Don’t Drink Alcohol if You are Taking Methadone!

Just like benzodiazepines, alcohol can be fatal when consumed by a patient who also takes methadone.

These two substances interact in several ways.

Worst of all, alcohol inhibits the area of the brain that keeps us breathing while we sleep. So do opioids of all sorts, including methadone. But when alcohol and methadone are both in the blood stream, the effects are greater than expected, due to synergy. In other words, 1+1=3, instead of 2, as we would expect. This interaction is unpredictable. This is how overdose deaths occur with the combination of alcohol and methadone.

Besides this potentially fatal interaction, alcohol also induces, or speeds up, the metabolism of methadone. Both alcohol and methadone are metabolized by the same enzymes in the liver, and alcohol can prime the pump of the metabolic rate. Alcohol gooses the liver, speeding the metabolism of methadone, which means a patient on a previously stable dose of methadone may suddenly notice that his dose isn’t holding for the full 24 hours. This patient may ask for a dose increase, when in truth, he really needs to stop drinking alcohol completely.

Over the long term, alcohol can cause a buildup of methadone to a toxic level, if the drinking goes on long enough to cause liver scarring and shrinkage, called cirrhosis. If this condition develops, liver metabolism slows for any drug or medicine processed by the liver.

Addiction is cunning, baffling, and powerful. It’s incredible to think of a person who’s able to stop using opioids after years of addiction be defeated by alcohol. Cross addiction, which means switching from one addictive drug to another, happens all too frequently. Sometimes it’s hard to convince patients they need to stop the use of all addicting drugs, and that does include alcohol and marijuana.

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10 responses to this post.

  1. As an addict taking methadone i’ve been told “don’t drink alchol” while taking methadone & knew that it was dangerous to do so. However, I didn’t know this! WOW! I think that everyone taking methadone should read this! Thank you for this information!

    Reply

    • Posted by Andy on December 8, 2013 at 3:33 pm

      I am also currently taking methadone, and my counselor and the lady who doses me always tell me don’t drink alcohol. However I ignored them thinking what’s the worse that could happen. After reading this I now notice why I haven’t gotten to a stable dose! I drink often and after reading this I am never drinking again while on methadone!!! I’m glad I read this! They should put this on the front page of the handbook they give you when taking methadone!

      Reply

    • Posted by chris on May 21, 2014 at 4:03 am

      i looked at alcohol as a socailly accepted drug as a recovering drug addict , i thought that was ok in recovery but come to find out …alcohol led me down the same path as drug addiction did.do not drink if you think its ok and socailly acceptable .you will begin to exspericence the same downfalls as you did during you drug addiction . DO NOT DRINK ALCOHOL IT IS A DRUG you think you know yourself control as an addict , but addiction sneaks up on you . as it did for me with alcohol.not any illegal drugs

      Reply

  2. I am a Methadone user and the thought of drinking while on it at fist didn’t cross my mind,,,,,So i would drink once and awhile without know these facts. If your taken Methadone please please read up on it before getting on the treatment.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Miss Wendy Joyce on April 2, 2013 at 3:03 am

    My partner for 21 years been on methadone for about ten years has been drinking for 6 years going to the pub every day after getting his meth he would have a pint or three maybe four so something has changed he stopped going to the pub been real funny on edge real bad seeing and hearing things but only at night time I know he needs help my head is working over time can you tell me what I can do for him as I love him so much.

    Reply

    • He needs medical attention, right away. He could be having hallucinations caused by damage from alcohol, or he could be having alcohol withdrawal, or some other medical illness. I’d say this is an urgent situation, get him to an ER right away.

      Reply

  4. he is having withdrawls from the alcohol possibly even withdrawls from the methadone too because drinking alcohol with methadone speeds up ur metabolism so the alcohol is basically depleting the methadone from his systom making him think he needs a higher dose.if he is haulcinating he definitly needs medical attention.i myself am on methadone and have occassionally drank.good luck hope to hear some good news back on ur boyfriend or husband.

    Reply

  5. my son has been in a methadone program for 1yr. now and all was going well. He started drinking alcohol . His take home was stopped because his pee test came back positive for alcohol. I have been very upset with his drinking because he never really drank before. He was addicted to hydrocodone. My question is was his take home stopped because of the alcohol present, or could it have been something else, and he is not telling me the truth.

    Reply

    • There’s no way to know unless your son has signed a release for you to be able to get information from his methadone program. However, you don’t need to have a release in place to give his treatment program information. His treatment staff need to know about his alcohol use, because it sounds like he needs more help than he’s getting.

      Reply

  6. Posted by Misty Payton on July 31, 2014 at 9:59 pm

    I have a 58 year old sister that has been taking methadone and she is a alcoholic, she already has a bad liver, she is drinking everyday and taking about 4 to 5 methadones a day maybe more she is not prescribed methadone, so she is having severe amnesia, she has a bad attitude towards everybody, her left side and around her back is severly swollen and she has a jaundice color.

    Reply

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