicodin or Alcohol Misuse Leads to a Substance Use Disorder

Misuse of Vicodin or alcohol over time can lead to the development of a substance use disorder. Medical professionals at The Recovery Village Columbus understand the weight of addiction. If you are struggling with a substance use disorder, contact The Recovery Village Columbus to speak with an addiction intake coordination specialist today about your treatment options.


Our Recovery Advocates are ready to answer your questions about addiction treatment and help you start your recovery.